‘The Son of a Preacher Man’ promises an evening of nostalgia. Inspired by the Sixties music scene, this production uses the soulful songs of Dusty Springfield to tell the tale of love, loss and pain that surrounds its central characters. Kat, Alison and Paul, all unlucky in love, have come to London in search of a once popular vinyl store and the infamous love advice of the Preacher Man who worked there. Instead they find a coffee shop and only the Son of the Preacher Man.
With such big names as Craig Revel Horwood as Director and Warner Brown as Writer, the expectations are high.
Alas, audience members were murmuring around me: ‘Its not what I was expecting’. The story seems confused of its setting; Soho but in an American style coffee shop with Cappuccino Sisters, obviously pandered Scottish references, the sixties, the millennium? I was lost and so were the audience.
All sentimentality of the Sixties is pushed to the side immediately to make room for the modern era. Even the set was framed by a circular neon blue structure like something out of ‘The Voice’. The older crowd wanted to be reunited with Dusty’s distinctive, moving blue-eyed soul but instead are met with match.com, selfies and catfishing. The play tried to capture three different generations but failed all of them. Reducing them to stereotypes and rushed over plot points. Instead of allowing the actors to truly feel through a journey of emotions, they trudge through clichéd lines and onto a cheerful, happy disposition. The jokes were basic to say the least, at one point pulling out the tired old trope of ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers.’ The loose ends where haphazardly tied together in an almost insulting fashion. Leaving the impression that their love is truly shallow and frivolous.
With Horwood as choreographer, you may assume there will be plenty of impressive dance numbers. Unfortunately not. The drab movement sequences centred around basic mirroring, slow dancing and the occasional lift. At one particularly cringe-worthy moment, the emotional ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’ was expertly sung by three impressive actors, but to grey, plastic immovable chairs.
It is the angelic singing and impressive on-stage musical accompaniment that is this productions saving grace. Unfortunately Diana Vickers was absent from my particular viewing however her replacement, Jess Barker, rose to the occasion beautifully. She brought a much-needed youthful energy with a strong voice that did not shy away from leading their finale. The company’s sweet tones although beautiful to the ear seemed rather subdued for Dusty’s style.
For those after an easy-go-lucky play with good music, look no further. For those that love the swinging Sixties and yearn for a deep, emotive plot suitable for Dusty’s heart aching songs? Stay well away.