Son of a Preacher Man at New Wimbledon Theatre
One thing’s for certain: Son of a Preacher Man sure does love Dusty Springfield. And not just because the characters declare it every second sentence. The jukebox musical love affair has been touring the UK with a songbook from the legendary singer, and has a big name director/choreographer in the form of Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood. However, matched with an unfortunately one-dimensional script, it comes down to the cast to bring a bit of life to the dazzling songs of Dusty.
Springfield sang a lot about love, so Warner Brown’s writing hones in on some unintentionally comical love and heartbreak-related dilemmas. She also sang about the Son of a Preacher Man – famously – so Brown takes this literally and introduces three random strangers simultaneously searching for a Swinging 60s record shop owner. His nickname was “The Preacher Man” and he moonlighted as a miracle-working agony uncle; these three characters adamantly believe he’s the only one who could ever teach them…except in the modern day they’re stuck with his son instead. See what happened there?
Poor son Simon (Ian Reddington) is pressured into getting involved, and so begins the blending of Springfield with a bizarrely unexpected plot. There’s I Only Want to Be With You about Kat (Diana Vickers) falling in love with an online dating profile; All I See Is You, an uncomfortable description of widowed Alison (Debra Stephenson) falling for a teenage schoolboy; and I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten, Paul’s (Michael Howe) fixation with his mystery man from the past. Not all the songs fit logically nor have their desired emotional impact, but nevertheless they are performed well by the seasoned leading cast and ensemble where many double up as talented instrumentalists.
The cast are let down by a slightly cringeworthy and forced script, be it the three characters constantly speaking in cannon, or the protagonists who don’t come across as likeable and are hard to relate to. High expectations for choreography shouldn’t be heeded either, for it is (not strictly) limited to messy meandering and chair grinding.
However, there is Good News. The groovy production features a versatile and bright stage design. Vickers, no stranger to big stages, is a standout voice that lends itself perfectly to the music. The show itself is also littered with Dusty in-jokes for the devoted fans, and a surprisingly large number of songs are covered with endless gusto. This is a double-edged sword as it makes it tricky to credibly match the plot without shoehorning, but at the end of the night it is still a fun celebration of her music.
Son of a Preacher Man is at New Wimbledon Theatre from 14th November until 18th November 2017 before continuing its UK tour. For further information or to book visit the show’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Son of a Preacher Man here: