The Drifters Girl at Garrick Theatre
Laser-like LED lights and American 1950s-style doo-wop vocals should not mesh together as incredibly as they do on the set of The Drifters Girl, but Jonathon Church manages to pull it off. Packing decades of history and change into a two-hour performance is not an easy feat in general, but through a jukebox-style portrayal of the past, Beverley Knight shines alongside a team of phenomenal vocalists.
The story follows Faye Treadwell, a pioneer in the music industry as one of America’s first black, female band managers. This was especially difficult given how popular and mainstream The Drifters were in the 1950s and 60s, and how many scheming businessmen attempted to hijack control of the band’s creative rights after the sudden death of their original manager, Faye’s husband, George Treadwell.
The journey contains more than one tragic love story sure to elicit a tear from even the least sentimental of audience members, but is also a story of empowerment, both for women and African Americans during a time when both were subjected to prejudice and oppression. Shifting from the United States to a tour in the United Kingdom with the use of nothing but a few props and some stage and lighting adjustments was particularly enjoyable and managed to portray the band’s successes alongside frustrations and prejudices of the past (for example, a sign reading “No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs” in a hotel lobby).
Knight is nothing short of extraordinary in her role. Even while band members Adam J Bernard, Tarinn Callender, Tosh Wanogho-M and Matt Henry sing flawless renditions of timeless classics such as Under the Boardwalk and Stand By Me, when Knight takes centre-stage, the experience is almost otherworldly. As she belts out each powerful, goosebump-inducing note, astonishment could be felt across the audience. She exhibits the pain and joy felt by her character in such a moving and authentic way, which alone is worthy of a watch.
Photo: Johan Persson
The Drifters Girl is at Garrick Theatre from 4th November until 2nd July 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.