REVIEW: Son of a Preacher Man (Palace Theatre, Manchester)

Son of a Preacher Man. (Image may be subject to copyright).
Son of a Preacher Man.
(Image may be subject to copyright).
Reviewer: Megan Hyland
upstaged Rating: ⭐⭐

Son of a Preacher Man is jukebox musical featuring the hits of 60’s songstress Dusty Springfield – written by Warren Brown and choreographed by Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood. It tells the story of three heart-broken strangers trying to find solace in the site of the former record store the Preacher Man. However, instead of the wise and charismatic Preacher Man that once owned the store, they are met with his introverted son, Simon. But is there enough of his father’s knowledge in him to help these lovesick strangers get their lives back on track?

Diana Vickers of X Factor fame stars as Kat, a young woman that is grieving the loss of her gran. And while Vickers cannot be faulted in terms of singing ability, her acting performance felt forced and awkward. However, this could simply be due to the overall dry nature of the writing, as each of the characters were as remarkably bland as one another, no matter how hard the cast tried to inject personality into them. The musical featured quite a promising cast, with Debra Stephenson (Coronation Street), Ian Reddington (Doctors and Shameless) and Michael Howe starring alongside Vickers, though even the talent of the cast could not save this uninspiring production.

For a story that centres around love, Son of a Preacher Man paints a very superficial and idyllic picture of relationships, not only this, but their love stories lack the heart and passion of Dusty’s music, with the sentiments of her songs are often lost in the way that they are forced into scenes. The scenes themselves felt disjointed and somewhat unfinished, with many of them lacking a climax or focus, often relying on cheap laughs such as a poorly-written cleaner character played by Jon Bonner in drag. The arrangement of the musical felt rather bizarre and clumsy, often leaving the audience confused with its attempts to force any deeper meaning into the storyline. In fact, many audience members chose to abandon the show during the interval.

However, to end on a positive, the live music was faultless, despite the loss of meaning. A group of on-stage musicians performed effortlessly soulful renditions of Dusty’s classics – if only the storyline had been able to match up. And bringing some spirit to the otherwise stagnate performance were the Cappuccino Sisters (played by Michelle Long, Kate Hardisty and Cassiopeia Berkeley-Agyepong), though even their playful, bubbly characters often bordered on over-the-top.

Overall, Son of a Preacher Man leaves audience members feeling entirely unenthused, with the show losing momentum as even the cast seem to feel the sense of defeat. And as a tribute to Springfield, it fell entirely flat, leaving behind any important aspects of her quirky individuality.

-Megan Hyland

Son of a Preacher Man runs at Manchester’s Palace Theatre till 30th September 2017 and continues to tour the UK until July 2018. For further tour dates and venues click here.