The Ipswich Regent have kicked of their self-proclaimed ‘Musical Month’ for April with the UK tour of Son of a Preacher Man which is a new jukebox musical, featuring the hits of Dusty Springfield.
We meet three characters – Alison, Kat and Paul – who are each suffering with the effects of unrequited love, together they meet in a Soho hangout, all seeking the legend of the 60’s that is the Preacher Man in the hope he’ll tell them what to do.
Back in the swinging 1960s, The Preacher Man himself, owned the Soho joint where the kids danced the night away and dreamed of love, he was also there to dispense advice to cure the loneliest of hearts. But that was a long time ago and all that remains are the memories, the stories, the myths and the Son of a Preacher Man with his Cappuccino Sisters… can he fill his fathers shoes in helping three strangers, generations apart, fix their woes?
The premise of the story has great heart, but it felt very disjointed throughout and the script was weak – a line that stood out was when the three lead characters were initially asked why they were seeking it out the Preacher Man their joint response was “I don’t know… love, I guess”. I think the fact it was a cross of generations set-in the modern world trying to relive the past, Kat of which wouldn’t have even been around then, just didn’t work and I found it hard to sympathise with the characters.
With a soundtrack of Dusty Springfield hits, there are many instantly recognisable tracks such as The Look Of Love, I Only Want To Be With You, Spooky and of course, Son Of A Preacher Man. There’s even the inclusion of the beautiful A House Is Not A Home. The music is catchy and gives a reason to toe-tap, but I’m not convinced the songs fit tightly with the script or do Dusty the justice she deserves. As with most Jukebox shows, the encore medley encouraged a number of the audience to get up and dance, and those that did seemed to be greatly enjoying reliving her hits. It was great to see it was an actor/musician production too, especially as this is less-frequent with larger UK tours and the music was enjoyable.
Alice Barlow is easily the stand-out performer with arguably the strongest vocals. Barlow plays Kat, the typical teen who’s desperately seeking love, and stuck in the modern trap of online dating. As she was the closest character to my age, she felt relatable and I sympathised with her story the most, as I feel like I’ve met a few Kat’s in my time. Nigel Richards as Simon holds a sunny disposition, even when facing his errors, and he had the funniest lines, with quirks that reminded me of Lee Evans. The ensemble and supporting characters are strong vocally, it’s just a shame the production itself distracts from their talents.
As a show that’s directed and choreographed by Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood, you would expect the production to be in safe hands. However, the direction and choreography was underwhelming. The same goes for the set and costumes, I found the logo of the show to be really striking with its bold neon sign – therefore anticipated the look of the show would match but it didn’t.
Overall, if you simply want to have an easy watch, with a bit of cheese while enjoying the hits of Dusty Springfield, I’m sure you’ll have a great night but it’s not going to be the next Jukebox smash-hit.
Son of a Preacher Man runs at the Ipswich Regent until Saturday 7th April, and continues on a UK tour through to July.