Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
Will you have the Look of Love for Dusty Springfield musical
The emotive music of Dusty Springfield provides a wealth of material so it's no wonder that it has been used to create a stage musical.
The songs of Dusty Springfield will play on your mind
Latest behind the scenes news is that producers in New York are even showing an interest in seeing Son of a Preacher Man during its UK Tour for the possibility of transferring it over to the US.
It's Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood who is behind this latest jukebox musical. He has directed and choreographed a multitude of stage shows from Sister Act to Chess, and of course, Strictly Come Dancing The Live Tour, and has now turned his hand to Dusty's back catalogue with the help of writer Warner Brown.
I caught the show during the tour at Malvern Theatres but it will also be stopping at venues like Blackpool Grand Theatre, Glasgow King's Theatre, Cardiff New Theatre and Liverpool Empire Theatre from March up until July 2 on its UK Tour.
Michael Howe is impressive as Paul
It's a mixed bag, to be honest, with moments of excellent sentimentality and theatrics alongside jarring scenes of awkward acting in a slightly bizarre storyline.
The story revolves around three troubled strangers from different generations who meet in London while trying to track down an old record shop owner - The Preacher Man - who gave out wise advice in the 1960's.
What they find instead is the Son of the Preacher Man (cue the song), who does his best to help with their romantic woes. What's refreshing is that the storyline isn't totally predictable and there are some risqué topics like a teacher/ pupil attraction, the perils of internet dating and two ageing gay men who have denied themselves their true feelings and sexuality for a lifetime.
What is predictable for this kind of musical, sadly, is using random story plots to crowbar songs into the show.
With hits like 'The Look of Love', 'You Don't Have to Say You Love Me', 'Nowhere to Run' and 'I Only Want to be With You', the soundtrack is the forte of the show, although it must be said that the script and storyline are both pretty weak.
That said, there are moments when the narrative really comes together, when it's sentimental, emotional and well written. Moments like when there's a grief counselling session and the participants sing 'I Just Don't Know What to do With Myself' to empty chairs. It leaves a lump in the throat.
Unfortunately, the show is a hit and miss of sections where it jumps from being vaguely realistic and decent to uncomfortably bawdy and bizarre and aimed at the wrong age group for the audience (which seemed to be mainly 50 plus). It's also a surprise that there are hardly any big dance numbers considering Revel Horwood's involvement.
Michelle Gayle joins the cast from March
The show is boosted by much of the cast also playing the saxophone, cello and other instruments on stage while they act, but it's a trio of waitresses called The Cappuccino Sisters who are the best thing by far. They sing, act and play music while being animated and interesting enough to make you want to know more about them.
Alice Barlow (Rae Wilson from Hollyoaks and a contestant on The Voice) has a sensational voice as sassy youngster Kat, who has suffered an online heartbreak.
While Michael Howe as Paul, who is seeking the man he fell in love with in the 1960's, is also a strong singer and shows his aptitude for playing the guitar too in a lovely duet of 'Spooky'.
The third of the troubled strangers when I saw it was played by Debra Stephenson, who had the voice but seemed uncomfortable and awkward when acting. Her storyline is about a middle-aged widow in love with a teenage pupil but she wasn't convincing in the role. Stephenson will have been replaced by former Grange Hill and EastEnders actress Michelle Gayle by the time the show reaches Liverpool. Gayle takes on the role of Alison in the tour from March 6.
Dusty Springfield was one of the most iconic British female singers of the 1960's, so it's good to hear all those emotional songs in a theatre show. While there's much to like about Son of a Preacher Man, there's also much that needs to be improved.
If you like the music of Dusty Springfield, you'll still find plenty to like in this musical.