WITH Diana Vickers, the star of the show indisposed, it fell to understudy Jess Barker to demonstrate she had the X Factor on opening night of Son of a Preacher Man.
KING’S THEATRE, Leven Street
A task she achieved with deft comic timing, a great voice and a ballsy, endearing confidence.
In Warner Brown’s frustrating musical, three tales of unrequited love unfold.
The broken hearts belong to Kat, Alison and Paul, each has a different reason to visit the site of iconic 60’s Soho joint The Preacher Man - a place where kids dared to dream of love and the eponymous owner doled out advice.
With the Preacher Man long gone, only memories and myths remain.
Living in their shadow is Simon, the Preacher Man’s son, but can he live up to his dad’s reputation?
A ‘jukebox’ musical, the songs of Dusty Springfield provide the soundtrack as the script plods through a tick-list of dramatic clichés that do an injustice to the performers on stage.
Directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood, the action commences with his signature opening; a troupe of actor/musicians meandering on stage, awkwardly clutching their instruments, awaiting their cue.
It’s a clumsy concept that ensures awkward, unnatural performances.
A dirge, the opening number makes you want to close your eyes and count to ten in hope that things improve.
They do, just, thanks in the main to three strong performances.
Ian Reddington gallantly leads the company, imbuing Simon with gentle humanity.
However, while Michael Howe brings a cheesy likability to ‘teenage pensioner’ Paul, Debra Stephenson is a perfunctory Alison.
Michelle Long, Kate Hardisty and Cassiopeia Berklely-Agyepong add a touch of camp as the OTT Cappuccino Sisters, but it’s Jon Bonner’s David Walliams-esque ‘dragged up’ Madge that gets the laughs.
Keeping the energy flowing, Barker and Liam Vincent-Kilbride are perfect foils.
In a collection of well-observed cameos, Kilbride proves a consummate dancer, singer, actor and musician, a rare breed in the world of the actor/musician.
Along with Reddington, they work hard to bring the tale alive, glossing over truly cringe-worthy moments.
Thank heavens for National Hug Day, it ensures a happy ending for characters... and audience alike.
Run ends Saturday