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REVIEW: Son of a Preacher Man at Sunderland Empire

How Can I Be Sure?

Son of a Preacher Man
Sunderland Empire
Tuesday 19th - Saturday 23rd September 2017

Diana Vickers has the opportunity to shine in Son Of A Preacher Man. Her ability to sing the Dusty Springfield back catalogue was a real highlight of the evening.

Son of a Preacher Man is a juke-box musical which is aligned to the Queen/We Will Rock You experience. A selection of fabulous well known songs are performed with a wafer thin book by Warner Brown trying to set up the opportunity for the next song. Fans of the music will have a nice evening at the theatre. Indeed the Sunderland Empire had a big crowd for opening night - and that’s not always the case with a new musical. Dusty’s magic still shines in this part of the world and the cast received enthusiastic applause at the end.

The story surrounds a successful London record shop called ‘The Preacher Man’ which was the place to go in the 60s. You could listen to records in booths - even buy a coffee which hits by the likes of Dusty are played. Paul (Michael Howe) used to go regularly until he moved away. Alison (Debra Stephenson) used to be told by her mother about going to this shop. They both decide to try to find the shop. They are joined by Kat (Diana Vickers) who was also told about the place by her recently deceased gran.

The find the venue is still there but the owner that was also known as the Preacher Man has now died. The shop has now a coffee bar managed by his son, Simon (Ian Reddington) - yes, you guessed it, the son of the preacher man. He has 3 members of staff he calls the Cappuccino Sisters.   The three visitors then describe their need to find love again and they ask the son of the preacher man to help them.

This is a chance to play songs like Anyone Who Had A Heart, You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me and I Only Want To Be With You. The musicians, under musical director Brady Mould, are mainly on stage during the songs. The cast do a great job singing them and this is a real strength of the show.

The pace of the show exposes the lack of much of a story. Normally the direction of a musical is laid out within 20 minutes. This show was still highlighting the “I want” songs 35 minutes in - over half way into the first act. The exposition nearly kills off interest but the show is saved by the music and an improved second act.

Diana Vickers has become a reliable musical actor. Debra Stephenson and Ian Reddington portrayed their characters as very personable types that one could relate to. Michael Howe could sing, but was a little wooden at delivering his lines. 

Dusty Springfield’s music has stood the test of time. The haunting lyrics on the subject of love are as relevant today as they ever were and it is delightful to hear them again. It is easy to see how Dusty has influenced many singers over the years. An evening listening to great songs like Son Of A Preacher Man makes for a pleasant evening.

Review by Stephen Oliver.

Tickets available from the Box Office on High Street West, via the ticket centre 0844 871 3022* or *calls cost up to 7p per minute plus standard network charges. Booking and transaction fees may apply to telephone and online bookings.

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