Reviewed by Laura Wragg
I was really looking forward to attending the opening night of ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ at the Theatre Royal, Brighton, as being a big Strictly come dancing fan, I was excited to see Craig Revel Horwood’s fancy footwork as the Director of the show. Also, being a Dusty Springfield fan I thought I was in for an evening filled with excitement.
As the show begins the story of 3 strangers is revealed to the audience. A young widow Alison, played by Michelle Gayle, is confused about love having recently lost her husband and has developed a crush on a teenager she tutors. Kat, played by Alice Barlow, has recently lost her gran who raised her following the death of her parents at a young age and has fallen in love with a guy she’s only seen photos of online through a dating website. Thirdly there’s Paul, played by Michael Howe, who has never forgotten the love of his youthful teenage years and is desperate to reconnect with him. The thing they all have in common and decide is the answer to all their heartache is a record store in Soho which was the place to be in the 60’s. The owner of the store, the Preacher Man, used to be an agony aunt handing of words of wisdom to the young teenagers coming in to hear all the latest music. Sadly, the Preacher Man has died and the record store has become coffee shop which is run by the Preacher Man’s son. Simon, played by Nigel Richards, is a shy, private guy who doesn’t seem to have any of his father’s gifts when it comes to advice and guidance in life. He calls to his father for help and, after receiving clues as to what to do, he guides the 3 strangers down their paths of finding love.
During Act 1, it felt the plot and acting needed something more to keep the audience captivated but the talent of the cast belting out Dusty’s classics accompanied by an array of instruments stopped you from questioning where it was all going. Act 2, brought more of the story to life and showed the diversity and complications of relationships that are out there. Paul’s gay crush who was very sensitively played by Jon Bonner made you feel sadness and empathy for Paul who had never forgotten his first love and had spent the last 50 odd years wondering what could’ve been. The modern-day complications of online dating stood out with Kat, bordering on stalker, finds her ‘online love’ and tries to seduce him in the coffee shop. You do see a lot more of Kat (tiny dress and small underwear) than I felt necessary in this scene, but a muscular, kilted Liam Vincent-Kilbride keeps the audience’s attention and understanding of how love can be so very complicated and risky.
Overall the performances of the cast keep you from leaving part way through but it’s not a show that’ll be a memorable one.
Tickets cost from £15 to £39.50 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
Son of a Preacher Man is at the Theatre Royal in Brighton from 17-21 April 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/brighton or call the box office on 0844 871 7650.
Theatre Royal. New Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 1SD | 0844 871 7650