Son of a Preacher Man, a new musical featuring the soulful music of Dusty Springfield, written by Warner Brown and directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood (the well-known face on television for his role as a judge on BBC One's Strictly Come Dancing), embarked on a national tour starting in September 2017 and scheduled until July 2018.

The story pivots around three broken hearts, one Soho hang-out and the only man who could ever help them... the Preacher Man, the swinging 1960s Soho joint where the kids danced the night away to the latest vinyl and dared to dream of love, while the legendary owner, The Preacher Man, dispensed advice to cure the loneliest of hearts. Maybe that’s why he was known as The Preacher Man. Or maybe it was because that was also the name of his shop. And if this sounds like a highly convoluted way of shoe-horning the song Son of a Preacher Man into some sort of story, well, that is pretty accurate.

Only, that was a long time ago and all that remains are the memories, the stories and the myths. However, in the present, we meet three people, all at a crossroads, all suffering because of love. Paul (Michael Howe) was one of the 60s in-crowd, visiting The Preacher Man and mooning over another regular young guy there. They’ve long since gone their separate ways, but Paul still yearns for what might have been. Alison (Debra Stephenson) is a widowed teacher who unintentionally falls in love with her adolescent pupil whilst teaching English literature. Her mother told her all about The Preacher Man. Kat (Diana Vickers), the youngest of the trio, has been snubbed by a match provided by the dating site website. She was brought up by her recently deceased grandmother, following the death of her parents, who also told her about the legendary Preacher Man.

These three random strangers first meet outside an uninspiring ‘Double shot’ coffee shop, generations apart but all in need of help with their hopeless love lives, are inexplicably drawn to the site of the original venue. The Preacher Man is long gone, but his son Simon (Ian Reddington), with the help of the Cappuccino Sisters (Michelle Long, Kate Hardisty and Cassiopeia Berkeley-Agyepong), might just find it in himself to channel the spirit of his long dead father, The Preacher Man and once more give these three lovesick strangers the look of love.

The Cappuccino sisters bring a touch of glamour (although they did resemble the monster high characters my daughter loves) throughout the show as they sing while serving coffee, and provide backing music to several of the show’s pivotal moments.

The son of a preacher man features the greatest hits from Dusty Springfield, including The Look Of Love, I Only Want To Be With You, Spooky and of course, the classic Son Of A Preacher Man, which sadly appear to be shoehorned into the tales of woe of three random strangers.

Overall the musical talent of the cast was fabulous but the story in my opinion lacked sustenance and was at times cringeable. However, the superb quality of the musicians, musical numbers, choreography and delivery, and superb staging did lift the show slightly above the usual jukebox musical, yet the laughable storyline (despite this talented cast trying to make it work) brought the show in my opinion to an on stage flop.

I was so looking forward to seeing this show and I love the songs of immensely talented and adored Dusty Springfield, but sadly I was left feeling very underwhelmed by this production and even felt uncomfortable at parts, especially when the bereavement counsellor was portrayed as more of a sexual predator than a supportive therapist of the recently bereaved. I am disappointed to have to say that I didn’t like the show despite the talented cast and I would struggle to recommend going to see it. I would rate the son of a preacher man as another modern day musical disaster, where iconic songs from an amazing performer were shoehorned into a storyline that just didn’t work.

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Reviewer: Victoria Wilmot

Reviewed: 27th September 2017

North West End Rating: ★★