The Drifters Girl – UK Tour


Aside from being a wedding dancefloor staple, I didn’t know an awful lot about The Drifters.

And now, after watching The Drifters Girl – the jukebox musical biography of the band – I think my ignorance can well and truly be forgiven, because it seems like The Drifters didn’t really exist.

‘The Drifters’ was merely a title associated with a conveyor belt of singers that had no real creative identity – think Sugababes circa 2009, who were essentially a different band with every single they released.

The only constant in The Drifters history, was indeed their ‘girl’ – Faye Treadwell (Carly Mercedes Dyer) – who managed the group.

This is her story – or at least, sporadic summaries of ‘things that happened to her’. There is no sense of an arc or conflict, other than the fact that people consistently tend not to take Faye seriously in her role as a manager – but even then, there are no consequences related to this depicted anywhere in the show. She doesn’t necessarily overcome those adversaries, nor does she learn or grow from that failure.

There is a brief hook for the audience to cling onto through Faye’s short-lived relationship with original Drifters manager George, but this feels rushed, and attempts to link it to the character’s overall motivation to continue working with the band as part of ‘his legacy’ are ultimately, shallow.

The narrative – and I use the term very loosely – plays out against a court case, involving former Drifters, who have set up their own new Drifters, and are now suing the current Drifters, for not being real Drifters.

Not the best elevator pitch you’ve ever heard, is it?

Again, I’d point to Sugababes circa 2011, when the original line-up started performing as Mutya Keisha Siobhán – but were generally considered amongst the public as the proper Sugababes when compared to the most recent line-up. (As far as I’m aware, no one sued anyone about this – and if they did, quite rightly, no one thought this was a compelling enough circumstance to make a musical about).

Without this Sugababes parallel, who knows whether I would have been able to grasp what was going on, as with cast members jumping between so many roles at such great speed, it was hard to know – but especially hard to care – which year you were in, who the current lead singer was or why they were leaving, then returning, then leaving again and… okay, let’s stop being mean.

The fact is, if this musical was about the music alone then it would be a sure-fire hit.

Carly Mercedes Dyer has a remarkable range and brings the house down at least three times in the first act alone. Miles Anthony Daley, Ashford Campbell, Daniel Haswell and Tarik Frimpong embody the many, many Drifters and do their best with a confusing script to differentiate each character with strikingly different mannerisms, accents and overall physicality.

And by the end, they all somehow rise above the poorly executed incidental moments (in this case, the entire story) and manage to get the audience up on their feet with the pure power of lending their impressive voices to undeniable hits.

These tracks, despite not being linked to any sort of consistent creative entity, cannot be questioned in terms of their quality, and you do end up forgiving much of the show’s weaknesses the very moment ‘Under the Boardwalk’ or ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’ starts to play.

It’s just such a shame that the overall effect of watching this musical is like going to a concert where the artist fills in the gaps between songs by reading extracts from their Wikipedia page.  Even the strongest of hit songs cannot sustain these kinds of tedious interruptions, but who knows, at the rate of jukebox musicals being commissioned, we can’t be far off discovering whether The Drifter’s Girl walked so Sugababes: The Musical could fly.

UK TOUR, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

The Drifters Girl – UK Tour
The Drifter's Girl
It’s a shame that the overall effect of watching this musical is like going to a concert where the artist fills in the gaps between songs by reading extracts from their Wikipedia page. Even the strongest of hit songs just cannot sustain these kinds of tedious interruptions.