They say that behind every successful man, there’s a woman who helped get him there. And for world-famous vocal group The Drifters, that woman was none other than Faye Treadwell – a trailblazing African American woman who, despite the odds being stacked against her, turned them into a global phenomenon. And now, a brand new musical is finally telling her story.
Direct from the West End, The Drifters Girl is as powerful and emotive as it is entertaining, with one of the most vocally impressive casts I’ve seen on stage – ever. Nominated for Best New Musical in 2022 at the Olivier Awards, the smash hit show has been written by Ed Curtis, with Faye’s daughter Tina Treadwell in close consultation throughout. It was she who, when Ed said he wanted to write a musical about The Drifters, told him: “If you’re gonna tell the story of the group, you really wanna tell the story of my mother.” Strong women raise strong women, after all.
The story itself is nothing short of remarkable, but it’s the storytelling and the phenomenal cast that really bring it to life. The musical takes us through the highs of hit records and the lows of legal battles and personal tragedy, masterfully balancing the glamour of success with the harsh realities of the music industry – particularly being woman of colour in the 50s, 60s and 70s in the industry.
Faye Treadwell, portrayed by Carly Mercedes Dyer, is a force to be reckoned with on stage. She played the part with the perfect balance of strength and vulnerability, her connection with the audience effortless in every scene. Her powerful vocals were completely captivating – particularly the poignant take on Stand By Me – and the way in which The Drifters’ songs were incorporated was ingenious, blending the music with storytelling to portray her emotions.
But I think what was most impressive was the resilience, determination and dedication of Faye Treadwell, and Dyer did a wonderful job of sharing her legacy with the world. The addition of Jaydah Bell-Ricketts playing her daughter in the present day was another thoughtful touch that also really helped move the narrative along.
As for The Drifters themselves Miles Daley, Ashford Campbell, Tarik Frimpong and Daniel Haswell were outstanding in their portrayal of The Drifters, and dare I say, the next best thing. They not only delivered flawless renditions of the group’s classic hits but also embodied the distinct personalities of the original members, and the way they flitted between their different roles was incredibly slick. In fact, the production as a whole was so smooth, from the set changes through to costumes where subtle nuances suggested the decade we were now in.
At the heart of the production is of course, the soundtrack is with iconic Drifters hits such as Saturday Night At The Movies, Save The Last Dance For Me, This Magic Moment and Stand By Me that. The choreography was executed with an infectious energy and enthusiasm which radiated throughout the auditorium and had the whole audience on their feet by the end of the show.
The Drifters Girl really is a testament to Faye Treadwell’s legacy and a must-see not just for anyone who loves the soulful melodies and sound of The Drifters, but to finally hear the previously untold story of the woman behind their success. Find out where to see the show here, or find out what’s on at The Regent Theatre, Hanley here.