The Drifters Girl, Edinburgh Playhouse: ***

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There were so many members of The Drifters, someone ought to have installed a revolving door to the dressing-room.

More a franchise than a band - 60 vocalists is a staggering number to get through - it was still a hit factory responsible for classics such as Saturday Night At The Movies, Save The Last Dance For Me and Kissin’ In The Back Row Of The Movies.

By contrast, The Drifters’ Girl has a cast of just six, with four of them playing so many roles it was actually hard work keeping up. The fact you didn’t realise how few of them were involved was testament to their skills.

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The show is based around the story of Faye Treadwell (Carly Mercedes Dyer) who managed the band and whose drive was central to their global success. Hers is a remarkable story - a young, black woman in a very white, male dominated industry - and it is one that ought to have added so much depth to this show, but it didn’t all land with an emotive thump. It felt a little too restrained at times.

The Drifters Girl - currently playing at the Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh (Pic: The Other Richard)The Drifters Girl - currently playing at the Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh (Pic: The Other Richard)
The Drifters Girl - currently playing at the Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh (Pic: The Other Richard)

The narrative was so heavy with detail (and contract law rows ain’t that sexy) that the key moments and issues - the racism and sexism she had to endure, and the death of her husband - were a little lost in the storytelling, although this was no fault of those on a stage that had, as a set, very little other than sliding walls, and a handful of props. The changes minimised the stage as required, but less isn’t always more. Only the sight of a “no blacks, no Irish, no dogs” sign on the back screen as the band hit England gave you a sudden jolt and an insight into what she faced.

Dyer’s big numbers were certainly among the stand-outs as she told her story to her daughter, simply known as Girl - I did feel for Jaydah Bell-Ricketts whose role was marginalised as she was left on the sidelines for so many scenes.

As for the singers, Ethan Davis, Matthew Dawkins, Ashford Campbell and Tarik Frimpong all delivered the Drifters song book with style and gusto, and switched slickly to each different character with just a change of jacket or a hat. There was even neat a Bruce Forsyth impression as the band hit a London which was illustrated with bowler hats and pukka accents.

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Anyone coming for the songs will certainly not be disappointed, but if you don’t know the complicated back story of The Drifters then be prepared to concentrate - there’s a lot to take in! The good news is they do save the last dance … just for you.

> The Drifters’ Girl is at the Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh until Saturday, May 4. Tickets:

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