Image: Wikimedia Commons

In all honesty, before I got my tickets for this show, I knew very little about the song and even less about Dusty Springfield herself. To me, ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ was a song I associated with John Travolta and Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, or with a painfully awkward yet hilarious moment in the US Office episode ‘Baby Shower’. Needless to say, I never knew about Dusty Springfield during her heyday, so going to this show as an 18-year-old boy I knew I was going to be a little out of my depth.

Son of a Preacher Man is a musical that celebrates the music of Dusty Springfield, intertwining her greatest hits with a modern-day story of three characters trying to find love. If you were to try and find a previous review for this production you’re likely to stumble across Alex Belfield’s Celebrity Radio review, which doesn’t send out a great amount of positivity. Belfield describes the play as ‘an insult to Springfield’s legacy,’ discussing a dreadful story with Springfield’s songs ‘crowbarred in.’ Horrifically scathing. Listening to Belfield, I went in with little expectation – I certainly wasn’t expecting Broadway, but I was still willing to give this musical a chance.

the storyline certainly isn’t the selling point of the musical

The musical follows a storyline which, in short, revolves around three characters who are in love with people who don’t love them back. To resolve their issues, they go to an old café in Soho named The Preacher Man, with the hope that the Preacher Man who owned it and was well-known for solving love-related issues would still live there and be able to resolve their dilemmas. Instead of finding this classic Soho joint, they’re greeted by a new establishment, run by the late Preacher Man’s son (funnily enough a ‘Son of a Preacher Man,’ which is as clever or cheap as you want it to be). From this moment, it is now up to this son to resolve their problems, often calling on his father from beyond the grave to help these people find love. Two acts and a variety of Springfield hits later, nobody has yet found the love they’re looking for.

Their issues are finally resolved in the eleventh hour, and, although one character gets the love they’re looking for, the other two are left loving two people they only met minutes before. Suddenly it began to feel like I was watching a night at Timepiece play out on stage. All in all, the storyline certainly isn’t the selling point of the musical, though I wouldn’t call it insulting. As the story ends, the cast all join together to sing a final medley of all of Dusty Springfield’s best hits and the audience started dancing and singing along to their favourite Springfield melodies. It was after seeing this that I realised what kind of audience this musical was attracting and confirmed both my fears of being out of my depth as well as the reason why people came to see this musical: to listen and enjoy the Dusty Springfield songs they grew up with. So to any big Dusty Springfield fans out there, this is something fun to enjoy.

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