STAGE REVIEW: Son of a Preacher Man - at the Festival Theatre, Malvern, from Tuesday, February 20 to Saturday, February 24, 2018.

GREAT fun and music thanks to the songs of the legendary Dusty Springfield, but anyone closing their eyes and counting to ten, and maybe Wishin’ and Hopin’ for a super-duper musical love story may feel they have sadly been let down.

Basically it’s a jukebox musical with an unlikely triple love story-line centred on a coffee shop manager who just happens to be the surviving son of the Preacher Man, and which links Warner Brown’s tale via many of the distinctive and dusky soundtracks of Dusty’s fabulous hits of the 1960s.

What a shame it’s all too convoluted, weak and, in some respects, soppy. Brown claims he writes quickly, that he just sits and gets on with it, and it’s either ok or not! Clearly this needed a little more time and thought… He also says that as he was writing, the songs just fell into place!?

A little more persuasion might be needed, but no persuasion is necessary for the efforts on stage of the cast and musicians. Hugely enjoyable, with some quality voices, and these sufficiently diverted enough attention away from the unlikely tale of unrequited love for three very different people.

Our pilgrims in pursuit of happiness somehow meet up in Soho at the site of what was once a record store called The Preacher Man and where the owner used to dispense not just vinyl and accessories, but advice to impressionable youngsters of London’s groovy ‘60s scene.

Our trio - Debra Stephenson’s Alison and Alice Barlow’s Kat - both outstanding, whose mother and gran had been frequent visitors, and Paul (Michael Howe) who, as a teenager, had met the man of his dreams at the store.

The three each explained they needed closure but find the record shop is no more. It’s now a modern, trendy coffee house, The Double Shot.

But, as luck would have it, Simon - the Preacher Man’s son, is still in residence as the manager.

He’s a very shy Si (Nigel Richards) who spends his afternoon’s alone in a room above the coffee house until he is eventually persuaded to seek some divine intervention to help the trio. Be great if someone could be persuaded to to make an intervention on his behalf to give him a another song or two to perform.

His voice and musical background deserves greater use and recognition.

As for choreography this was the responsibility of Craig Revel Horwood, he of the cutting comments directed at contestants on television’s hugely popular Strictly Come Dancing programme.

Sorry ‘dahling’ but your efforts would not have won a ‘ten from Len’, or even the triumphal shout of ‘seven’. Yes, there were one or two good routines, but for the rest of the run-of-the-mill movements we would be looking more in the area of five or six.

Much of it was, for want of better terminology, somewhat old hat, but there were stand-out moments such as when two of the three would-be lovers - the vibrant Kat with a voice to match, and a kilt and vest adorned plumber called Andy (Liam Vincent-Kilbride) seductively danced to Dusty’s alluring How Can I Be Sure?

And, of course, there was also the stylish and sassy delivery of the coffee shop’s superb songstresses-cum-waitresses, the Cappuccino Sisters (Michelle Long, Kate Hardisty and Cassiopeia Berkeley-Agyepong).

All do their level best to raise a hum-drum story but what really makes the night a success is the infectious music and memories of the wonderful Dusty Springfield.