Beverley Knight on new musical The Drifters Girl

Virgin Radio

2 Nov 2021, 12:29

Tom Allen and Beverley Knight at Virgin Radio

Tom Allen and Beverley Knight at Virgin Radio

The Queen of British Soul and West End leading lady joined the Graham Norton Radio Show with Waitrose to talk about starring in a brand new musical, which opens in London this week.

Beverley told Tom Allen, who was in for Graham: “The Drifters Girl is the story of a woman called Faye Treadwell, and she managed The Drifters, took up the reins after her husband, who was their original manager, passed away in 1967. She took up the reins and made them a global phenomenon, and it was completely unheard of, because, a: she was a woman and this was the 60’s and, b: she was a woman of colour, and this was the 60’s! In an era when she wasn’t even a first class citizen in her own country.

“She was remarkable. No-one had heard of a female music manager. It just hadn't happened before, but she just did it, and thought, ‘I’m gonna do it’. An absolutely extraordinary woman and an extraordinary story.” 

When Tom asked how her involvement in The Drifters Girl came about, the singer told him that she was approached by one of the co-producers of the show, Michael Harrison. “He asked if I would be up for doing something that was entirely brand new,” she explained. “He said he’d created the role with me in mind. I can’t even tell you how flattered I was.”

Beverley added: “So I did my research on Faye Treadwell, and I’m a music woman, but I didn’t know much about her, because there wasn’t even a Wiki page about her or anything.”

Talking more about the show, which documents how she turned Atlantic Records' hottest vocal group into a global phenomenon, she said: “We’re getting the chance to tell her story, and of course we’ve got the glorious music of The Drifters, which most people, I would say, know. It’s not just her story. It’s through the prism of her eyes, but it’s the story of how The Drifters kind of came and went, and came and went.”

Beverely told Tom that, having agreed to take on the role, she flew over to LA to meet Faye’s daughter, Tina Treadwell, to do some research. “I’m a bit of a nerd,” she confessed. “If I’m going to take something on, I want to know everything, as much as I can, so I met Tina.” 

On meeting Faye’s daughter, Beverley said: “The apple didn’t fall far from the tree with Tina Treadwell. She’s now an entertainment manager herself. So, I got to get a sense of… what Faye Treadwell, and George Treadwell, her dad, must have been like, just by being around her and how she operates. She’s a formidable woman. My god!”

When speaking about having her roots in the theatre, Beverley told Tom: “I was involved in theatre since I was about five, school productions and that, and then joining the Wolverhampton Youth Theatre. I have to big-up Wolverhampton. Wolverhampton always gets a shoutout! It helped to inform the way I then went onstage and performed as just me, you know? 

“I always loved theatre, so coming back to theatre, albeit in this way more professional kind of guise in the West End has been a joy, and absolute joy, because it’s just another form of expression and sending messages, and edifying people and lifting them up.” 

Enthusing further about the new musical in which she stars, the singer said: “It’s glorious. It’s absolutely glorious. And I must mention, in The Drifters Girl, the maximum amount of people on stage [is] six of us. Myself, Adam Bernard, Matt Henry, Tosh Wanogho-Maud, Tarinn Callender, who play The Drifters and every other character. Multiple roleplaying. These guys are beyond talented and gorgeous as well. I love them. And then there’s a young girl, Savannah, Dara, Amari and Arabele, any one of those four girls, because they have to switch, they play Tina Treadwell, Faye and George’s daughter. So it’s six of us at any one time on the stage.” 

She added: “It’s hard work, but we support each other through the whole piece and that multiple role-playing that the lads do just makes the show magical.” 

During her chat with Tom, Beverley spoke about Sam Cooke, about whom Ricky Wilson presented a documentary on Virgin Radio at the weekend, entitled: Black History Month: Sam Cooke – The Portrait of a legend. “The first recorded voice I ever heard and listened to was that of Sam Cooke,” Beverley said. "As a kid, I knew him as a gospel singer. I didn’t appreciate the soul/pop career until I was a lot older, because my mum and dad, being proper Christians and coming from this whole lineage of Ministers and all of that gospel singing, I only ever heard his gospel recordings. 

"So I grew up hearing him sing Jesus Gave Me Water, Touch The Hem Of His Garment, and I’d listen as a three year old, on a Sunday. Sunday dinner’s being cooked, we’ve come back from church, mum’s put Sam Cooke on, and it’d be my job to lay the table and I wouldn’t be laying any table, I’m in the front room watching the vinyl go round and round and round, just standing, staring at this vinyl, with this voice hitting me.”

The Drifters Girl starts this Thursday (November 4th) at The Garrick Theatre in London, and runs until 26th March 2022. It features a soundtrack of some of the most iconic songs in history, including Save The Last Dance For Me, Under The Boardwalk, Kissin’ In The Back Row Of The Movies, Stand By Me, Come On Over To My Place And Saturday Night At The Movies.

However, while Beverley will be busy with the musical for a few months, she reassured Tom that she’ll still be working on her own stuff. “Once this show is up and running properly, I’ll be in the studio working on new music. Oh, don’t worry about that, I’ll never, ever abandon music!” she said.

For information and tickets, visit

Listen to The Graham Norton Radio Show every Saturday AND Sunday from 9:30 am on Virgin Radio or catch up on-demand here.