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stand by me

Stand by Me review

Stand by me – a celebration of Ben E King and The Drifters

a guest blog from Suzanne Whelan from Sofa Stories.

What to get a Mam (Mum outside of the North East of England) who needs no gifts as she pretty much gets what she wants when she wants it?  Time and a hark back to her youth…PERFECT.

Stand by me – a celebration of Ben E. King and The Drifters hit Sage Gateshead and Nights Out In Newcastle invited us along as their guests.

As you may already know from reading the recent David Gray review Sage Gateshead is an international home for music and fabulous dance (Strictly eat your heart out). I ’ve been going to this fabulous venue for years and my eldest. She even partook in a group before she was even born (Musical Bumps).  What I hadn’t realised was that my mam despite living within a 20 minute drive and the building being opened for just over 12 years she’s never been.  What?!?

Arriving at Sage Gateshead we parked easily and walked to the café bar on the ground floor to get some drinks.  With the excesses of Christmas and me driving we stuck to coffee, there were slim pickings left in the cake and scone department which I was strangely happy about.

We entered Sage One by West door four and grabbed our seats (P4 and P5) which were on the row end.  It was so nice to see my mam taking in her surroundings and she was filled with wonderment about visiting a place for the very first time.  Only the stalls and tier one were being occupied this evening which added an air of intimacy.  The ambiance was great.

The staging was simple and sometimes the simplest of staging can be the best.  It consisted of a flight of stairs and a platform where some of the band played.  The drummer/percussionist was tucked downstairs.  I must admit at this point I probably only know four maybe five songs by the Drifters but this was for my mum not for me.  Mam was born in 1948 just 5 years before the groups’ inception and she’s always been a lover no matter the line-up.


The lights went down and we were welcomed with a choir which depicted the roots of the band . Good start!  Narration was provided by the deepest American tone throughout the performance which helped to keep the chronological date line in order and pinpoint the era.  Without him I think I may have gotton a bit lost if it weren’t for the costume changes.  Right from the get go I had my favourite performers but maybe it’s a little early to say.

stand by me at the sage gateshead

Here come the girls…. Well the guys need a break and a costume change so on step a trio of ladies (Becky, Eleanor and Sarah) depicting The Andrews Sisters and Martha and the Vandellas.

As well as staring as one of the Andrews Sisters, Becky Crookes performed a solo dance throughout one of the songs, executed really well but I was really confused as to whether it fitted.  This little lady could belt out a tune and felt really comfortable in her own skin.

Eleanor Marie is the second member of The Andrews Sisters and Martha and the Vandellas and most definitely held her own.

Sarah Martin played CBS Reporter and was the third member of The Andrews Sisters and Martha and the Vandellas and I loved, loved, loved her. There was something about her that I completely and utterly engaged with.  Super confident.

The costumes of the women told a visual story all by themselves and there were some outfits’ I would have loved to have taken home.

The audience on whole engaged more in this part but I guess that’s because the songs were better known by the majority.  At points the sound wasn’t great but the cast dealt with any issues with such aplomb.

He’s the run down on some more of the cast.

Dan Hall: Assistant Musical Director/Backing Vocalist/Bass Guitarist.  Dan was up high with the majority of the band and embraced being part of the show and danced and sang lots.  I enjoyed the goofing around with fellow musician Joe Archer, guitarist and sitar player.

stand by me at the sage gateshead

Toby Stewart the saxophonist and my mam both had something in common and that was not being able to clap at the same time as everyone else (Toby did of course has a saxophone in front of him as for my mam it is a seemingly lack of rhythm).

Jerome Bucknor the tallest of the cast played four parts in total including Rudy Lewis and President Barak Obama. When Rudy ‘s death was mentioned I felt genuinely upset but this may have been because I thought it was going to be the last we saw of Jerome but I was so glad when he came back on stage playing a different part.

Davinia Thomas stared as the lead of the choir at the very offset of the production and sounded so goo. She played three parts, Sarah Vaughan, Johnny Moore’s Wife and Fayerene Treadwell.  She had a great tone to her voice and I loved her rendition of ‘I am woman’ albeit she did seem to be struggling with her ear piece.  Davina managed to fluff a few lines but hid it well as was ever the professional.

Ryan King one of the members of the Drifters sang a beautiful solo and was a great part of the show.  It wasn’t until the end that he had been part of the Drifters in the latter stages of the UK group.  As well as playing himself he also played Clyde McPhatter (the founding member of The Drifters) and Bill Fredricks.

Michael Williams was most definitely in my top three people in this production.  He emboded Ben E. King fantastically he had a real smootheness to his voice and I could have listened him all day and night.

It was a great show, a fabulous night out and definitely worth going to.  You can find a list of tour dates below:

Stand by me: tour dates

Let us know what you thought of the show.

The show also embraces social media and streamed their details at the end of the evening.  Find everything you want to know here.

 – a guest blog by Suzanne Whelan from Sofa Stories




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