EXCLUSIVE: Broadway’s Felicia Boswell (Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert) will be making her West End debut this July when she takes over from Beverley Knight (Bodyguard Musical), the chart-topping Queen of British Soul, in the enormously enjoyable hit show The Drifters Girl, which has been running at The Garrick Theatre since last November.
Knight departs The Drifters Girl on July 2 and Boswell joins the production three days later on July 5 to portray Faye Treadwell, the pioneering manager who took over control of the legendary soul quartet after the death of the group’s manager, her husband George Treadwell, in 1967.
Boswell will perform with a quartet of local stars: Tosh Wanogho-Maud (Dreamgirls); Adam J. Bernard, who won an Olivier Award for his James ‘Thunder’ Early in Dreamgirls; Tarinn Callender (Hamilton); and Matt Henry, winner of a best musical actor Olivier Award for his performance in Kinky Boots. They portray a multitude of roles including the ever-changing lineup of artists who performed as The Drifters.
Michael Harrison, founder and chief executive of Michael Harrison Entertainment, charged Tara Rubin, the Broadway casting director, with finding him an artist to replace Knight. She had decided to leave the show to star in a forthcoming London revival of musical Sister Act.
Harrison told Deadline: ”Finding somebody who can vocally deliver and have the calibre of a Beverley Knight, though there’s only one Beverley Knight, was difficult. There wasn’t anyone here so we asked Tara Rubin to help us.”
Harrison told us that Jonathan Church, director of The Drifters Girl, had seen Boswell when she portrayed Diana Ross in Motown: The Musical on Broadway. “When Tara mentioned Felicia’s name we jumped at the opportunity to work with her,” Harrison said.
Boswell’s excited, too.
“It’s my West End debut. I’m over excited!,” she exclaimed during an interview over Zoom with Deadline.
“It has been a dream of mine to work in the West End. And secondly, I’ve been a huge fan of Beverley Knight,” she said, noting that both she and Knight had played the lead role of Felicia Farrell in the musical Memphis.
”Montego Glover was the first Felicia Farrell. I was the second Felicia Farrell and the third artist to play her was Beverley Knight over in London so we have some similarities, and the idea of her playing a role I was playing was just butterflies in the stomach. Now that situation is in reverse. I was always told as a child that if you are brought to it, you can do it, “ Boswell said.
Boswell’s family has audio of her singing at the age of 3. When she was 6 or 7, her father, John Boswell, who ran an auto repair shop in Montgomery, AL, sang with gospel groups such as the Mighty Hurricanes and decided to form one with Felicia and her two older sisters.
“We were known as John Boswell and the True Sounding Boswellettes and we sang on a Christian radio station in Montgomery. I always give it back to my dad. I grew up singing gospel music but when everybody else was at church and singing in choirs, we were actually performing live on radio during church hours. We would open for large gospel groups and we would tour … it’s my roots and I’m very proud of it,” said Boswell, who travels to London later next week to begin preparing for rehearsals.
Boswell has family links to Rosa Parks, the First Lady of Civil Rights. Her grandmother and Parks were cousins, and were raised together as sisters, she explained.
”My dad would say, cousin Rosa’s here and we’re going over to grandma’s house and we’re going to sing her songs. I have a very vivid memory of her. She was very soft spoken … she had a softness about her spirit. As a child I knew she was important but it wasn’t until I was older that I realized what an important role she had played in our history when she sat in a seat on that bus,” Boswell told Deadline.
Must Read Stories
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.