There have been many “jukebox” musicals about Dusty Springfield - the allure of her huge and timeless hits seems endless. But a new production, currently trialling prior to an eventual West End launch, is probably the best effort so far.

Written by Jonathan Harvey after he had researched for years and interviewed many of the star's closest friends, this latest musical starts midway through Dusty's life with a 'Ready Steady Go'-style TV show audience awaiting the appearance of one of the UK's greatest soul singers as their idol has a nervous breakdown in the dressing room. This discrepancy between the gilded, accomplished, beehived public persona of Dusty and her often terrified, self-loathing, stubborn, private self runs throughout this slick new production which examines the singer's sexuality, alcoholism and her huge sense of rivalry with the great black American soul singers who Dusty so adored.

Yet, watching this show is far from a miserable experience! Direction by Maria Friedman is slick and the award-winning Katherine Kingsley performs superbly as Dusty, supported by a strong cast. Kingsley really rises to the challenge and, helped by some exceptionally strong musicians, she makes Dusty's music – and the image of Dusty herself – really soar. Kingsley's version of 'Look of Love' is just perfect, for example. All the biggest Dusty numbers are here and their power is amazing. No wonder that, as the script reminds us, in 1965, Dusty was the world's biggest-selling female singer - bar none!

The sets (by Tom Pye) are impressive also – combining a cheery, geometric Sixties pop art style with video projections (including footage of Dusty's funeral in Henley-on-Thames). Choreography by Tim Jackson is strong throughout. And there is a fantastic routine for the Pet Shop Boys' 'What Have I Done to Deserve This?' number with the ensemble dancing energetically while clasping neon picture frames as an older, rather ravaged Dusty enters with a mess of blonde hair and her kohl eyes darker than ever - a real highlight of the show.

There are a few weaknesses in the script which would benefit from ironing out before Dusty hits the West End. For example, there is perhaps a little too much reliance on facts and figures occasionally. And maybe a little too much slightly corny wisecracking from supporting characters which can give an inappropriate “Disneyesque” feel that doesn't sit happily with the sheer power of this production. Overall, though, this show is a great success - and by far the best effort yet at celebrating the complicated life of one of the UK's best ever female singers.

Related Links:

Commenting On: Dusty - The Musical - Dusty Springfield

ie London, England

tick box before submitting comment

First Previous Next Last