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A CurtainUp London Review
The problem with Dusty is the mixed media. We have Alison Arnopp live playing the singer with costume carefully matched to the slightly eerie, ghostly holographed film of Dusty Springfield herself singing some of her songs. The effect is to undermine the live performance and create one of those comparison photos where you spot the difference. The real Dusty has a diminutive bust line, the live singer not so, Alison Arnopp's wig isn't quite right and so on. This puts the suspension of disbelief "in the middle of nowhere" as she famously sang.
I love Dusty's songs but the sound at the Charing Cross is set too loud for comfort and there is distortion. The first film clip is out of synch with the music making us think we might be in for The Musical That Goes Wrong. The storyline, too, is clunky with Dusty's life long fictional friend Nancy (Francesca Jackson) giving an interview to a journalist. The two GoGo dancers work amazing hard for little choreographic invention.
There were scenes I liked: early on with the trio The Springfields with her brother Deon renamed Tom Springfield (Leo Elso), the song "Silver Threads and Golden Needles" with its folksy, country and western sound. In New York we go to Capitol Records where she records the Bert Berns' song "Tell Him". In South Africa, she is given 48 hours to leave the country after inviting black people to her concert in a whites only theatre. She had said that she would not play to a segregated audience and we segue into "Dancing in the Streets".
Act Two opens with the scary hologram of Dusty in a frilly Caribbean voodoo outfit for "Spooky". Illustrating her reputation as "the world's best white soul singer" she steps in for a missing Vandella in the trio now down to two of Martha (the excellent Witney White) and one Vandella. She finds love with Californian Norma (Sienna Sebek) but the transatlantic relationship battles with the travel involved and later with the Lesbian publicity but "The Look of Love" has real meaning.
I know the budget must have been hit by all the resignations from the previews but surely someone could turn the volume down. The band is live and the main show finishes with Dusty's iconic " Son of A Preacher Man". The true story of the spiraling downward end of Dusty's life is not touched on. In musical history, another one bites the dust.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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