Dusty – Charing Cross Theatre

Dusty-63Dusty’s press night build up (all 109 performances of it) was much discussed in West End circles, but was it worth the wait? The controversial mix between live performance and 1960s recordings is one that could most certainly divide an audience, but for me, the risk paid off.

The show tells of Dusty’s rise to fame from the point of view from her childhood friend Nancy, from starting out with her brother in the family band ‘The Springfield’s’ to taking America alone later in her career. The relationship with Nancy is a complicated one, but as the story unfolds, we discover the venerable, lonely star behind the demanding determined woman that we are shown earlier in the show.

I can safely say I have never seen such a technical spectacle at the Charing Cross theatre. Whilst it took a while to warm into, the projections of Dusty singing were at times masterfully integrated into the cast’s performances. At the beginning of Act 2 when we saw the ‘3D Dusty’ for the first time, there were audible gasps around the auditorium, it really was quite spectacular.

At times I felt that so much was going on both technically and performance wise, for me it had not been clearly directed where the audience’s attention should be. I found there to be a similar case with the choreography, which while brilliant, was distracting at times. Yet the more subtle choreography from the impressive actor musicians was gloriously in keeping with the 1960s style. The actor/ guitarists Leo Elso and Luke Thornton were incredibly entertaining in these moments.

The cast as a whole were incredibly strong with some stand-out performances from Alison Arnopp as a flawless Dusty, and an extremely engaging Francesca Jackson as Nancy. A special mention must also go to Witney White for her stunning vocal as Martha Reed.

Blending the pre recorded vocals of Dusty Springfield with a live band and singers, must have been no easy task, yet I felt that Noam Galperin’s arrangements and Dean Austin’s musical direction were nothing short of stunning. The auditorium was filled with an outstanding blend, and beautiful harmonies and orchestrations, bringing Dusty’s voice to life.

The music was great fun, however I found the script to be flawed in places. Whilst the story flowed nicely, some of the dialogue was rather corny in places, and I felt that Dusty’s anguish over her sexuality could have been handled more sensitively.

Dusty Springfield’s music oozes drama and theatricality and was almost begging to be made into a musical. Unsure what to expect at the start, I can happily say that this was executed nicely. As a jukebox show, I can certainly see this production fitting along side some of its West End jukebox counterparts.

Reviewed by Laura Cooper
Photo: Elliott Franks

Dusty runs at the Charring Cross theatre until Saturday 21st November. Click here to buy tickets and save up to 49%