Return of an Icon: 'Dusty' The Musical Reviewed
When we think of Dusty Springfield, bouffant blonde hair, thick eyeliner and 'Son of a Preacher Man' come to mind. But when we saw 'Dusty' the musical at Charing Cross Theatre, so much more about this complex and immensely talented star was revealed in a way that Dusty herself would enjoy - through song and dance!
Dusty's lifelong best friend Nancy Jones takes us from Dusty's beginnings as Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien, born into an Irish Catholic family in Ealing, through to her first big break with the Lana Sisters, collaborating with her brother in The Springfields and going solo for the first time. The show has a unique multimedia twist, with Dusty herself present through original footage and 3D technology whilst live actors portray her life.
The show opens with Nancy being interviewed a year after Dusty's death, and she takes us on a trip down memory lane to a teenage Mary O'Brien - a red headed, shy girl who occasionally features in her brother's cabaret act. Nancy spurs her on and she joins the Lana Sisters who are brought to life on screen singing 'Mr Dee Jay' in matching quirky polka dot dresses. After this we get a taste of The Springfields and see just how Mary O'Brien became 'Dusty'. Stepping out as a solo performer, Dusty herself is then projected onto the big screen singing, 'I Only Want to Be with You', accompanied by a live band on stage, as well as live dancers and back-up singers in colourful sixties mini dresses and white Go-Go boots.
Many hits follow as we are taken further into her career. Her sporadic personality is conveyed in both a humorous and down to earth way, whilst Dusty's increasing reliance on alcohol is performed with tact. Her relationship with fellow singer Norma Tanega touches on the hardships she endured when engaging in homosexual relationships at the time and the constant struggles of keeping her true self hidden from the public eye. The contrast between seeing Dusty's life acted out on stage and the magical footage of her performances works well, truly highlighting how Dusty in the spotlight was quite a different person to Dusty behind the scenes.
The cast creates a colourful sixties vibe whilst conveying the pressure and chaos that built up around Dusty over the years. Whilst playing Dusty, Ellie Ann Lowe effectively demonstrates the transition from shy choir girl to worldwide superstar, and strikes a balance between the troubled and endearing sides of her dynamic personality.
A real spectacle for any die-hard Dusty Springfield fan or general music lover, this musical brings the past into the present and revives a much loved star whose work is both innovative and timeless. We were 'Wishin' and Hopin'' that the show would live up to our expectations, and it did!