Theatre, Musicals
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© Elliott Franks

Despite the longest preview period in London theatre history, this Dusty Springfield musical is almost supernaturally awful

This tech-heavy musical about beehived British soul singer Dusty Springfield – which draws mainly on her catalogue of '60s hits – has had almost as troubled a life as its subject. Since previews began at Charing Cross Theatre 14 weeks ago, it has lost nine performers (including its original lead) and is on to its third director. But has it been worth it? Sadly, in a word, no.

To be honest, everything feels so misconceived, it’s doubtful that all the time in the world could have saved this show from being the car-crash that it is. For example, pity Alison Arnopp, who finds herself in the unique position of fighting for stage time with the dead woman she’s supposed to be playing. Whether it’s archive footage or a freaky, 3D hologram Dusty – swaying jerkily centre-stage, as if resurrected into some digital purgatory – we’re frequently left to clap a video screen.

But leave aside the bizarre way that Arnopp is shunted off stage seemingly every time she changes costume and draws breath to sing; and look past the flimsy choreography, cheap-looking multimedia set and audio production that makes the live band sound pre-recorded. What really sinks this show is that it gives us no insight into the talented and complex woman it’s about. Framed by an interview with a fictional friend, this is biography-by-numbers.

We move perfunctorily from Dusty’s west London childhood to New York and, ultimately, her success with 'Dusty in Memphis' (which featured ‘Son of a Preacher Man’) like a weary, box-ticking exercise. And the effect of her closeted gay love life is squandered on emotionally meaningless duets with characters introduced just moments before. And these aren’t even staged well, with the glorious, overblown excess of ‘I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten’ thoroughly wasted here.

So much of the interesting stuff – like her late-stage resurgence with the Pet Shop Boys – is left out by this tepid tribute, which adds nothing. Before I went into the show, I was pondering lyric-based puns I could use in this review. Afterwards, I decided to leave them out. Dusty Springfield had suffered enough. 



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I wasn't really aware of much of Dusty's material (except Son of a Preacher Man) before attending this show. However I was pleasantly surprised at how many songs I recognised which had me singing along with most of the audience. The show takes us through Dusty's career using a talented cast (most either danced or played instruments as an addition) as well as old televised footage of Dusty. There was also use of a hologram which although was clever, though personally felt the main actresses could have stepped in instead. The Charing Cross Theatre is a great champion of Musicals and lessor known works and I always enjoy coming back here.

This is a lovely show and a sweet way to spend an evening. The 3D filming is very clever and fitting real Dusty's singing to a live band is something else. Totally enjoyed myself, stepping back through the years and impressed by the sympathetic way the show handles Dusty's love life. Lots of people were singing along too! The theatre is an experience in itself and a real hidden gem. Will be watching now for other productions at this venue. Also recommend the Players Bar for fab food and good service. Can not believe this place is in London! Don't tell too many people xxx

An unexpected pleasure ! Dusty starts slow and gradually draws you in until you are completely absorbed. Drift away in this interactive show that  mixes stage actors with the original 'Dusty' footage to create a stage show like no other.

The toilet feedback is always interesting. Several men were singing along to themselves and my wife said the same of the ladies.

The theatre is in an unusual place as it is directly below Charing Cross Station. I heard a group of people say they never knew the theatre existed and were also surprised at the quality of the production. They will also be back in the future, now they have discovered this 'hidden gem'

Definitely worth a visit