How many shows can you name that have their opening night more than a fortnight after their run was scheduled to end? Dusty is London’s own Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, a fraught high-tech show that has attracted more headlines for its delays and backstage bust-ups than for anything happening onstage.
Over the summer, a small army of cast members, including the show’s original Dusty, have departed, the entire creative team has been replaced, and the show has now been extended until 21 November, not least to allow for numerous press night postponements. And so, after three-and-a-half months of previews, the show finally opened to critics last night.
Predictably, the critics have savaged it (see below) – pretty much one-stars across the board this morning, with the exception of my My Theatre Mates co-founder Mark Shenton feeling in a generous two-star mood in The Stage. And rightly so: as a piece of theatre, let alone a pseudo-biographical account, there are many, many things wrong with Dusty, including a succession of frighteningly awful wigs, out-of-sync audio tracks and an ending that left me assuming Springfield died, either by suicide or some dreadful accident, circa 1969.
I was done&dusty’d tonite at @CharingCrossThr, inc post-show tuition with the singer’s ‘#1 fan’ Leslie #theatreselfie pic.twitter.com/au2IQ7bj2m
— Terri Paddock (@TerriPaddock) September 7, 2015
(In my defence, I’m an American child of the Seventies and Eighties so Dusty Springfield was out of my frame of cultural reference growing up – though, of course, I still knew and loved many of the songs she helped make famous. Thank goodness for the post-show history lesson care of the lovely Dusty Springfield aficionado, Leslie Kovacs.)
In fact, Springfield died from breast cancer three decades later – three decades and a conclusion entirely untouched by this celebratory show that opts to focus only on her early career trajectory and heyday, thereby avoiding some of the most interesting aspects of her life’s story dramatically.
But, by the howls of recognition and delight behind me last night, it was clear that many in the audience – and the producers’ target audience of Baby Boomers, didn’t care a hoot about the oversight. They wanted a celebration of Dusty Springfield in her prime and seemed to feel that’s what they got: they loved the back-projected videos and the 3D holograms that showed the real lady herself strutting her stuff, leaving the poor live performers, even the so-called stars as a support act only. (For goodness sake, the game young actress, Alison Arnopp, who stepped into her shoes doesn’t get to sing even a single line of “Son of a Preacher Man”.)
And so, I offer my own video celebration: here’s a selection of clips of the lady herself in action, many of which also feature in Dusty. If you want to see them played out on a big screen, accompanied by a live band and some admirably dedicated actual live performers, get yourself down to the Charing Cross Theatre.
Dusty continues at the Charing Cross Theatre until 21 November 2015.
Dusty on YouTube
Dusty in the press
THE STAGE – ★★
Mark Shenton: Springfield will long be remembered but Dusty, a feeble jukebox musical, will be quickly forgotten… Summer has come and already gone in the time that Dusty has been previewing: and it has now finally opened, 14 weeks later and with most of its cast and creative team entirely replaced.
MY THEATRE MATES – ★
Jonathan Baz: It is a brave (and largely new) cast that step up tonight to take their bows before the press…The glorious brass-heavy chords of Pino Donaggio’s You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me open the proceedings, and from then on its downhill all the way.
DAILY MAIL – ★
Quentin Letts: Grave robbers have struck again in central London. Following the recent Sinatra atrocity at the Palladium, another attack took place last night between the hours of 7.05 and 9.02pm at the Charing Cross Theatre.
THE TIMES – ★
Ann Treneman: It’s a very strange concept. The stage is like a convention of oddballs. There are the actors, the dancers, the musicians, the awful wigs (they really need their very own show). Then there is the unreal stuff, the old TV footage of Dusty and, yes, the Dusty hologram.
IN THE NEWS … for the wrong reasons
Dusty Springfield musical extends run at Charing Cross, press night delayed
Musical Dusty has extended its run at the Charing Cross Theatre by three months. The multi-media show, which celebrates the singer Dusty Springfield, is now booking to November 21. It had…
Nine cast members leave Dusty amid complaints
New musical Dusty is being forced to recast five actors from the production who have left amid complaints of unrest on the show. The show, which has been running at the Charing Cross…
Further production unrest for Dusty Springfield musical
Musical Dusty has been hit with further complaints by cast and crew involved in the show, with nine performers leaving the production by the end of the month. Last week, The Stage revealed…
Troubled musical Dusty taken over by third director
New creatives on the musical Dusty have been appointed just three weeks before its official opening night. As previously reported by The Stage, the musical has been hit by cast members…
Dusty announces Alison Arnopp as new lead News
Musical Dusty has announced that Alison Arnopp will takeover as the show’s lead after her predecessor left the production. Ellie Ann Lowe had been starring as Dusty/Mary O’Brien since the…
Mark Shenton: Is Dusty the West End’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark?
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark not only holds the record for the most expensively produced show in Broadway history to date – having spent in excess of $70m to put it on – but it also holds…