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.
— 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.