Dusty, Charing Cross Theatre, review: Wooden book is saved by elating sequences

It is hard not to feel sneaking affection despite the pedestrian format

Paul Taylor
Tuesday 08 September 2015 12:35
Alison Arnopp delivers a gutsily-sung, courageous performance
Alison Arnopp delivers a gutsily-sung, courageous performance

“I made my peace with disappointment a long time ago,” declares a producer when he realises that the “Queen of blue-eyed soul” is defecting to Atlantic Records. The line elicits a delighted cackle from the audience.

It's typical of the doggedly wooden dialogue in this juke-box tuner with its pedestrian format (we see Dusty's career up to “Son of a Preacher Man” through the eyes of a clunkily interviewed childhood friend). And by this stage of Act 2, it's certainly a sentiment to which we can all relate.

Yet I have to confess to a sneaking affection for the show which is billed as a “fusion musical”. True, the interplay between blown-up filmed footage of Dusty and the live bustle of the production keeps reminding you of the husky-voiced distinctiveness of the original that Alison Arnopp's impersonation can't hope to emulate.

Alison Arnopp (centre) as Dusty Springfeld

But hers is a gutsily-sung, courageous performance and there are elating sequences amidst the dross of the book – Dusty becoming an honorary Vandella for a joyous evening with Witney White's excellent Martha; the duetting same-sex spin on numbers during the show's otherwise cursory treatment of her relationship with American song-writer Norma Tanega (Sienna Sebek); and the moment of deathless kitsch when Dusty dons her first blonde wig, eyes her reflection and says “Goodbye Mary”.

To 21 November; 08444 930 650

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