Thursday, 12 January 2006

Dusty – The Original Pop Diva, Jan 12, 2006

 Dusty – The Original Pop Diva
by John-Michael Howson, David Mitchell & Melvin Morrow 
State Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre, from Jan 12, 2006 for limited season

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Dusty Springfield was not only a wildly popular 1960s pop singer, but she became a gay icon by the 1980s. Her blonde wigs, gowns, black eyes and histrionic gestures made her a perfect target for drag queen impersonators.

However, it was her rich, smoky, soul voice and emotional phrasing that made her a pop legend. This musical, directed by Stuart Maunder, is built around her tumultuous life and her impassioned songs.

Dusty was born plain, plump, myopic, red headed, ambitious Mary O’Brien, in a conservative Irish Catholic family. The nuns dubbed her Dusty, a name she re-used when she grew into the 60s blonde bombshell.

Her singing career flagged after she moved to America in 1971 and developed a love affair with alcohol. She died of breast cancer in 1999, after receiving an OBE and being inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Tamsin Carroll is inspired casting for Dusty. She has impeccable timing and delivery a rich, warm, soulful voice that captures the passion and intensity of Dusty’s own sound.

Carroll inhabits Dusty, finding emotional layers and character definition in spite of the very thin dialogue.

Her tender ballad, The Look of Love, transports us a breath away from tears.

Carroll performs Son of a Preacher Man with compelling resonances of the original version. When she finally sang You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, the crowd cheered.

The supporting cast are all accomplished. Alexis Fishman is perky and provocative as the young Dusty. Mitchell Butel is hilarious as Dusty’s ubiquitous hairdresser, and Kaye Tuckerman, Trisha Noble and Glenn Butcher give strong performances. Deni Hines has a fine voice but struggles with the acting role.

The band, under Stephen “Spud” Murphy, is super, the design (Roger Kirk) cleverly incorporates scrapbook images with a huge long-playing record and the choreography (Ross Coleman) echoes the 60s.

The show suffers from the poorly constructed narrative and the often cheap and shallow dialogue.

A life does not have a natural dramatic arc. The three writers incorporate too much of Dusty’s early life and do not provide a clear plot through line. The links between scenes and songs are awkward and artificial.

Some dialogue is overly sentimental while other lines are cheap. The writers rely too heavily on camp jokes and cheap gay references and too little on character development.

Dusty’s internal struggle with her childhood self about her singing and her secret lesbian lifestyle is not sufficiently developed and there are unexplained leaps between periods of her life. We know too little about the real Dusty at the end.

However, none of this destroys the musical delight of this production.

By Kate Herbert

No comments:

Post a Comment