Now playing at the Charing Cross Theatre is Dusty, a musical concert dedicated to the songs of Dusty Springfield. While it shows some promise and includes impressive technology, it lacks focus and makes it hard for anyone not already familiar with Dusty to become invested in the show.
There is clearly vocal talent in the cast; Francesca Jackson performs well as Nancy Jones, and Arabella Rodrigo gives a good vocal performance as Norma. The lighting of the stage also looks great; it’s surrounded by rope lights and steps on either side of a big screen also light up in time with the music which help to contribute to the concert vibe of this show. I also enjoyed the inclusion of a live band and backing singers which added to the overall experience of the show, livening up the archive videos of Dusty which may otherwise have fallen flat.
Unfortunately, the biggest downfall of Dusty is its script. It feels forced and unnatural, seemingly neglected in favour of fancy videos and holograms. This is a real shame and makes it hard for anyone who’s not already a big Dusty Springfield fan to get into the show - its focus is the music (it includes over 30 songs!) and while this is great for anyone who wants to see a Dusty Springfield concert, it doesn’t really make it easy for people who don’t know too much about her or her music to become invested in the show. Characters lack likability and the whole plot is arguably flawed; it’s set out as a TV interview in which Dusty’s childhood friend, Nancy Jones, explains her story and rise to fame. On the face of things this seems like an interesting take on a traditional jukebox ‘story of the artist’ show, but the reality is that the story is continuously interrupted to have it explained to the audience which impacts on people’s ability to become lost in the show and its story.
Technology plays an important role in the Charing Cross Theatre’s production; the audience is treated to a great number of Dusty’s songs through old videos and even impressive 3D holograms that make it seem as if Dusty is really in the room. I’m torn as to whether this worked or not, it was certainly impressive to see all the 3D imagery but at times it felt as if the videos interrupted the story and - similarly to the TV interview set up - I felt as if I was being drawn out of the plot to watch another video.
I feel like this is a show likely to divide opinion; your enjoyment of it really depends on what you’re looking for from a trip to the theatre. If you want a traditional jukebox musical with an engaging plot and likeable leads then I’d perhaps give this one a miss. However, if you love Dusty then you’ll love this. It’s got a good party atmosphere (people were cheering and singing along!) and this would certainly make for a fun night out for anyone looking to celebrate the music of Dusty Springfield.
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