Theatre Review: Dusty

Dusty Springfield was arguably THE female singing sensation of the sixties. She was forever looking for the perfect sound.

Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre and The Production Company
Reviewed 31 December 2016

Photo: Jeff Busby

Dusty Springfield was arguably THE female singing sensation of the sixties. She was known as the ‘white’ woman with the ‘black’ voice (the terminology of that era). Her hits were many: I Only Want To Be With YouWishin’ And Hopin’Son Of A Preacher ManThe Look Of Love and, her biggie, You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me to name just a few. She was forever looking for the perfect sound, which she thought she never achieved – but most of the world would disagree with her.

Written by John-Michael Howson, David Mitchell and Melvyn Morrow, Dusty is the stage musical based on the highs and lows in Dusty Springfield’s public and personal lives. It’s a fairly ‘warts and all’ treatment that still leaves us loving her. The story unfolds through the eyes of young Mary O’Brien, who was to grow up to become none other than Dusty Springfield. This is a good theatrical device that works well, although the first five minutes of the show could be a little confusing to some.

The current production, despite some sound mixing problems, presents well. It’s colourful, energetic, well sung and acted by all, with some great various era appropriate dance numbers wonderfully choreographed by Michael Ralph. But there are two things that take this show to the next level of excellence: the performances of Amy Lehpamer and Baylie Carson as Dusty and Mary respectively.

Photo: Jeff Busby

Lehpamer IS Dusty! Everything she does shouts out ‘Dusty Springfield’ loud and clear – every nuance, gesture, vocal and accented word is absolutely perfect. Not once will you find yourself thinking that there is someone ‘acting’ the part – Lehpamer is the quintessential reincarnation of Dusty. If she is not nominated for the Helpmann Award for Best Female Performer this year, then there is no justice in Australian theatre.

Carson also gives a dynamic powerhouse performance. Her voice is just as strong and clear as Lehpamer’s and when they sing together, it is simply sublime musical heaven.

An unrecognisable Todd McKenney and Virginia Gay give delightful performances as Dusty’s faithful companions; and strong character support comes from Paul Blackwell and Jackie Rees as Dusty’s parents. As Dusty’s lover, Reno, Chloe Zuel sings wonderfully and gives a beautifully sensitive performance.

The Production Company usually only performs musicals in Melbourne, but if the overall quality is as good as this show, here’s wishin’ and hopin’ Adelaide sees more of them.

Review by Brian Godfrey
Twitter: @briangods

Venue: Festival Theatre
Season: 31 Dec 2016 – 22 Jan 2017
Duration: 2 hrs 30 mins (including a 30 min interval)
Tickets: $54.90 – $99.90
Bookings: Adelaide Festival Centre

Mini Gallery from Opening Night below by Claudio Raschella

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