Dusty The Musical: The highs and lows of fame

December 9, 2016

Dusty The Musical 

Rating: 4 / 5 

 

If you grew up in the 1960s, the many hit songs sung by Dusty Springfield could surely be part of your DNA.


But who was this complex, loving and troubled woman behind the hits? The Production Company’s latest show Dusty The Musical, explores her story, along with belting out songs such as ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’, ‘I Only Want To Be With You’, to name just a couple of her famous hits.


Written by John-Michael Howson, David Mitchell and Melvyn Morrow, the show made its first appearance at Arts Centre Melbourne in 2006, before touring Australia. And in those intervening years, it has lost none of its power and pathos.


Being true to yourself in the late 1950s and early 1960s if you didn’t fit the conventional mould was tough, and Dusty’s story involves much heartbreak. As Dusty, Amy Lehpamer is a knockout. Her performance is magical and she is simply perfect in the role, sounding uncannily like the original. She has a powerhouse voice and natural stage charisma.


The writers use a clever dramatic device that works superbly—WAAPA graduate Baylie Carson plays the plain young Mary O’Brien before she became Dusty Springfield, and through the show Carson appears as Dusty’s alter ego, reflecting the older Dusty’s inner thoughts and fears. The two perfor­mers work seamlessly together with a beautiful vocal blend. Baylie is a young performer with a big future.


The choreography and costumes are terrific, and TV star Todd McKenney (Dancing With The Stars) is unrecognisable in the first act under a Beatle wig as hairdresser and confidant Rodney. He gives a fine performance balancing humour and pathos. Virginia Gay (Winners and Losers) as Dusty’s dresser and assistant Peg gives full rein to her fine comic talents. In the pivotal role of American singer Reno, Elenoa Rokobara shines.


While many of the hit songs are in the first act, it is the second act that hooks the audience in and provides that lump in the throat when the on-stage drama is handled to perfection.


Dusty’s story shows how fame can be a lonely road, and can lead to a downward personal spiral. From being a non-drinker, Dusty soon learns to drown her sorrows in alcohol and various substances, and it’s tragic to watch.


Watching Dusty’s personal life disintegrate is heart-stopping, but seeing her gradually take charge of her problems and do something about them and resume her career is heartwarming. When you’re dealing with a real story, you can’t change what happens, so you must travel the road with Dusty that leads to her untimely death.


But before that she conquers the world again, both personally and professionally, making Dusty The Musical a great night out. 

Highlight: Amy Lehpamer’s towering performance as Dusty

Red flags: Sexual references and strong language

 

Dusty The Musical opens in Adelaide on 31 December.

 

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