Review: Dusty at The Lowry

The mark of a music legend is someone who has long left this life but their songs still resonate with each following generation.

Dusty Springfield deserves such a title, the iconic diva touched so many people with her soulful tunes and now her music and her life story is on display in a new musical called Dusty.

Penned by the man behind ‘Beautiful Thing’ Jonathan Harvey and directed by Olivier-award winning Maria Friedman, the blonde bouffant star would be looking down in delight at the dream team behind bringing her story to the stage.

Unlike the usual jukebox musicals this one tackles a life that by all means wasn’t a bowl of cherries. Dusty didn’t come from a sugar coated background, her Mother (played by former Eastenders star Roberta Taylor) was her biggest critic, she suffered from panic attacks, and at times she was unable to bring herself to sing. It’s a hard role to take on but Katherine Kingsley shines brightly donning the supersized beehive and belting out Dusty’s hit after hit with electrifying emotion.

Son of a Preacher Man, You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself – there’s not one bad number over the 2 hours the show runs.

Kingsley is incredible as the leading lady, perfecting every move, gesture and giving audiences a truly polished performance which had them giving her a standing ovation even before the final song!

There’s no denying this is really Kingsley’s vehicle and everyone else in the cast tends to pale in comparison. Joanna Francis as her lover Lois is the only one who really comes close to commanding the stage alongside her and manages a truly special duet of The Look Of Love which oozes sexuality and sass from both ladies.

Despite high expectations of him doing Dusty justice, Jonathan Harvey seems to rely far too much on the injection of humour into the piece when in reality it would be far suited to play it straight. His larger than life dialogue, especially with characters Pat (Esther Coles) and Ruby (Ella Kenion), Dusty’s sidekicks of personal assistant and make-up artist, seems to jar with the subtly crafted acting going on elsewhere. For me, there also seemed to be more than a few echoes of Mamma Mia’s musical style in the first half as the action segues into each Dusty track which felt odd seeing the songs sung in that context.

Fear not though as in the second half Harvey moves things back on track and shows that his show is worthy of the rumoured West End transfer. We witness Dusty’s decline into drink and drugs and the resurgence of her career as she teams up with The Pet Shop Boys for What Have I Done To Deserve This. It’s an unmissable on stage moment which is superbly choreographed by Tim Jackson, taking you right back to the 80’s.

For those who are fans of Dusty, this show is the perfect tribute to her and almost 20 years after her tragic death, will more than satisfy your expectations. Those new to Springfield will find it an eye-opening story that will make you want to go and find out even more about the woman behind the mega hits.

Runs at The Lowry until Saturday 28th July

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