ROBIN’S SHOW RECOMMENDATION: Forever Dusty
With her famous towering blonde beehive hairstyle, sexy style, and soulful voice, Dusty Springfield became the first great female pop star of the 1960s. But how did a shy, awkward Catholic schoolgirl with the cumbersome name of Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien, transform herself into an icon for a generation?
Forever Dusty tells the story of Dusty’s journey in a musical filled with such well known pop songs as “Son of a Preacher Man,” “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” “The Look of Love,” and many others.
The show, with a book by Kirsten Holly Smith and Jonathan Vankin, is directed by Randal Myler (Love, Janis; It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues). Smith is also the star who takes on the title role, with emotion and gusto.
Along with Smith, Forever Dusty features Christina Sajous (Spider-Man, American Idiot), Coleen Sexton (Jekyll and Hyde, Wicked National Tour), Benim Foster (Barefoot in the Park, Twelve Angry Men), Sean Patrick Hopkins (Forever Plaid, Angels in America), Ashley Betton (Peep Show, Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Jonathan C. Kaplan (Falsettos, Diary of Anne Frank).
I have to admit…I didn’t realize that Dusty had such big hits, and it was a pleasant surprise and thrill to see them performed. This is a star vehicle for the super talented and charismatic Smith. She is a totally convincing Dusty, and has the pipes to go along with the acting and mannerisms. And, her supporting cast, particularly the stellar Sajous, deliver capably as well…..playing multiple roles.
Initially I wondered what about Dusty’s life would make this a story worth telling, but there is substance. She stood up for her beliefs and desires, despite popular opinion and family resistance…whether breaking from her brother’s group or insisting that a song be recorded in the loo since she liked the sound there. She was into booze, drugs, practiced self mutilation, and bravely battled breast cancer before succumbing to it at age 59. Since her romantic partner for a good number of years was a jazz journalist/black woman, dramatic tension arises when Dusty gets deported from South Africa in 1964 after performing in Cape Town before a mixed racial audience. And, we see further glimpses of racial tension, as Dusty’s lover aches to return to NY as we watch Martin Luther King speaking in film clips.
The show is engaging and energetic, and at the end, the audience is on its feet dancing and clapping, and you’ll want to check out Dusty Springfield videos on YouTube….or at least I did!
The additional creative team includes Wilson Chin (Set Design), Richard DiBella (Lighting Design), Matt Kraus (Sound Design), Michael Thomas Murray (Musical Direction), and Nancy Palmatier (Costume Design).
Forever Dusty is playing at New World Stages (340 West 50th Street in NYC). Visit http://www.foreverdusty.com.