A Spooky Resurrection Of Dusty Springfield

Dusty at Charing Cross Theatre ★★★★☆

Sophia Shluger
By Sophia Shluger Last edited 29 months ago
A Spooky Resurrection Of Dusty Springfield Dusty at Charing Cross Theatre 4
Nancy (Francesca Jackson) and Dusty (Alison Arnopp). Photo by Elliott Franks.

Charing Cross Theatre’s multi-media spectacular Dusty about London's own "blue-eyed queen of soul" is a febrile musical with a technological twist.

Produced and directed by Freddie Madden Duncan Sibbald and Patrice Wilson, the show chronicles Springfield’s life and musical achievements via a nostalgic narration by her closest friend Nancy. With a voice as large as her aspiration for stardom, Springfield broke the mould with an iconic presence (and voice) that helped personify the era.

The show’s opening number features an impressively panoramic three dimensional photo montage that showcases the enormity of Springfield's talent and charisma, not to mention her beauty. These high-tech visuals also foreshadow the full digital resurrection that follows later on in the show.

Alison Arnopp delights with her interpretation of the complex Dusty, alongside the affable and equally talented Francesca Jackson as Nancy. It’s largely a woman’s story and the exuberant female performers overshadow the men, though they are on top form with fine acting, musicianship and dancing. Great support also comes from dancing duo Amanda Mata and Nikola Burnhope with stylish choreography to match Jason Kealer’s stunning period dresses.

The show’s repeated juxtaposition and blending of the digital and physical, coupled with vibrant lighting, powerfully brings Springfield back to life. The real life actor often walks off stage mid-song just as her digital twin takes over, bringing a seamlessness to Dusty’s portrayal that is as spooky as her chart-topping song of that name. Multiple duets between real and pixelated figures are striking and also nicely parallel the story which flips between past and present. Moreover, the set’s digital backdrop, though not always wholly realistic, is effective in taking the audience to LA, London and back again.

Despite some disjointedness, the story is cleverly arranged and the second half’s more overtly sexual tone compliments the increasingly risque direction Dusty’s music took as the decades rolled by.

Between the roster of classics — I Only Want To Be With You, Son Of A Preacher Man and more — Dusty also boasts one of the more dramatic interval cliffhangers we can remember. In short, this one is for Springfield enthusiasts though non-fans will enjoy the advanced holographic technology that offers a glimpse into what we can expect from musical theatre in the future.

Dusty runs at Charing Cross Theatre until 21 November. Tickets £21.60-£53.50. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 09 September 2015