Left – Amy Lehpamer and Baylie Carson. Cover – Amy Lehpamer and company. Photos – Jeff Busby
Easy on the eyes and a delightful song book, Dusty the Musical is a musical-biography that one could watch again and again. This new production breathes new life into a 2006s Dusty – the Original Pop Diva with assured direction from Jason Langley, and an overriding excess of heart. Anchored by the great performances from its leads, terrific musical numbers and stylish choreography, this re-imagined and re-vamped version is a proper crowd-pleaser and a heartfelt salute to a pop icon that lends from its past in order to create something fresh. It’s a sweet-natured musical romance that’s full of elasticity that rushes from daydreams, to first love and heartache via some powerful songs from Dusty Springfield’s back catalogue.
Written by John-Michael Howson, David Mitchell and Melvyn Morrow, Dusty tells the story of Mary O'Brien (Baylie Carson) who dreams of being a famous star like Doris Day. “Little by Little” the gawky, chubby, red-headed, catholic schoolgirl transforms herself into the blonde pop icon, Dusty Springfield (Amy Lehpamer). But, the Dusty character is an illusion, and throughout her career she cannot escape her alter ego; the ordinary and plain Mary O’Brien.
The narrative follows Dusty’s rise from beginning in the music business as one third of the Lana Sisters and her pseudo-folk career with her brother Tom (Alex Given) in the Springfields, to her hugely successful solo career. Her secret lesbian affair with Reno (Chloe Zuel) provides some gravitas but the show is more about how insecurity haunted her and her sad decline into alcohol and substance abuse.
Lehpamer handles her part extremely well as he explores the joy and pain of pursuing ones dreams. Carson is superb as the young Mary O’Brien and there is genuine development as she matures into the alter ego, conscience and driving force behind most of the decisions Dusty makes. However, it’s the songs that really are the stars of the show. As the work proceeding in a straightforward manner, from one tamped, cordial scene to the next, the tale wraps itself around some of the best soulful songs of the 1960s.
I Only Want To Be With You, Wishin' and Hopin', The Look of Love, You Don't Have to Say You Love Me, I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself, Son of a Preacher Man and You Don't Have to Say You Love Me.
It is difficult not to be utterly absorbed by this musical’s simple storytelling verve and the terrific lead performances, simple set, magnificent costumes by Isaac Lummis, and a 1960’s vibe that is infectious. This reviewer would highly recommend this new production. It's exactly the kind of bright, feel-good, mildly-comedic fun we should be encouraging in 2017.
This reviewer intends to see it again and again.
The Production Company presents
Dusty the Musical
by John-Michael Howson, David Mitchell and Melvyn Morrow
Director Jason Langley
Venue: Festival Theatre | Adelaide Festival Centre
Dates: 31 Dec 2016 – 22 Jan 2017
Tickets: $99.90 – $54.90