Thursday, 10 September 2015

Review: Dusty at the Charing Cross Theatre

Charing Cross Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 9th September 2015

Following nearly four months of previews, Dusty has officially opened at the Charing Cross Theatre. The "multi-media" production combines video footage and 3D holograms with the jukebox musical concept in an attempt to tell the story of Dusty Springfield’s rise to fame.

At present Chris Cowey, Joey McKneely and Christian Durham's production feels completely lost. The structure is unbearably forced whilst the script doesn't even seem to scratch the surface. Dusty was a fascinating character but unfortunately we learn very little about what lies behind the striking eye makeup and big beehive. The choreography is bizarre and one or two set changes make far too much noise behind the translucent front screen.

Alison Arnopp as Dusty
Alison Arnopp recently took over from Ellie Ann Lowe as the title character. She has a feisty voice, but the ultimate problem with the show is that it is impossible for Arnopp to develop her own character when the audience are constantly presented with the real Dusty. The video footage and holograms continuously remind us exactly what Dusty was like which makes it impossible for Arnopp to create her own character. 

In recent ITV drama Cilla Sheridan Smith didn't mimic Cilla Black, instead she created her own portrayal which enabled the audience to see Cilla in a whole new light. The programme was a huge hit because Smith's performance was fresh and full of heart. However, in Dusty Arnopp doesn't stand a chance as she's sharing the spotlight with the woman she's playing. It lacks heart and flair. 

As the show reaches its peak, it’s a great shame that Dusty the 3D hologram performs 'Son Of A Preacher Man' whilst Arnopp is sent off to the wings. It feels a bit like casting Nicole Scherzinger in Cats and then sending her off stage whilst a 3D hologram of Elaine Paige belts out 'Memory'. Arnopp's vocals showed promise, but her performance isn't given the chance to reach its full potential because of a clunky gimmick. 

There are no disastrous performances, but poor writing and direction make scenes feel incredibly unnatural. The sound quality is terrible; throughout several songs the band and backing vocalists totally overpower the lead singer, whilst during other numbers the lead vocal is far too loud. In fact, the master volume could simply be taken down a few notches as I was left with a whopping headache.

I can't think of a single person I would recommend Dusty to. Those (like me) who know little about the star could learn far more by spending an evening at home on YouTube. It's worrying to think that a Dusty fan who rarely goes to the theatre could see an ad for the show, book a ticket and then think it’s a representation of the quality of West End musicals.

Admittedly, sometimes it's important to see the bad so you can appreciate the good. Dusty isn't unbearable - it's nice to hear the back catalogue of music. In fact some production elements, such as the horrifically cheap and tacky wigs, are so bad that you can't help but smile. 

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Dusty is currently booking at the Charing Cross Theatre until 21st November 2015.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

OFFER: Top price tickets reduced to £25

Photo Credit: Elliott Franks

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