The Production Company has kept the best till last, ending the 2016 season with a high calibre production of Dusty, an all Australian musical written by John-Michael Howson, David Mitchell and Melvyn Morrow.
This production is directed by Jason Langley in his first appointment with The Production Company. Through the approval and cooperation of the writers, Howson, Mitchell and Morrow, we are treated to some variations from the original 2004 production, some of which are only slight, while others include re-imaging of the younger Dusty, Mary O’Brien and the further clarification – relationship between Dusty and her younger self.
The musical spans from the younger Mary O’Brien (Baylie Carson) who fanaticises about becoming a big time singer, to the creation of Dusty Springfield (Amy Lehpamer), with the drive, determination and perfectionism in developing the “sound” that was uniquely “Dusty”. The show captures the major aspects of that life’s journey, its heartaches, barriers, prejudice, insecurities along with the highs and lows.
Dusty not only developed her own “soulful” sound, she was a trail blazer; introducing the Motown sound to the British music scene. The transition is wonderfully portrayed through the introduction of Marvin Gay’s “Dancing in the Street”. The dance comparisons are evident between the British “Go-Go” semi-rigid formation dancing, their white tee-shirts with “Go” on them, and the refreshing American Motown swing with their bright colours and hip swinging freestyle movements. The choreography by Michael Ralph, is simply brilliant, not just in this scene, but also throughout the whole show.
The shows leading lady Amy Lehpamer (Dusty Springfield) is absolutely divine in the role, providing a stellar performance in capturing not only the voice, style and mannerisms of the Dusty I can remember when growing up in England in the 60’s, but also the discipline, energy and stamina that is required to carry the character through the life that was Dusty’s.
Baylie Carson (Mary O’Brien) in her first professional performance holds her own, not only in her character, but vocally, in the closer interaction between O’Brien and Springfield.
Todd McKenney (Rodney) is such a powerhouse, demonstrating his ability, versatility and dedication to whatever role he is undertaking. Rodney, Dusty’s camp hairdresser, provides some wonderful and funny side lines, while at the same time remains a loyal friend to Springfield right to the end.
McKenney is totally absorbed in this character, complete with accent, and costuming, Rodney is believable, and demonstrates, the care that he has for his friend Dusty.
The wonderfully talented Virginia Gay (Peg) provides the other supporting character in Dust’s life. Gay, who just loves voices, is wonderful in maintaining a heavy broad English accent, with the clear diction so that nothing is lost.
Elenoa Rokobaro (Reno) is amazing as Dusty’s only love. This is a powerful performance, of emotions, combined with a number of great songs. Rokobaro brings a dynamic presence from her first entrance. Her background is clear, without having to give too much detail. Her strong vocals and acting presence works extremely well, as the two main characters develop their relationships.
Musically, Dusty is a full on gem, with such songs as ‘Mamma’s Little Girl’, ‘Little by Little’, ‘Stay Awhile’, ‘Dancing in the Street’, ‘Wishin’ and Hopin’, ‘Son of a Preacher Man’, ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me’, and as they say, many more.
Congratulations to The Production Company’s Musical Director Michael Tyack, the band of musicians and the ensemble of singers who brilliantly mastered the music for the 50’s-60’s .
Not only that but the costume designs, transported you back to that wonderful era. Dusty’s gowns are just breath taking and stunning, a real tribute to Dusty Springfield. Thank you so much Isaac Lummis, for your hard work and design prowess.
The lighting design by Trent Suidgeest is very good and clever, adding additional dimension to the simplistic but yet functional set design of Anna Cordingley. Dusty’s closing number is a stage lighting spectacular highlight. The production flows from scene to scene, in a seamless way, well done to the Production Company’s Stage Manager Meg Deyell.
Dusty is an honest representation of the life and times of a trail blazing musical icon. If you love her music, you will love this show … There will always be Dusty.
Dusty is running at the Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne till December 4th