Dusty Springfield is captured to a tee in musical

Katherine Kingsley as Dusty and Roberta Taylor as Kay in Dusty. Photo by  Johan Persson.
Katherine Kingsley as Dusty and Roberta Taylor as Kay in Dusty. Photo by Johan Persson.

Katherine Kingsley is the star of a touring production of a new musical about Dusty Springfield, writes Alan Payne.

She looks and sounds just like Dusty. She captures the iconic singer’s complex personality, her independence as well as her vulnerability. It’s an uncanny performance.

Much in the show supports this portrait – the slick direction by Maria Friedman, the shifting sets and video projections which capture the times, the energetic dancing, the live music – but there’s a noticeable difference between the male and female characters.

Dusty’s emotionally repressed mother, Kay, her faithful friends, Pat and Ruby, and her lover, Lois, a black American singer, as played by Roberta Taylor,

Esther Coles, Ella Henion and Joanna Francis, are all convincing, three-dimensional characters.

The men, by contrast, are cardboard cut-outs. This dislocation has its roots in Jonathan Harvey’s script, which at times is too gag-inclined, as if he doesn’t trust the emotional resonance and universality of the story he’s telling.

There are times when the writing is politically facile. He rightly includes a scene about Dusty’s refusal to sing to segregated audiences in South Africa – but then confuses the issue by incorporating You Don’t Own Me into this scene.

The songs work best when they stand on their own. One exception to this is The Look Of Love - which becomes a beautifully sung act of love between Dusty and Lois. Katherine Kingsley and her female co-actors transcend the limitations. It’s wonderful to hear I Only Want To Be With You, I Just Don’t Know What To Do

With Myself, Son Of A Preacher Man, What Have I Done To Deserve This? and You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me.

Dusty is on at the Lyceum in Sheffield until Saturday, July 14.