Do you listen to Channel 6 on Sirius-XM radio? Do the words “blue eyed soul” resonate with you? If so, then you probably have a soft spot in your heart for ’60s British pop star Dusty Springfield. The 90-minute Off-Broadway show Forever Dusty at the New World Stages might have some appeal for you.
With her signature beehive blonde hairdo, evening gowns and heavy mascaraed eyes, Springfield had six number one singles and several best-selling albums. She reached her heyday during the days when performers’ personal lives and sexuality were usually kept quiet. Playwright Kirsten Holly Smith (who also plays Springfield) attempts to portray the singer’s life of abuse, insecurities and excess.
The biggest flaw with the play is the book itself. The show merely touches on, but never develops Springfield’s childhood. There are brief scenes — often only a line or two — about her past. The themes are not developed. Then why do it at all? Why not start much later in her life like the terrific Judy Garland show, “The End of the Rainbow?“
Later the show creates a composite of the singer’s lesbian relationships in the person of a black journalist, played by Christina Sajous (a lovely girl with an even lovelier voice.) Springfield was deported from South Africa for performing in front of an integrated audience, but the singer seems blissfully naive and almost unaware of the racial conflict of the ’60s. She was not an activist, so why hint at that? Her relationships with women (which undoubtedly would have destroyed her career), her drug use and alcoholism are what might have made this bio-musical a compelling story, but the weaknesses of the story detract from the music.
Sometimes in these types of shows you close your eyes and imagine that you are listening to the original music. Despite Smith’s hard work. this doesn’t happen with Forever Dusty. However, fortunately, all the familiar music is there. From her first hit, I Only Want to Be with You," to the others that followed, "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself" "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" and "Son of a Preacher Man."
Days after I saw the show at the New World Stages, I was in the car listening to “Wishin’ and Hopin” and thinking, ”Wow” she was good. Too bad, I didn’t feel that way during the show.