Forever Dusty: Review Roundup

Kirsten Holly Smith

The new Off-Broadway one-act jukebox musical Forever Dusty, based on the life of British pop singer Dusty Springfield, opened to negative-leaning reviews. The creative team includes Kirsten Holly Smith and Jonathan Vankin (book), Randal Myler (direction), Michael Thomas Murray (musical direction), Wilson Chin (sets), Nancy A. Palmatier (costumes), Paul Huntley (hair), Richard Dibella (lights, projections), and Matt Kraus (sound). The cast includes Kirsten Holly Smith (Dusty Springfield), Benim Foster (Jerry Wexler, Bob Thackeray), Christina Sajous (Claire), Coleen Sexton  (Becky, Girl), and Sean Patrick Hopkins (Tom Springfield).

Clark Collis (Entertainment Weekly): The jukebox musical Forever Dusty … covers the British songbird’s personal and professional adventures – from being thrown out of South Africa for refusing to play before segregated audiences to recording her classic 1969 album Dusty in Memphis to her many spells in rehab to her Pet Shop Boys-assisted ’80s comeback – all at a pleasing canter. Star and co-writer Kirsten Holly Smith nicely captures Springfield’s unique blend of Brit tomboy and ‘‘Son of a Preacher Man’’-crooning soul legend, while Christina Sajous offers terrific support as Springfield’s lover. If the result is more good than great – well, it’s worth remembering that, as someone once sang, just being good isn’t always easy.

Brian Scott Lipton (Theater Mania): The life of British pop goddess Dusty Springfield gets put through the blender in the 90-minute biotuner Forever Dusty at New World Stages, and the final concoction is like a semi-successful smoothie: often tasty but sometimes difficult to digest. Star Kirsten Holly Smith is an on-stage talent to be reckoned with thanks to her uber-powerful vocals … and considerable skill as an actress, but the often clumsy script she’s concocted with co-writer Jonathan Vankin does her – and Springfield – no favors. … Nor is there much subtlety in the work of director Randal Myler. … Though I hope Dusty Springfield’s music lives on forever, it’s ultimately more satisfying to listen to her CDs than see her life reenacted in this shaky vehicle.

Marc Miller (Back Stage): Let’s cut to the chase: How well does Kirsten Holly Smith cover “Son of a Preacher Man”? … She may not have quite Dusty’s range or breath control, but Smith is uncannily close vocally, and a visual ringer too. Good thing she’s so good, because dramatically speaking, Forever Dusty is, uh, basic. … When the authors try to integrate numbers into the plot, it’s clumsy indeed. … There’s virtually no set, just rear projections; Matt Kraus’s sound design is so amped up that we can’t tell whether the backup singers are live or MP3 recordings; … and Randal Myler’s direction amounts to traffic-cop duty, hustling bodies on and off to change). … As an evening of Dusty’s greatest hits, though, Forever Dusty is aces. … Smith does Dusty proud.

Steven Suskin (Variety): Why we’d want to see a musical about [Dusty Springfield] remains unresolved in a perfunctory staging peppered with clichés. … Springfield was one of the most popular U.K. female vocalists of her time, noted not only for her voice but for her peroxide-blonde beehive and excessive eye makeup. Forever Dusty takes her from a shy teen singing backup with the cool girls at the convent to stardom, then on to oblivion. Accompanied by a slew of Springfield songs, natch. … [Smith] is clearly dedicated to the material. Her Dusty, though, is far from compelling. … The book and staging are basic at best, and the wall-sized projections are sometimes startling in the New World Stages’ small space. The four-piece band, at least, keeps the beat going through 20-odd songs.

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