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Dust to Dusky - review

Dust to Dusky - review

2016-Auckland-Arts-Festival-Logo

Three local artists reach deep into the heart of the songs of Dusty Springfield.

Yikes, more than a few of us thought, as the show opened. There on stage was Dusty Springfield, all false lashes, blond beehive and tight glittery frock. A barely disguised Taiaroa Royal proceeded to lip synch to Quiet please, there’s a lady on stage. We hadn’t come for a drag show, and if this was meant to say something about Dusty’s sexuality, it made no sense.

Thankfully the show then came right. We had come to hear three of our finest singers, Anna Coddington, Tami Neilson and Bella Kalolo belt out northern soul, Bacharach ballads and the kind of tunes like Son of a Preacher Man that has run the roller coaster from hit to ironic selection on boozed up karaoke night and right back again to a classic.

Coddington, Neilson and Kalolo are the stars here. Each reaches deep into the heart of songs that, for me at least, can only be little kid memories from watching a fuzzy black and white television and re-deliver them as the raw and real stories of loss, loneliness and yearning they were always meant to be. The band, led by Steph Brown, creates an artful, tight, propulsive sound that would have had the audience dancing if there was space.

The band creates an artful, tight, propulsive sound that would have had the audience dancing if there was space.

Linking the sets is Colleen Davis as Dusty, there to tell the story of a singer whose rise saw her fly first class with a seat reserved for her rhinestone gowns; whose decline into addiction and creative burnout left her eking out a living.  Davis finds the vulnerability behind the fame. I do have one niggle. Davis is a singer in her own right, but her voice lacks the power, range and grunt of her fellow performers.  When Coddington, Neilson and Kalolo are reduced to back up singers for Davis singing as Dusty, it sets up an unlovely comparison. We want to hear more of the backup singers and less of Dusty. The script also needs a fact checker. When Dusty makes a crack about her abundant use of hairspray leaving her guilty about global warming there were a few groans. Hairspray propellants caused the ozone hole not rising seas. But this is about art not science. The 90 minutes pass too soon. We could happily listen to Dusty’s songs by Coddington, Neilson and Kalolo all night.

Read more: Frances Morton profiles the artists behind Dust to Dusky.

Dusk to Dusty, Spiegletent, Aotea Square, March 2-5

Music