Theater archives

Dusty Springfield Was More Complex Than You Think


I told you yesterday about Forever Dusty, starring Kirsten Holly Smith (pictured below) as the immortal singer and activist Dusty Springfield.

Well, if you were wishin’ and hopin’ for more about the late, great singer, here’s what Smith has to say about what makes her a fascinating subject for a 90-minute stage show.

“My fascination with Dusty starts with her voice. I was instantly struck by the depth of feeling in her sound. I had to know where it came from. I think that was the first thing that drew me to her. I think that it is difficult to separate Dusty from her talent, just like any great artist.

“In Dusty’s case, she was truly two separate people. The onstage persona that she developed, Dusty Springfield, and the offstage Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien. She fought to reconcile these two very different parts of who she was her entire life.

“I think in the end she finally did realize that it wasn’t one or the other that made her who she was. It was finding a deep level of self-acceptance, which is one of the major themes of our show.

“I’ve been studying Dusty for many years now. I have even written a full screenplay (with Jonathan Vankin, who also co-wrote the Off Broadway musical) about Dusty’s life, that made the finals of the Sundance Lab selection process two years in a row. But every time I go back to my research, I discover something about Dusty that I did not know before.

“There are so many aspects of Dusty’s life that fascinate me, I could write a thesis on her, but I’m doing an Off Broadway show instead–which let’s be honest, is a lot more fun!”

And furthermore:

“She fought, in her life, for what she felt was right in this world, for the decent and ethical treatment of people (and animals; she was a big animal rights advocate). But she was simply unable to treat herself as well and beautifully as she wanted people to treat each other.

“In a business where, especially in her era, an artist was expected to have a life-span of just a few years, Dusty put together a career that lasted from the late 1950s until the mid-1990s. Yes, her career had its struggles, some of them caused by the music business, and many her own fault. But she never gave up until she could not, physically, go on, due to the cancer that ultimately ended her life at the too-young age of 59.”