What do you feel makes the show unique?
Jonathan Harvey, who has written the script, has been collaborating closely with Vicki Wickham and Tris Penna, who both worked with Dusty and were close friends of hers. Vicki was Dusty's manager for a long time and Tris produced some of her records so they really knew the woman and the artist. The show tells her personal story as well as her story as an artist.
And what do you feel made Dusty such a unique artist?
Where do you start! First of all she had impeccable musical taste, an extraordinary voice and she was ahead of her time. She was into music that this country didn't really know much about; she said that she was hugely inspired by black Motown singers in America. A lot of their tracks were covered in this country by singers like Cilla Black and Dusty herself. She presented Ready Steady Go! and through that she was able to invite all those amazing artists to the UK, and helped to introduce that wonderful music to this country. She was also an incredibly complex woman, very private, and had very tight friendships that lasted until the end of her life.
Are you a fan and what impact has her music had on your life?
I grew up listening to Dusty Springfield. My mum loved her, so she was part of my childhood. I love the timbre of her voice – it's unique, womanly and soulful – and her interpretation of the music. She was an actress in her singing; she told stories and she could break your heart.
How do you balance interpretation with impersonation?
I think the two are very different: I'm not an impersonator. There are some amazing impressionists out there, but the danger is that an impersonation can become an exaggeration. What makes this show so brilliant is that it's drawing out the inner Dusty, who she really was – Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien. These two characters, Dusty and Mary, negotiated their life together to some degree. I'm immersing myself in her world, listening to her singing, watching videos and interviews, reading biographies as well as looking at her mannerisms and working out how she moved. Once I have absorbed all of that, the job is throw it away and make the character my own.
In what ways does Jonathan Harvey's script help you get under Dusty's skin?
He's written a really visceral, raw script that is also very funny. There's a lot of banter between Dusty and her entourage of best friends. Jonathan also dares to go to a darker place in the second act when Dusty goes to America and things don't quite work out for her (spoiler alert!). It is interesting to explore that time because I think you understand Dusty more, and as a consequence you love her more.
Is there anything you were surprised or interested to learn about her from researching the role?
The thing that strikes me most is her unbelievable resilience. She survives in an industry that's notoriously difficult. She goes through all the highs and lows and ends up on top. It's really touching. She was also really shy, which I didn't know before. I think that's one reason people don’t really know who Dusty Springfield was: people feel like they know her music but not the woman. That is what is so exciting about this project - that we can show people what was really going on in her life as well as introducing a new audience to her work.
Of all the iconic numbers in the show do you have a personal favourite?
I really like I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten, particularly because it comes at a kind of hedonistic, hazy, beautiful moment in the show. I also enjoy singing Goin' Back because it's such a simple, moving song. Son Of A Preacher Man is amazing. There are so many greats songs that will make people go 'Oh my God, she did that as well, and that, and that too!'