All good things come to those who wait, they say. I hope Dusty is one of them, the musical that has been previewing at Charing Cross Theatre since the spring — it started performances back in May, and after its original press night was cancelled not once, not twice, but three times, it is now — finally — going to officially open on September 7, some three and a half months after performances began.
That's still not quite as long as Spider-man: Turn off the Dark previewed for in New York — that gave a recorded (and record!) number of 182 previews, nearly a fifth of its total post-opening run of 1,066 performances. It started previews in late November 2010, and then finally opened officially nearly six months later on June 14, 2011. (During that time, it seriously injured one of its cast of performer-acrobats mid-performance, as well as the reputation of its original director and co-creator Julie Taymor who departed the production and was replaced by Philip William McKinley).
But Dusty, though nowhere near as dramatic, has also had its own share of backstage dramas. The Stage reported that in late July that it had been forced to re-cast members of the company, "who have left amid complaints of unrest on the show," the paper reported. They quote a source on the show saying, "Everyone was tired and fractious and suddenly [the producers] decided to keep postponing the press night. People who are leaving are glad to be getting out of it. They have paid everyone and done everything right, but it was a bit of a mess."
Steven Levy from the theatre, who is general managing the show, replied, "New musicals, as an art form, present their own challenges. Add to that you are doing a musical based on an iconic figure and that it’s employing a tremendous amount of technology. To put it into perspective, there are 19 people on stage. It’s not a wholesale exit. With any open-ended run you will always have people coming and going."
The show has also lost key creative personnel — it is now onto its third director. Chris Cowey was originally billed, then Ben Woolf took over, and now Christian Durham has taken over; while original choreographer Lyndon Lloyd has been replaced by Joey McKneely. Even the producers are changing: Michael Linnit, originally part of the producing line-up, is no longer billed.
Musicals, of course, are never an exact science; they take time to get right. But Dusty has now been previewing for longer than it was originally scheduled to run; and audiences have been paying full-price for the privilege of watching that process of development.
It's the same accusation that was levied against the Barbican's current run of Hamlet: it previewed for over three weeks, but at full price with no reductions in price. But let's hope that future audiences are now going to be rewarded by a show that is finally ready.
LondonTheatre.co.uk will be reviewing the show on September 7. Watch this space!