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‘Dusty’ tuner to sing for fans Down Under

Maunder will helm bio penned by 'Shout!' scribes

SYDNEY — Dusty Springfield, the British white-soul diva whose fame peaked in the 1960s with such hits as “I Only Wanna Be With You” and “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself,” is the latest subject of a songbook biotuner.

The A$6 million ($4.5 million) “Dusty,” penned by John-Michael Howson, David Mitchell and Melvyn Morrow, will be directed by veteran Opera Australia helmer Stuart Maunder.

The trio of Aussie scribes was behind the hit 2001 Johnny O’Keefe biotuner “Shout!” Toplining “Dusty” will be that musical’s co-star Tamsin Carroll.

A national tour is planned after a Jan. 12 premiere and two-month residency at the Victorian Arts Center in Melbourne.

Buoyed by Jacobsen Entertainment’s success with “Dirty Dancing” — tuner based on Eleanor Bergstein’s hit movie has grossed $23 million in Melbourne and Sydney in less than a year — producer Dennis Smith says the advantage of producing an original show is that most of the profits stay in Australia.

“One of the biggest problems with bringing overseas shows in is you lose 20% to 25% of your B.O. offshore,” he told Variety.

Smith admits, however, that the pricetag of acquiring rights to the 30 songs to be featured in the musical was not inconsiderable.

The cost of developing musicals in Australia and the limited audience for them in a country of 20 million makes locally generated shows rare indeed.

Jacobsen has inked international sales of “Dirty Dancing” to Germany and the U.K. so far, and Smith will attempt to do likewise with “Dusty.”

The show has been in development for four years and was first workshopped with Carroll and co-stars Mitchell Butel and Trisha Noble in 2003. It is unrelated to the U.S. Springfield tuner “A Girl Called Dusty,” which played over the summer in Provincetown, Mass.

At her peak, Springfield had a huge following Down Under, and her diva status among the gay community remains strong.

The musical has a small hurdle to overcome in Oz, however: It’s already been mistaken for a biotuner about recently deceased country singer Slim Dusty.

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