INTERVIEW No.2, January 2000.
 Since Mari Wilson’s first appearance at the Wag Club in Soho in 1981 complete with giant beehive hairdo, she has had hit records ("Just What I Always Wanted"/ "Cry Me A River") and appeared in concert halls and jazz clubs alongside the likes of Ray Charles & B.B. King.
She is no stranger to the stage, having played in the musical "Sweet Charity" , and shown her comic skills in "The Chainsaw Manicure".
She has a baby daughter, Lily May, born on March 2, 1997, and is about to undertake the challenge of playing
Dusty in "Dusty The Musical"

picture courtesy of Mari Wilson Page

 Mari Wilson & I spoke on the telephone on January 25, 2000

Dusty Devotedly: You must be really busy right now, Have you started rehearsals?

Mari Wilson:I've started working on the music with the M.D.(musical director). I've a list of 24 songs (screams!). Do you know the storyline?

DD: I'm aware that the show is seen through the eyes of a middle-aged housewife, Carole, who's a fan of Dusty's, but I'm not sure how much Dusty appears.

MW: She appears a lot; she in some way parallels things that are going on in Carole's life. So Carole's got loads of dialogue, and I haven't got too much, which I'm happy about.There are a couple of dramatic scenes with Dusty. There's one where she's rehearsing one of the songs and she loses her rag.They've been toying with the whole idea of dealing with her death right up to the last minute;so they are going to include her death - Carole will be talking about it, and how sad it is, and I have to sing "If You Go Away", which is meant to be her most desperate moment before she dies.

DD: It was such a pleasant surprise to me when they cast you; I was terrified an "actress" would get the part, when it needed a real singer.How did you come to play the part?

MW: I approached them; I heard about it through a friend, and I said "I've gotta find out about this - that's mine, that part, it's definitely mine. I thought the same as you, I thought you can't have a "luvvie" doing this, you just can't. You can't have someone singing falsetto, it would be awful!

DD: You had no hesitation about it - the fact that you were taking on her, of all singers?

MW: The thing is, one of the first things I said to them was "If you want me to try & sound like her, I'm not gonna do that. I'm not gonna impersonate her - you can go and get a transsexual to do that if that's what you want.You can impersonate Piaf, you can impersonate someone with a weird voice, but she's just got a great voice. A great white soul voice really.Thankfully they said "We'd rather you just sing the way you sing". But of course I sing like her anyway, because she's one of my influences.I've got a sister who's 8 years older than me, and we shared a bedroom. She copied Dusty's look totally : the eyelashes, the hair, everything. She was a brunette but she copied her; she loved Dusty Springfield. So the physical appearance - that's where I got all that stuff from.

DD: Are you using your own hair in the show?

MW: No, I am going to have a couple of wigs.

DD: Does it stick to one period of Dusty?

MW: No, it's the whole thing. There's gonna be the main one - the 60's "bob", "Ready, Steady, Go!"(UK 60's TV show) look; then there's a 70's "shag", for want of a better word!, that's what they used to call it I think. Then there's her sort of grown out perm - that's when she sings "If You Go Away" I think, that's when she's really ill at the end.There's about 3 wigs.

DD: Do they go into her private life in the show?

MW: Not very much, no.After reading the script I thought, they should dwell more on her cats, but it's very much seen from the point of view of "the fan" really. It's quite nice in some ways, 'cos it kind of keeps Dusty mysterious, so it's not too revealing. I didn't even know her but I'm sure she'd probably have quite liked that.I think she mentions the "Evening Standard" thing, when Dusty says "I'm just as much swayed by a girl as a boy", but it's very fleeting.In a way I think that's good; I'm all for stars being "stars" really, and not knowing too much about them, that Hollywood thing, you know.

DD: What about you? Have you any plans after this is over?

MW: I've been doing this "Girl Talk" thing, and that's just hilarious. It's me and Claire Martin and a girl called Barbara Younger, and 'em, we just did it as a laugh really. But, you know when you don't concentrate on things they grow don't they, and it's become very popular.

DD: That often happened with Dusty too.

MW: When I watched the "Definitely Dusty" video and another one they've given me, there were similarities. A lot of things aren't alike about us. The man I'm with I've been with for 16 years, so I've had that security. But as far as our careers are concerned; she's asked in one interview "You just disappeared", and she says "Well I wasn't enjoying it any more" and I thought "My God, that's just what I'd say". I disappeared too, you know.

DD: What do you like doing most , the jazz things, the theatre?

MW: I'm much more of a singer. I prefer being on stage and talking about whatever comes into my head.I'm quite funny and quick witted and I like to chat to the audience for ages before I sing again - you know.So, the little bit of theatre I've done, although it was fun I was glad to get back to being myself really. I love the idea of going to the West End. And also, from what I can see there isn't an awful lot of acting in the show, and I like that I'm playing a real person. One other person I've always wanted to play is Peggy Lee. But I'm not after Elaine Paige's job. I'm dying to make another album. I've had a baby now - she's nearly 3 , and as soon as I had her I didn't do much, 'cos I just loved it, I loved being a mum; but I'm ready now.

DD: Do you think they'll do an album of the show?

MW: Well it's been talked about, but nothing's been confirmed to me yet.I think if this show's successful it's obviously going to help raise my profile, and I have to be really honest about that, because I really want to make another album. Another similarity with Dusty is that I'm quite a versatile singer; I sing ballads and I sing soul numbers, and I sing jazz and a bit of swing - everything. But you're not allowed to do that if you've got a recording career, they want you to do one thing. That's one of the reasons I stopped enjoying it. The record company wanted me to do more "Just What I've Always Wanted"'s and I didn't want to do that. It's a funny thing though, I've just thought about this talking to you, but just before that happened with the record company, Roger Ames, who was my A & R guy (Artists & Repertoire),gave me "Dusty In Memphis" and said "I think we should do some Dusty songs". If they did want to do the album, I'd much rather get someone like William Orbit to produce it and do something radical. What's the point of recording it the same way she did?

DD: How big a band are they using in the musical?

MW: It's a five piece band, and some of the cast are singing backing vocals.There's "the fan" - Carole - and 2 other girls and they've all got to be able to sing, 'cause they sing songs together as well. Carole sings "Give Me Time" and one other song, and I do a duet with her as well.But the weird thing is that on some of the songs, like "Windmills of Your Mind" I'll sing a verse and then there'll be a load of dialogue, and then I'll appear again and sing a little bit more of it.Hope I can remember what key I'm in, Simon! In "Girl Talk" I've been doing "Wives & Lovers", you know, that very non-PC Burt Bacharach song. When the piano player plays the intro, sometimes I'm thinking "Hey, where's my note!", but thankfully I've always been OK. When you're on stage with your own band you can do anything, but when you're in a theatre, and it's all planned out, I'm thinking, God what if I make a mistake?

DD: Hopefully the audience will all be with you. Do you find it daunting that you're gonna be playing to Dusty fans?

MW: Yes. Because of what we've just talked about. I don't want them to be thinking, Oh she doesn't sound like Dusty - 'cos I don't. I don't sound like her, no-one sounds like me.I will use certain little licks that she does - ad libs. I just want to show respect to her, but not parody her.

 

The other Dusty sites on the internet are welcome to quote & refer to this interview, but please refer to the original site & link directly to it.

This interview is (c) SIMON BELL(DUSTY DEVOTEDLY) 2000.

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