Beware of Young Girls – Kate Dimbleby Sings the Dory Previn Story

Kate Dimbleby and Amy Rosenthal
59E59, New York

Kate Dimbleby

Beware of Young Girls is counter-intuitive in almost every sense. To start with, the title might attract the wrong kind of audience. Rather than a sex romp, Kate Dimbleby and Amy Rosenthal have written an affectionate tribute to Dory Previn.

For those under around 60, Mrs Previn was a neurotic singer-songwriter—is there any other kind?

One of the show’s many ironies is that, while the subject was a second generation Irish-American born in New Jersey, Miss Dimbleby, who portrays her so close to home, is very much Home Counties.

The little girl who loved performing got her break after being invited to Hollywood to compose music for the movies. There, she was thrust into the compositional arms of Andre Previn and, soon afterwards, the physical ones. As a consequence, she picked up a surname and future anguish at the same time.

There are a number of gaps in the biographical element of this show and one is how Mr Previn could have married a schizophrenic who had previously suffered a mental breakdown and only discovered the fact afterwards and by accident. One might expect a highly intelligent and worldly man to spot a problem.

The lady was always on drugs but, unlike almost every one of her contemporaries such as Janis Joplin, apparently only of the prescription variety.

The marriage lasted happily we are told until the arrival of that young girl, spoilt blonde Mia Farrow.

She gave Previn twins and he gave Dory a divorce. However, the break-up also launched a successful solo career based on confessional songs that must have appealed to a lapsed Catholic.

The story-telling, which is partly based on her own autobiographies, feels incomplete in other ways and has the hagiographical quality of missing out the bad bits. Why for example do we only hear about two abortions as a punchline to what is almost a joke?

The strength of this show lies in a stream of songs such as “Control Yourself”, “Lemon Haired Ladies” and “Twenty Mile Zone”, many of which have a cabaret edge to them and are well delivered by Kate Dimbleby and her friend and accompanist on the piano, Naadia Sheriff under the direction of Cal McCrystal.

Beware of Young Girls will have obvious appeal to fans of Dory Previn. Attracting Previn agnostics must be a tougher ask but, since the show has been running for a couple of years, there is obviously an additional secret ingredient that draws in audiences, probably those songs.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher