This dire musical getting its world premiere in London really is one of those leave at the interval affairs. Ms Pail, who co-wrote it, is lady of pleasing appearance but she is no love goddess and her attempt to play Rita Hayworth is frankly a mistake – nor does she have the voice to fill the not exactly cavernous space that is the Cockpit. The sound designer needs to rethink because one does need to hear the words – the other members of the cast are fine so it is all to do with Ms Pail and her larynx.
Hayworth was a classic Hollywood forties and fifties glamour star – a passable actress, fine dancer, and very beautiful once the makeover was complete she got the love goddess title in the press coverage of her career and was a war time pin up. She came from humble beginnings, abused by her father, a dancer in variety who pushed her on the stage as his partner when she was in her early teens, and then into films when the family move to Hollywood. There she married a middle aged man while still a teenager who also exploited her talents. She was signed up by Columbia, resisted the advances of the predatory Harry Cohn, the company’s boss, hated being a film star, married four more men, starting with Orson Welles, who made her dye her hair blonde and cut it short – her long red hair was her trade mark – for The Lady From Shanghai, then Prince Ali Khan, a noted lecher of the day, for whom she was a trophy wife, the singer Dick Haymes, known in Hollywood as Mr Evil, with good reason, and finally the producer James Hill. Her film career – she made over sixty films – included the film noir Gilda, which made her name as a voluptuous seductress. Although she was dubbed, as stars usually were then when required to sing, her performance of Don’t Put the Blame on Mame is electrifying. The others included You Were Never Lovelier dancing opposite Fred Astaire, Cover Girl dancing with Gene Kelly, and a respectable acting performance in Terence Rattigan’s Separate Tables produced by Hill. Her co-stars and lovers included most of the leading Hollywood men of the time. The sad thing is she succumbed to Alzheimer’s when still relatively young which ending her taking over from Lauren Bacall in the Broadway musical Applause.
There is a story to be told but not in this dreary musical where the events and the men in her life get pretty short shrift. A lot of it consists of Ms Pail posing awkwardly centre stage on a dais attempting and failing to being voluptuous. To be fair the score by Stephen Garvey has its moments, and there is a powerful You Gotta Play the Game for Cohn, one of several characters played by Simon Kane, in which Hayworth gets told the facts of Hollywood life. Kane does it justice. As the young Rita, while not resembling Ms Pail in the slightest, let alone Rita, Imogen Kingsley-Smith dances brilliantly and is partnered well by Joey Simon particularly when pretending to be Fred Astaire – choreographer Jacqui Jameson has come up with some fine routines for them . But in the end it is a case of beyond the pale.
Rita Hayworth: Almog Pail.
Young Rita: Imogen Kingsley-Smith.
Orson Welles/Harry Cohn: Simon Kane.
Fred Astair/Eduardo Cansino: Joey Simon.
Jules Graha,/Volga Cansin: Jane Quinn.
Director: Steve North.
Choreographer & Musical Staging: Jacqui Jameson.
Set & props Designer: Mayou Trikerioti.
Musical Director: Archie Combe.
Lighting Designer: Danny Vavrecka.
Costume Designer:Alice McNicholas.
Sound Engineer: Nik Burkinyoung.
Production Photographs: Roswitha Chesher