The Theatreguide.London Review
Arts Theatre Spring 2013
This modest little musical has a fascinating and mainly true story, songs that are as pleasant as they are instantly forgettable, and some attractive performances. If you ask nothing more of it, you can have an enjoyable couple of hours in its company.
William Haines was an actual mid-level Hollywood star of the 1920s whose career ended abruptly – not, according to writers Amy Rosenthal and Claudio Macor, because he couldn't make the transition to talkies, but because he was blackballed.
Haines was also a promiscuous and indiscreet homosexual who, despite being in a loving relationship that would last most of his life, couldn't resist chasing every stagehand, bit player or passing sailor, and the studio got tired of blocking embarrassing news stories and covering up scandals.
Haines had the last laugh, though – after a few years in the wilderness he found a new career and more lasting success as interior decorator to the stars.
Rosenthal and Macor tell this story (based on an earlier non-musical play by Macor) with equal sympathy for Haines's essentially innocent joy of life and the emotional burdens of those around him trying to keep him from self-destruction.
The cast of characters includes such real-life figures as Marion Davies, the minimally-talented actress kept for years by newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst; Louis B. Meyer, autocratic studio head; and Pola Negri, faded film star briefly used as a beard for Haines.
The songs by Duncan Walsh Atkins and Adam Meggido have little to make them stick in the memory. The title number has a nice bluesy feel, and several of Meggido's lyrics show the unavoidable influence of Stephen Sondheim, particularly in the recurring device of a string of short internally-rhyming phrases.
Meggido earns some points for managing to find a rhyme for schadenfreude (enjoy the/news), and a scurrilous name-dropping song sounds like something Cole Porter might have sung at private parties.
Dylan Turner makes an amiable and always sympathetic Haines, Bradley Clarkson provides warmth as his long-suffering partner, and Faye Tozer adds both humour and glamour as stalwart gal-pal Davies.
Mike McShane makes Meyer a formidable but still cuddly teddy bear, Matt Wilman is the long-suffering PR man who has to cover up Haines's indiscretions, and Kay Murphy has a funny scene as Pola Negri.
Claudio Macor's direction and Nathan M. Wright's choreography are sometimes cramped on the small Arts stage, but this very fragile little show would be lost in a larger venue.
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Review - The Tailor-Made Man - Arts Theatre 2013