Tag Archives: Alice McNicholas


Love Goddess, the Rita Hayworth Musical


Cockpit Theatre




“Logan Medland’s score keeps the show afloat too, with a song list that could have been plucked straight from the era.”


Margarita Carmen Cansino, born in Brooklyn in 1918, would come to be worshipped as the sex symbol Rita Hayworth. The ‘femme fatale’ star of films such as “Gilda”, “Only Angels Have Wings” and “The Strawberry Blonde”, she was the top pin up girl for GIs during World War II, and was coined ‘The Love Goddess’ by the press. Achieving fame in the 1940s she went on to make over sixty films over the next four decades.

Very few people, however, recognised the trauma that lay beneath her glitzy persona. What happened to the child that was Margarita would scar Rita forever. Orson Wells, her second husband, was one of the few that got close enough to observe: “All her life was pain”. Hayworth’s story is rich pickings for a musical; as it unfolds around the extraordinary figures in her life. The husbands, the parents and the co-stars, the reporters who helped and hindered her, and the moguls who made her and broke her.

“Love Goddess – The Rita Hayworth Musical” is the creation of Almog Pail, who wrote the book (with Stephen Garvey) and plays Hayworth. Originally a one-woman cabaret show entitled “Me, Myself and Rita” it has, according to the pr copy, ‘evolved into a full-scale musical’. However, this production hasn’t scaled the fullness. The ambition is undoubtedly there, and we do get a very fine picture of the blueprint. The story is presented through the fragmented mind of Hayworth during the final chapters of her life, as she interacts with memories, ghosts, lovers and her younger self. On the page it’s a gorgeous concept, on the stage it somehow fails to ignite. Too many issues are underexplored. Hayworth’s Alzheimer’s disease, which contributed to her early death and hugely drew attention (not to mention funding and research) to the condition, gets little more than a token mention.

Although she has the required passion and ambition, Pail lacks the gravitas – and the voice – to depict Hayworth with the credibility needed. She is surrounded by a fine ensemble who between them cover the roster of every significant player in Hayworth’s life. An impressive troupe, the shining star of which is Imogen Kingsley-Smith as the young Rita, whose effervescent presence and talent lifts the show each time she acts, dances or sings her way across the stage.

Logan Medland’s score keeps the show afloat too, with a song list that could have been plucked straight from the era. Latin rhythms and tangos mingle with smoky, jazzy numbers and that ol razzle dazzle – ‘The Five Men I Married’ being a standout number, recalling Chicago’s ‘Cell Block Tango’. Again, though, the sound sometimes falls flat, and the richness of the orchestration and ensemble arrangement required is left to the imagination. This show is longing for someone to come along and splash some colour between the brushed outlines. We have a glimpse of what this could be. Most of us know something of Hayworth’s story. For those who don’t, the piece will shed enough light, and will do so with clever staging and imaginative use of chronology. It shouldn’t shy away from the fact that there isn’t necessarily a happy ending. It has enough, particularly in the score, to both celebrate and elevate the melancholy. But not quite enough yet to really move us.


Reviewed on 20th November 2022

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Roswitha Chesher



Previously reviewed at this venue:


L’Egisto | ★★★ | June 2021
999 | ★★★ | November 2022
The Return | ★★★ | November 2022


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Much Ado About Nothing


Jack Studio Theatre

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING at the Jack Studio Theatre




“Musical interludes are nicely performed with some strong vocals”


Outdoor specialists Bear in the Air Productions bring their summer production inside to the intimacy of the Jack Studio Theatre. Pared down to just six players by Director Heather Simpkin and with a running time of less than two hours, it’s a merry romp through Shakespeare’s popular comedy. But it doesn’t transfer inside well: the space is cramped compared to the great outdoors and, after a long and hot summer season, the ensemble appears tired. Simpkin’s adaptation works well though. With some major cuts to the text, and important lines reassigned to different characters, the plot rolls through apace. This does though leave little space for characters to breathe or for us to see gradual changes in their development. This is particularly a loss when it comes to the all-important exchanges between our heroes Beatrice and Benedick.

The entire cast is almost ever-present on stage, often taking seats at the back when not directly involved in the action. Hannah Eggleton (Beatrice) has a huge presence here, actively listening to the goings-on and reacting accordingly. There’s many a smile, nod and knowing look towards the audience, perhaps more than necessary in this space. She is at her most convincing when defending the wronged Hero and her demand to ‘kill Claudio’ is chillingly done. Ross Telfer (Benedick), with an Errol Flynn moustache and wispy facial hair, plays the seasoned bachelor closer to ‘less than a man’ than expected and is more foolish than erudite.

In a rather nice doubling, these two actors also appear as the bumbling members of the Watch under the leadership of Chief Scout Dogberry (Conor Cook). In a notoriously difficult role Cook plays the troubled character as more quirky than tragic. He also doubles in the roles of Friar – nicely done – and the villain Don John. A black beret and dark sunshades provide the visual clues of John’s inherent nastiness but we would benefit from seeing him as more overtly wicked.

Megan King (Hero & Borachio) is both the innocent blushing beauty – played suitably coyly – and the servant responsible for acting out the charade that leads to Hero’s disgrace. The latter role, dressed in flat cap and Barbour jacket, requires a more masculine or conniving approach. Toby George-Waters (Claudio) gives the performance of the night as Hero’s would-be wooer and then accuser. His initial boyish enthusiasm to seeing a pretty girl contrasts well with his later despair and George-Waters is convincing throughout.

Much of the work of holding this condensed adaption together falls upon the reliable Charles Stobert (Don Pedro). In the central scene of the evening, Pedro and Claudio create the opportunity for mayhem with a traditional moving garden trellis scene in which to trick Benedick and a more ambitious hiding beneath a picnic rug scene for Beatrice. In a production that is generally rather static, these scenes stand out for their stagecraft, well-executed.

Musical interludes are nicely performed with some strong vocals, especially from Stobert, and decent harmonies. The song of the night, Chuck Berry’s ‘You Never Can Tell’ (reprising its use as a dance floor filler in the film Pulp Fiction) is a surprisingly relevant inclusion. Well sung, but dancing could do with improvement!

Brevity is at the soul of this production. It isn’t an especially deep reading of the play – there isn’t the time – but the adaptation for just six players works well. Better seen outside though, where it belongs, on a warm summer’s evening.



Reviewed on 25th August 2022

by Phillip Money

Photography courtesy Bear In The Air Productions




Previously reviewed at this venue:

Holst: The Music in the Spheres | ★★★★★ | January 2022
Payne: The Stars are Fire | ★★★ | January 2022
Richard II | ★★★★★ | February 2022


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