Wednesday, 23 November 2022

REVIEW: Love Goddess, the Rita Hayworth Musical at the Cockpit Theatre

‘LOVE GODDESS The Rita Hayworth Musical’ at The Cockpit is a show with admirable intentions and ultimately, a loving tribute to Rita Hayworth, one of the formidable stars of the Hollywood golden age. The passion and heartfelt for her story are undeniably present in the cast of five multi-disciplined performers, but, unfortunately, it fails to push any boundaries to make this anything more than a light retelling of the starlet's life.

It began its life as a one-woman show called ‘Me, Myself and Rita’, created and performed by Almog Pail in 2017, it has since transformed into a two-act musical. Still starring Pail as the title role, she is now joined by Simon Kane (Orsen Welles and Harry Cohn), Imogen Kingsley-Smith (Young Rita), Jane Quinn (journalist Jules Graham and Hayworth’s mother Volga Cansino) and Joey Simon (Fred Astaire and Hayworth’s Father Eduardo Cansino). The show follows the life of Hayworth, born Margarita Carmen Cansino, from her days as a child dancer in Brooklyn to her breakout roles in Hollywood, her iconic portrayal of Gilda and finally her tragic defeat from Alzheimer’s disease. Intertwined within her career highlights are failed marriages, abuse and ultimately the story of a woman who never really wanted to be famous. Pail wrote the original play after her own family’s experience with Alzheimer’s which is a touching parallel and personal connection present in the work.

Making the most of The Cockpit’s, theatre in the round, set up, the set is minimal as is the use of props and costumes. This is one of the show's more satisfying elements. By doing away with an over-saturated design, the show opens the door for moments of raw storytelling within a standard musical context. This is particularly utilised in early scenes between a young Rita and her mother which are tenderly handled by Kingsley-Smith and Quinn.

However, too much of the writing lacks any real poignancy and the development of the plethora of characters present throughout Hayworth’s life remains somewhat two-dimensional for this idea to go very far. The audience is never quite allowed into the true extent of the pain Hayworth experienced as a victim of abuse, misogamy and illness. Inconsistent accents and little differentiation from one character to the next when played by the same actor, also made the overall plot somewhat confusing to follow. The dance numbers choreographed by Jacqui Jameson are technically proficient with Kingsley-Smith, again, giving a performance full of warmth and passion and Simon finding his feet as Fred Astaire. However, the musical score is less than memorable.

As far as a nostalgic, light touch homage to one of the world's finest movie stars goes, Love Goddess will provide you with a lovely nights entertainment, however, it is dated in its approach and in order to find a place in the challenging London theatre climate, will need to be braver when dealing with the more challenging moments of Hayworth’s life. “Why tell this story?” is what I was left thinking. As a fan of Hayworth, I chose to review this show with great anticipation, however, I left with no new insight into her life.

Review by Stephanie Osztreicher

Rating: ★★

Seat: NA | Price of Ticket: £15 - £22

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