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With help from writer Amy Rosenthal and the addition of Adam Meggido and Duncan Walsh Atkins’ songs, Claudio Macor’s peek behind the hypocritical glamour of tinsel town in the twenties has been expanded from its 1992 fringe origins into an entertaining musical.

Told in flashback and based on fact, it tells the story of William “Billy” Haines, the defiantly gay star of the silver screen whose film career was cut short when he refused to toe MGM Studios’ line and hide his homosexuality behind a sham marriage to fellow star Pola Negri.

Though partial to cruising, he lived with his partner Jimmy Shields for nearly 50 years until his death at the age of 73.

When he was arrested in 1933 for picking up a sailor and control-freak movie mogul Louis B Mayer (Mike McShane) terminated his contract and scuppered his chances of acting elsewhere, the pair continued their Hollywood associations, setting up a successful interior design business for the rich and famous.

It’s an interesting story in itself, with its references to the prevailing double standards which quietly sanctioned a wealthy married tycoon buying leading roles for his long-term, equally unfaithful mistress (Faye Tozer’s brash Marion Davies) and all sorts of other sexual shenanigans so long as they were kept under wraps.

The sound levels need adjusting – the lyrics aren’t always clear, which is a shame.

But there’s good, very well-sung support from Bradley Clarkson as devoted lifelong partner Jimmy, and Dylan Turner is suitably cocky (if not very likeable) as the once golden boy Haines with a wisecracking arrogance to match his on-screen persona.

Arts Theatre
Great Newport Street, WC2H 7JB 
Tube | Leicester Square
Until 6th April£20- £39.50
artstheatrewestend.co.uk

 

Photo: Alastair Muir


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