At the core of this new musical is an interesting story about the gay 1930s film star Billy Haines who played romantic leads on screen but made no attempt to hide his homosexuality off it, much to the fury of his formidable studio boss Louis B Mayer.
But instead of sparking into life, this show sinks into something perhaps best described as generic musical mode. Nathan M Wright’s choreography revives moves last seen in a 1970s TV variety show. During one number, and apparently without irony, the cast actually kick their walking sticks so that they twirl a full 360 degrees.
And guess what — they do it simultaneously.
But parody and pastiche needs invention to be any good. “Who put the who in Houdini, Who put the T in Martini”, asks one of the songs written by Adam Meggido (music and lyrics) and Duncan Walsh Atkins’s (music). The answer may never be known, but it wasn’t Cole Porter.
The shame of it is that the 1992 play by Claudio Macor which, with the help of Amy Rosenthal, forms the show’s book, has genuine wit. It contains the only material with which the hard-working cast can deliver performances of any depth. The rest of the time they are stranded in the shallows of off-the-shelf songs that could be from any forgotten musical of the past 80 years. (www.artstheatrewestend.co.uk)