Sunday, November 20th, 2022

Love Goddess : The Rita Hayworth Musical …. reviewed by Queerguru’s Andrew Hebden


Love Goddess: The Rita Hayworth Musical★★★
The Cockpit Theatre, London

Rita Hayworth was the biggest female star of the 1940s, born Margarita Carmen Dolores Cansino, she had 5 husbands, made 61 movies, and (thank you Lord) inspired the creation of the margarita. That in itself is worthy of the word legendary. Making a show that captures that is daunting and the evolution of Love Goddess from a solo show, to a cabaret and now it’s current incarnation as a musical enjoying its UK premiere is a testament to the passion of Almog Pail, its creator, co-writer and lead actor. 

Hayworth (Pail) had the symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s, which back in the day was misinterpreted by the gossipy celebrity press as the effects of chronic alcoholism. Her life story is told through that lens. There are crisp, vivid memories of her early childhood when she started dancing in public at the age of 12, portrayed by Imogen Kingsley-Smith. Her life is shaped by her pushy stage dad (Joey Simon) and her mother (Jane Quinn) who misses her own career as a dancer. But Hayworth seems to recall it with a sense of confusion as to how she managed to become the Love Goddess, an image she privately despised. She has lost some vital explanatory thread of her own existence. Her initial motivation had simply been to put bread on the family table and earn her keep. It becomes clear, at least in this version of her life, that it was a succession of men (first her father, then her lovers, husbands, producers and directors) who saw her as a gold mine of beauty and talent that they could plunder for themselves. 

The staging is very simple. A small, slight elevation of steps in the centre of the round where we see Hayworth constantly scaling the obstacles of life, negotiating the snakes and ladders of Hollywood, sometimes spot-lit on a pedestal of glory and sometimes perched precariously in a sea of sharks. The other actors enter from all sides, bombarding her with their wants and demands. The barrage itself tells the audience how little control Hayworth had at certain points in her career. 

The challenge at the heart of the musical is that Hayworth was a supernova. The word bombshell was created for her. This sometimes muted piece never quite meets the challenge of her charisma though the songs inject pace when needed and the excellent choreography (Jacqui Jameson) engineers some bursts of welcome exuberance. Standout songs include the singalong fun of Manana, the sinister Ya Gotta Play the Game by Logan Medland and the mournful My Shadow and Me by Medland and WJ Matherson.

Love Goddess is a perfect companion piece for an audience that either knows the work of Rita Hayworth or is willing to watch her movies. The movies catch the lightning in the bottle, from the height of her star power, whereas this show gives glimpses of the human frailty, the personal cost and the uncontrollable twists of fate that were missed on the silver screen.




Queerguru Contributing Editor ANDREW HEBDEN is a MEDIA & CULTURAL STUDIES graduate spending his career between London, Beijing, and NYC as an expert in media and social trends. As part of the expanding minimalist FIRE movement, he recently returned to the UK and lives in Soho. He devotes as much time as possible to the movies, theatre, and the gym. His favorite thing is to try something (anything) new every day.

Posted by queerguru  at  16:45

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