Rita Hayworth, born Margarita Carmen Cansino, was one of the most iconic Hollywood stars of the 1940s era, and this production, co-written and starring Almog Pail, is a clear love letter to the glittering star. Whilst the cast’s style and enthusiasm is lovely to see and to watch, this original show doesn’t quite tell Rita’s story with the clarity and power needed to do justice to her emotional and high profile life.
The titular character’s dazzling blue cocktail dress, worn throughout the first act, embodies the Hollywood glamour of Hayworth, and the writing highlights her struggle within a male dominated, powerful industry, making a commendable effort to portray her complicated life and the often manipulative individuals surrounding her. However, alongside this there are over thirty characters being played by the five person cast, all utilising different props and costumes, which makes the plot difficult to follow at times. The costumes don’t do enough to distinguish each character and it all becomes confusing. Similarly, the timeframes and structure of the show are complex, with young Rita and present day Rita often performing simultaneously in both flashbacks and narrative. This style of storytelling is unique and engaging but requires further development of clarity to ensure a seamless script.
These issues were further exacerbated by problems with sound quality on the night, and there were points where it was difficult to hear the dialogue and singing. The latter would benefit from more power, but the emotion behind the vocals and commitment to the roles is clear and enjoyable.
The venue itself is a lovely, small theatre that has a blank canvas space adaptable for all types of performance. While this lends itself well to the in-the-round style of this musical, the use of props proves difficult and the staging is often complicated and confusing. Similarly, the raked stage set piece in the centre is a useful focal point that draws attention and is used magnificently amid the dance numbers, but it often feels like an obstruction in such a small theatre.
The choreography and talented energy with which the show is performed is by far the most impressive part of this production. Jacqui Jameson’s tap choreography is gorgeous, utilising the entire space brilliantly. It is fabulously performed throughout, as a tribute to Fred Astaire and Rita, Astaire’s supposed favourite dance partner.
This is a heartfelt attempt at an original new musical that, whilst requiring further development to the script, sound design and staging, is a clear tribute to the icon Rita Hayworth.
Written by: Almog Pail and Stephen Garvey
Directed by: Steve North
Choreography: Jacqui Jameson
Produced by: Laura Lundy, Blue Panther Productions https://www.bluepantherproductions.com/
Musical Direction: Logan Medland
Love Goddess, the Rita Hayworth Musical plays at Cockpit Theatre until 23 December. Further information and bookings can be found here.