Review: Flames, Waterloo East Theatre

“You’ll live your life in constant fear
We’ll have to make him disappear”

Cripes. Flames is described as a “suspense-filled musical thriller” but whether intentional or not, it proved to be one of the funniest things I’ve seen this year. Its campy, schlocky vibes are like an episode of Sunset Beach happening before your very eyes and yet played with such seriousness, I’m really not sure that that is what they were aiming for at all. Stephen Dolginoff – whose Thrill Me has recently been revived for a UK tour – once again takes on sole duty for book, music and lyrics to explore murderous mystery but I’m not sure these flames have ignited in the way he might have intended, here at the Waterloo East Theatre.

Stockbroker Edmond died in disgrace a year ago in a fire and fiancée Meredith and best friend Eric are paying their respects at his graveside but they’re haunted by several questions. Did he really commit a terrible crime before dying? If so, where’s the money? Is it ok for Eric to have the hots for his dead best friend’s girl? Why does she take her coat off if it’s a stormy night? And how are those candles meant to be staying alight? Does Eric need his eyes testing? In fact, do they all need their eyes testing – no-one seems to see anyone coming in this cemetery. And just how sharp is that umbrella? Continue reading “Review: Flames, Waterloo East Theatre”

Review: The Tailor-Made Man, Arts Theatre

“A man amongst men”

Described by Joan Crawford as “the happiest married couple in Hollywood”, new musical The Tailor-Made Man focuses on the 50 year love affair between Hollywood star of the 1920s William Haines and interior designer in the making, Jimmy Shields. Discovered in a talent competition, Haines signed for MGM, who accepted his homosexuality as long as he kept it under wraps. When a liaison with a sailor led to his arrest, MGM boss Louis B (LB) Mayer demanded he marry a woman to save his career and maintain his clean-cut image but Haines, with the support of his lover Shields, walked away from Hollywood and together they set up a hugely successful interior design business.

Amy Rosenthal and Claudio Macor’s book whips through events with a keen sense of pace, the story covers a substantial number of years, and uses a flashback framing device of an older version of Jimmy is interviewed by a keen young reporter who makes him reflect on a life past. There’s an element of drama for sure, but where the show really blossoms is in the evocation of the gossipy environment of Hollywood stars off-duty and the perfectly pitched depiction of a loving gay relationship. Dylan Turner makes a chisel-jawed Haines and Bradley Clarkson is a puppyish Shields but they both show several sides to the lovers, making them complex but likeable individuals who are clearly better together and they have a sincere, beautiful chemistry together.  Continue reading “Review: The Tailor-Made Man, Arts Theatre”