As much as revivals of the old greats are great, it's always exciting when a new piece of musical theatre premieres in London. While a play version was performed in 1992, the current run of The Tailor-Made Man at the Arts Theatre is the musical's first outing. The material is promising.
The man in question is William "Billy" Haines, a Hollywood star brought to fame by one of the most prolific film studios of the era, MGM - the one with the lion. The musical tells of Billy's success after he wins a talent competition, his finding true love, his messing everything up - and then how he and his lover fix it. While it was rather predictable, the story was generally put across very well.
At times, though, Amy Rosenthal and Claudio Macor's script was somewhat forced. There were a lot of moments that might have been scandalously funny in the 1920s, but if you're beyond being tickled by the idea of someone being gay (as Haines was), they're just not funny now. That said, there were a couple of brilliant snipes at Clark Gable in Act 2 and perhaps the script is merely an accurate reflection of how Haines rebelled against the homophobic sensibilities of the time. During the first act, Billy and Jimmy seemed uncomfortable with each other, and though this did notably improve as the show progressed, the ending would have been far more affecting had they seemed less awkward initially.
The acting was rather mixed, with some stand-out performances from Faye Tozer as Hollywood glamazon Marion Davies and Kay Murphy as a rather frightening potential beard for Haines. Vivien Carter performed the title song beautifully and had great energy as a young reporter. Dylan Turner (Haines) had a fantastic dynamic with Tozer, and Bradley Clarkson was consistently likeable as Jimmy. Much of the script was unnecessarily over-played, though.
The ensemble was used particularly effectively throughout, with Nathan M. Wright's excellent choreography performed by an admirably multi-skilled cast. Particularly in the first act, the movement created a really fitting sense of bustle and speed. While some of the music was forgettable, the title song is quite lovely, and the final number "Design" was excellent and delightfully well-performed.
All in all, this is a somewhat mixed production - there were some wonderful moments, and some that don't work yet. However, this is a love story about someone finding their true calling and refusing to deny the truth about their sexuality; what's not to love? With a couple of tweaks, this piece could be extremely moving. The Tailor Made Man is one to keep your eye on.