Love Goddess, The Rita Hayworth Cabaret at the Canal Cafe Theatre

Almog Pail pictured

I went into the show knowing very little about the real life of Rita Hayworth, all my impressions being driven by her Hollywood persona. Fortunately I took my mother with me, who knows a lot more about this shy woman who really just wanted to settle down and have a family of her own.

Originally running as Me, Myself and Rita back in 2017, Love Goddess is the cabaret version combining musical numbers (mainly originals, with a few classics peppered in from Hayworth’s films) and storytelling. Almog Pail is the creator, co-writer (with Stephen Garvey) and very engaging performer of the piece. This is a story told with great sympathy towards Hayworth, a woman who was never really allowed to be herself. Hers was a life shaped by being who others wanted her to be.

Logan Medland joins Pail on stage, at the piano. As lyricist, composer and musical director of the show, there is a quiet chemistry between the two, that makes the show feel like a rounded and seamless whole. Medland has created an evocative and varied collection of songs to bring Hayworth’s story to life.The opening number I Remember eases us into the show, but really comes into its own in reprise near the end. Rita, Who? brings an up-tempo energy to the pragmatic creation of Rita Hayworth, as the studio already had an actress with a Latin sounding name and didn’t need another one. Pail gives a real sense of Rita (or should I say Margarita, or Carmen as her dad liked to call her?) yielding to the demands of those around her. Letting her very appearance and personality be manufactured by those looking to build (and profit from) her career.

Lorna Ventura’s choreography has a chance to shine during the delightfully fun Mr Astaire. While in true cabaret style The Five Men I Married incorporates genuinely enjoyable audience participation (as an introvert I normally dread those moments, but I surprisingly liked being husband no 3).

With direction by Jay Stern, Love Goddess is a moving, entertaining and downright charming show. There is a perfect balance of storytelling, music, dance and audience interaction. And while Hayworth’s story has a sad ending, the show chooses not to end on a down-beat, with Pail’s Hayworth defiantly taking us into the final number Dance While You Still Can Dance.

I adored it and so did my Hayworth expert mum, so it is a show that works no matter how familiar you are with Hayworth’s life story.

The London run of the beguiling Love Goddess ends this Sunday 3rd October, after which I can only assume that the fabulous duo of Medland and Pail will be returning to New York. To book tickets or find out more, you can go here: https://canalcafetheatre.com/our-shows/lovegoddess/

Random aside, I can highly recommend getting there early and grabbing a bite to eat in the pub below before the show.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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