Gentlemen Prefer Blondes ☆☆☆☆
Union Theatre, London
Directed by Sasha Regan
Anita Loos’ 1925 novel (famously championed by James Joyce) was first turned into a stage musical in 1949, and must have seemed dated even then, much of the original novel’s caustic indictment of the Jazz Age already softened or lost on its postwar audience.
Lorelei Lee was immortalised on the silver screen in 1953, when Marilyn Monroe took the role. ABIGAIL HONEYWILL thankfully steers clear of doing a ‘Monroe’ and makes Lorelei more manipulative moxie than dizzy blonde. The jewel in the crown is, of course, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”, and it doesn’t disappoint, with Honeywill channelling a flash of Monroe to great effect.
ELEANOR LAKIN’s Dorothy provides the perfect foil, underwhelmed and amused by all the surrounding wealth and obsession as these two Follies showgirls take a boat over to Paris, where Lee is supposed to be marrying the Button tycoon, Gus Esmond (AARON BANNISTER-DAVIES).
The flimsy plot revolves around a diamond tiara, and the characters are mostly antiquated stereotypes – the alcoholic mother, the dirty old man – but the full-on retro Hollywood song and dance numbers, choreographed wonderfully by ZAK NEMORIN are what you come for, and on that score it doesn’t disappoint.
A few of the songs lack much merit (does anyone remember President Coolidge) but there’s a joyous, irresistible escapism to the whole thing that you don’t care it lacks any relevance to the world we live in today. SASHA REGAN’s decision to let it stand with all its moth-balled flaws is a bold one, but creaky plot clichés aside, its central theme of the value of money over love, certainly still resonates in our contemporary climate of rampant, unbridled capitalism.
For an enjoyable night of old school entertainment, you can’t go wrong.
On until Oct 26
Review by Jonathan Kemp
Queerguru London Correspondent Jonathan Kemp writes fiction and non-fiction and teaches creative writing at Middlesex University. He is the author of two novels – London Triptych (2010), which won the 2011 Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award, and Ghosting (2015) – and the short-story collection Twentysix. (2011, all published by Myriad Editions). Non-fiction works include The Penetrated Male (2012) and Homotopia?: Gay Identity, Sameness and the Politics of Desire (2015, both Punctum Books).