Review: The Tailor Made Man

Posted by Matt Bourne on 06:35 with No comments
The Tailor Made Man
Arts Theatre, London

Set in the 1920/30s, the Tailor Made Man tells the hitherto unknown story of William Haines (Dylan Turner) the "Tom Cruise" of his era who was unceremoniously buried by studio head Louis B. Mayer (Mike McShane) because of his homosexual tendencies, romance with Jimmy Shields (Bradley Clarkson) and his refusal to cover it up with a sham marriage to Pola Negri (Kay Murphy).  Having to leave the world of Hollywood he and partner Jimmie set up a interior design company that became very successful and ended up being supported by his friends in Hollywood, in particular Marion Davies (Faye Tozer) who was best friends with William and Jimmy.  The Tailor Made Man tells the story from the eyes of an elderly Jimmie (Clive Ward) as he is being interviewed by a determined reporter (Vivien Carter).

If you are fed up with the conveyor belt of lavishly designed, hugely expensive, special effects laden souless productions, then The Tailor Made Man at the Arts Theatre, makes for a very welcome change.  Featuring a great cast, simple backdrops and a hugely engulfing story, the Tailor Made Man whisks you away and carries you through a majestically told story, full of romance, humour and sheer delight.  Thetare for too long now has moved too far away from what musical theatre is about, telling a story with music.  Not lots of lights, effects, smoke and mirrors and music so in your face that the general theatre going public turn into a relative form of the MTV generation.  The Tailor Made Man returns to the basics of musical theatre and is all the better for it.

With it being a true story, it brings it's own set of challenges with accuracy and making sure that the period is correct and the tale is as authentic as it can be.  However this production handles that with relative ease as the essence of that era is conveyed with loving care.  It helps that the cast are all terrific and that the choreography and script are top notch too.

From the outset the bar is set when Dylan Turner sweeps bare chested into the story he traverses throughout the production like a modern day Clarke Gable with his cool good looking swagger.  He's a terrific actor too, coupled with a great voice he really does justice to the character of Billy.  Then there's the mercurial Mike McShane, who delivers a towering performance as Louis B. Mayer the studio head who has things done his way or else.  he brings such an element of gravitas that despite being on a small stage makes the production come across like it's on a huge west end stage.  Then someone else who is no stranger to huge stages is Faye Tozer as Marion Davies.  Ms. Tozer looks like someone invented a time machine went back to the 20s and kidnapped her and brought her back for this production.  She simply is divine as Marion and she completely nails on the period and the diva quality's that will no doubt have many a theatre producer knocking down her door to get her to sign up to their next big production very soon.  Then there is Bradley Clarkson as Jimmy, who throughout is the heartbeat of the show.  He has an assured subtlety to his performance that really builds as the story continues.  The fact that you can really feel Billy's loss after Jimmy leaves him for a period speaks volumes for not only Mr Clarkson's ability but Dylan Turner's as well.

If there's any problems it's possibly that some of the change overs are slightly clunky, but if that's all there is to worry about, then it's the least of your worries.  The music and songs by Adam Meggido are excellent, Nathan Wright, puts together some wonderful choreography throughout especially the picture frame sequence with Kay Murphy's brilliant Pola Negri.  It's a delight to behold and a production that you should not miss.  It's on a very limited run (14th Feb - 6th April) so ensure that you get a ticket and see it before it's gone.

This is a production that deserves a big theatre to fill and to get the delightful story and music onto.  With the successes of Singing in the Rain, Top Hat and the movie success of The Artist (Which you can draw a lot of comparisons to) there is definitely an audience for this type of show.  This reviewer would be first in the queue if they decided to make that bold step too.  So make sure that you grab a ticket to see this little gem with the biggest heart soon.

Matt Bourne