Review by Emma Whitelaw
WHEN Liberace arrived in London, in 1956, to throngs of adoring
fans, he would have never dreamed that almost three years later,
he would have to fight vehemently to clear his name of the slanderous
inferences made by a noteworthy newspaper at the time.
The public greeted the great entertainer with great warmth and
much enthusiasm. The press, however, were quite different.
Although a loveable and talented character as Liberace can grab
many a headline, nothing quite sells a paper like a bit of controversy
about everyone’s hero.
Liberace’s Suit is a cleverly written
play that tells the story of how, a publicly applauded musician’s
name was dragged through the mud by one particular paper. The
same paper that had, in the very same issue, printed glowing reports
of the glitzy star on both the front and back pages.
Bobby Crush is superb as the adorable entertainer. He captures
the essence of all that Liberace was - glamorous, gorgeous, fun
loving and, most of all, harmless. He plays the part so convincingly
that one could quite easily mistake him for the great Liberace
Crush truly is magnificent, he has an amazing stage presence
and while it would be impossible to go over the top with a character
as big as Liberace, he is able to convey, with precision, the
larger-than-life, dazzling world of colour and glittering razzamatazz
that Liberace introduced his own audiences to so many years ago.
Although Crush may steal the show,
I must say the entire cast gave a tremendous performance. Paul
Beech is brilliant as the opinionated, chauvinistically narrow-minded
columnist, William Conner.
Writing for the Daily Mirror under the nom de plume Cassandra,
Conner unashamedly attacks everything that Liberace is and stands
Cassandra describes Liberace as 'deadly, winking, sniggering,
snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering,
giggling, fruit-flavored, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother
love'. The article continues on with equally slanderous comments
about the much-loved entertainer.
At a time when homosexuality was illegal in the UK, Liberace
was left with no option but to defend himself and his livelihood
in what became one of the most controversial libel suits of the
Credit must also be given for the set and lighting design. The
clever transition between stage and courtroom was simplistic,
yet very effective.
The costume design was equally fabulous; the diamante encrusted
suits were just as flamboyant as the man wearing them.
Liberace’s Suit is a warm and funny exposé
of how the press fed upon the controversy that revolved around
the private life of a much loved entertainer.
In 50 years or so, it seems that nothing much has really changed!
Liberace’s Suit written by TK Light and directed
by Phil Willmott. Starring Bobby Crush, Paul Beech, Oliver Bradshaw,
Stephen Dunbar and James Horne. Set design by Nigel Hook. Costume
design by Julia Morgan. Lighting design by Hansjorg Schmidt. Presented
by Anubian Nights Theatre Company. May 25 to June 19 at the Jermyn
Street Theatre, 16b Jermyn Street, London SW1. Box Office: 020