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Crush seems tailor-made for the lovable Liberace's Suit

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 himself.

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 for.

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 20th Century.

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 7287 2875.

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