From Judy to Bette: The Stars of Old Hollywood (3 stars)

From Judy to Bette: The Stars of Old Hollywood

Celebration of the lives of four Hollywood greats

There is a fierce feminist undercurrent in Rebecca Perry's celebration of the lives and work of four great Hollywood women: from Bette Davis' sardonic humour to Lucille Ball's clowning brilliance, these women challenged the status quo of the movies and discovered power and independence through their talent and hard work. While much of the tragedy in their lives is downplayed, especially in the case of Judy Garland, and the contemporary resonance is left to a few cheeky asides, Perry celebrates through song and anecdote a remarkable collection of superstars.

The pace of the show is dynamic and relentless: showstopper follows showstopper, and the abbreviated biographies emphasise their passionate and idiosyncratic personalities. Sentimental rather than critical – except of those who sought to stifle the talent – it is a primer of the Golden Age of film that revives the joy inspired by these pioneers of feminism.

The musical numbers are solid, although their emotional impact is lessened by the fast pace, and the anecdotes witty and resonant: Davis' dry humour, Betty Hutton's warm screen presence and Garland's acceptance of her gay following in a time of public prejudice are all equally lauded. Despite the political subtext, Parry is as determined as her inspirations to entertain and delight.

Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, until 26 Aug (not 7,14, 21), 7.30pm, £10–£11 (£9–£10).

From Judy to Bette: The Stars of Old Hollywood

  • 3 stars

Rebecca Perry Productions Judy Garland. Lucille Ball. Bette Davis. Betty Hutton. Trailblazers refusing to be “just another ingénue” during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Weaving scandalous headlines, famous songs and comedy gold, journey through the groundbreaking careers of screen legends of yesteryear. Fresh from selling…

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