What isn’t revealed in Me, Myself and Rita (unless, of course, my powers of recall have fallen short) is a story found in John Kobal’s 1982 book Rita Hayworth: The Time, the Place and the Woman, in which Rita Hayworth (1918-1987) was more often than not dubbed when it came to her singing in motion pictures. She had wanted to train to sing properly, but apparently, Columbia Pictures refused either to pay for it or allow her to do it off her own back, citing contractual obligations.
Here, Almog Pail’s Rita Hayworth is in fine voice, though fourteen full-length songs in an hour doesn’t leave very much time for the spoken word. The cabaret setting allowed for some ‘up, close and personal’ interaction with the audience, particularly in ‘The Five Men I Married’ (namely, Edward C Judson, Orson Welles, Prince Aly Khan, Dick Haymes and James Hill). Five men were selected, one by one, to represent each of Hayworth’s husbands, including a fellow reviewer of this website, who shall remain nameless. I was amused by the fact that they were all non-speaking parts, which may or may not have been a reflection of who really wore the trousers in all those failed
I was pleased to hear from Pail’s father, who I shared a table with at the Canal Café Theatre, that the show is a work in progress and is being expanded upon with additional cast members. The plan is to do an off-Broadway production. As it stands, it’s a tight show and an energetic one at that, but it’s so briskly paced it was a slight struggle to keep up with it.
The final scenes of the show are very poignant, portraying her battle with Alzheimer’s, except it wasn’t until after President Ronald Reagan designated November 1983 as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month that Hayworth was properly diagnosed. Imagine being a performer and not being able to memorise lines, and having others blame it purely on drinking to excess.
It’s a fine introduction to (or otherwise, a fine reminder of) Hayworth’s life and career, and while the journey ebbs and flows a little more than is ideal, those words ‘work in progress’ come to mind once more – it isn’t the finished product, and it doesn’t feel like the finished product. This doesn’t ultimately stop it from being entertaining as it is, and Pail is very much a ‘triple threat’ to be reckoned with, singing, dancing and acting with passion and enthusiasm, demonstrating considerable commitment to the role.
With a resurrection of sorts for Rita Hayworth – the musical’s story is told in a first-person narrative – comes a resurrection of sorts for those who worked with her, most notably Fred Astaire. The direct addresses to the audience were pleasing to see and made the show all the more engaging. Logan Medland, the show’s co-composer (some songs that feature, like ‘Put The Blame on Mame’, are ones made famous by Rita Hayworth during her film career), played the piano brilliantly throughout. All things considered, it’s an intense performance, and a worthwhile one, with an admirable balance between comedy and tragedy, incorporating both the happy and sad masks of theatre, painting a compelling portrait of one of Hollywood’s golden girls of the 1940s.
Review by Chris Omaweng
“Me, Myself and Rita” comes to Canal Café from sold-out New York performances Off-Broadway at Theater Row and Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York City! Featuring new songs created just for London performances. Written & performed by Almog Pail, Music & Lyrics by Broadway pianist Logan Medland, directed by international stage
and film director Jay Stern.