Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Rebecca Varidel
22nd Feb 2023

Buttons or Zippers? This is the big question for the two love rivals of a little girl from Little Rock Arkansas, Lorelei Lee. But the bigger question is - will best friends Lorelei and Dorothy get their men?

Sydney is seeing a lot of revivals in musical theatre. The latest - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - set in the 1920s, was first staged in 1949, and was made into a film only a couple of years later. So, 70 years on, the biggest question of all is, are those questions still relevant?

In association with Sydney World Pride, Hayes Theatre Co. with director Richard Carroll and musical director Victoria Falconer present a highly entertaining and frequently funny musical. Sexual references are updated, but the 'will they marry for money' question remains.

"While Marilyn Monroe's iconic portrayal of Lorelei Lee became one of her defining performances by establishing her lasting 'dumb blonde' persona, the story is at its core about two very smart women who are expertly playing the only game available to them in the 1920s..." explains Carroll.

Diamonds Are A Girls's Best Friend is the big BIG show stopping piece of the second half. The Hayes Theatre Co. audience woot and clap and stand to their feet, before Georgina Hopson even completes her number. Magnificently staged, directed and performed we see Hopson (Lorelei) span more than two octaves, strut up (and down) stairs in sequins and heels, accompany herself on the white piano, and then deliver the big finish standing on top of it. The show is worth coming to for this song - Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend - alone. Possibly Hayes Theatre Co. could not have delivered a better rendering. The song is "Lorelei's fierce, feminist rallying call" states Falconer who as musical director is as much responsible for the power of this raised fist as the performer, when musically she strips it back to the bones.

Compared to the big Hollywood numbers in the film, the Hayes Theatre stage is stripped back too. It's an intimate theatre that seats 111, although with some audience members seated actually within the set, this number may have slightly puffed tonight. 

"Oh they do pretty things here" I can hear in the row right behind me before the show starts. And the Hayes Theatre cruise ship, hotel suite and cabaret club, like the costumes, are indeed beyond glamourous. Camp even? How can they manage to fit so much into such a small space? As in some other Hayes productions, the audience feels part of the show and the steep stairs of the aisle are also put to good use for entrances and exits.

Undoubtedly in such a strongly cast show, the two biggest stars are Georgina Hopson (Lorelei) and Emily Havea (Dorothy). Hopson captivates us, charms us, woos us even before we set sail. But she also fools us right until the end (she's smart). Fascinatingly Hopson radiates her own totally fabulous style, with just the slightest nod to the big name stars that went before: Marilyn Monroe (film) and Carol Channing (stage original). Hopson owns this. Just as confidently Havea injects oomph and sass. Her modern rebel endears us. Her own tunes capture our attention, hook us to the cause. Each of these ladies could be 'the one and only' in the spotlight, although as the Yin and Yang pair they create a force to be reckoned with. Also outstanding is Thomas Campbell whose characters magnify the humour of the lines and situations.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is the cat's pyjamas, exceedingly funny, visually and musically entertaining, so get your glad rags on and pop along to Potts Point - if there are any tickets for the season left to be had.

Photo credit John Mccrae.