Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed 16 June 2018
Written and performed by Joanne Hartstone this cabaret show is fabulous – it’s entertaining, moving, amusing, has some great songs but more than anything it is thought provoking. There really was a woman who jumped off the Hollywood sign. Peg Entwistle jumped off the Hollywood sign in 1932. Although a successful performer on Broadway after less than a year in Los Angeles she was dead.
The girl on the sign is Evelyn Edwards, stage name Evie Edwards, and before she jumps she tells us her sad story. Born just before the crash of 1929, she is left motherless from birth and her father becomes a beacon in her life. Like many others in Depression era America Evelyn grows up in one of the thousands of shanty town Hoovervilles until they can afford a cheap room.
Although life has been tough with little money, she had been happy living in the boarding house and is sad to leave Mrs Dempsey to move to Los Angeles when she is18, as her father seeks work in the munitions factories of WWII. Like so many other young women Evelyn loves the movies and wants to be an actor.
Hartstone gives a compelling performance, displaying her characters range of emotions with great intensity. We see Evelyn devastated by the death of her father, an inveterate gambler who is shot in a bar. Then the excitement of performing in the Hollywood canteen – helped along with a little Dutch courage – in the hope that she will be noticed. The swings from despair to hope are mirrored in the wonderful songs we hear.
Driven in desperation to the ‘Casting Couch’, Evie, the wannabe actor, finally gets in to see Jules C. Stein who was a real life Hollywood promoter with the power to make or break stars. She sings well but not brilliantly; she is pretty but not beautiful; she is too short/tall/fat/thin; whatever the studios want it seems she’s not it.
Through the tragic story of Evie, and of stars such as Jean Harlow and Judy Garland, both of whom suffered physically and mentally by trying to meet the desires of the Hollywood studios, Hartstone gives us a tragic insight into the devastating human costs of the ‘Dream Factory’. Sadly, the entertainment industry’s heartless quest for the next new star, which devoured this young woman, has not changed nearly enough or we would not need movements such as #MeToo in the 21st century.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Rating out of 5: 5
Venue: The Space
Season: 16, 17 June
Duration: 70 mins
Tickets: $46.90 $41.90 Conc $36.90