Amid Oscar season, what better story to tell than that of William Haines, who stood up to the Hollywood studio that made him famous and then fired him, but did not break him. The Tailor-Made Man is based on director Claudio Macor's original play of some 20 years ago, and this brand spanking new musical is co-written with Amy Rosenthal and with music by Duncan Walsh Atkins and Adam Meggido, who also provided the lyrics.

Haines was the male winner of New Faces of 1922, a talent show organised by Samuel Goldwyn of MGM, upon which he was thrust into the studio machine with a seven-year contract to appear in one movie after another, a production line of visuals until the talkies came along. Louis B. Mayer, the studio boss, would exploit their "property" to the max, even arranging shoot dates around their female stars' menstrual cycles, one of whom was Show People (1928) co-star Marion Davies, with whom Haines became best friends. Although his homosexuality wasn't too much of an issue for the studio, despite his extremely promiscuous lifestyle and his live-in partner Jimmy Shields (a set-painter who also became his stand-in), Mayer's patience was tried after Haines was caught with his pants down in public and flatly refused to agree to a sham marriage to Pola Negri, recently widowed from Rudolph Valentino. The studio ended his contract and he went on to become an interior designer to the rich and famous and lived happily with Shields for over 50 years until his death.

Dylan Turner gives us a charming yet cheeky Haines with countless not-so-subtle innuendos, which would seem very risqué for the time but are delivered with such gay abandon that there is little time to process their meaning – well, he does have the "hardest working lips in California", etc. His voracious appetite was evident as he flirted outrageously with practically every male he encountered. Bradley Clarkson as Shields brings more gravitas to his role as the loving and supportive partner. The chemistry between them is convincing, especially in their sweet love duet "We Got Time", their voices complementing each other well (though Clarkson did have the edge). Faye Tozer's Marion was impressive and her transition from legendary pop sensation Steps to musical theatre seems to be a natural one. There are great bonding and harmonies between these three amigos, particularly in "Movies".

Mike McShane plays Louis B. Meyer with the kind of ruthlessness and intimidation that would promote the need for an employment tribunal. He's not the strongest singer but in his shining number "Family" he was channelling Topol somewhat – though the hurried nature of the lyrics meant not every word was audible. Matt Wilman as Howard Strickling, Mayer's "Max Clifford", gave a measured performance as the dutiful diplomatic right-hand man.
I must also mention the dulcet tones of Michael Cotton playing repressed in-house studio writer Victor Darro, who, having been seduced by Haines whilst Shields looked on, let to the most beautiful song "This Love of Yours", which brought a tear to my eye. However, for total clarity and scene-stealing delight, the amazing Kay Murphy, as the insanely dramatic and divine Negri – "How much can Pola bear?" – rendered some hysterics in attempting to justify her unwillingness to marry Haines.

Sophia Simensky's costumes are glamorous and authentic though the set is pretty basic on the compact stage of the Arts Theatre; however, effective use of lighting by Humphrey McDermott illuminates the pertinent areas when required. There isn't a glut of musical numbers but at least they're original, mostly witty, pertinent and pretty representative of the "Golden Age" – but what really stands out is the breathtaking choreography of Nathan M. Wright, who makes full use of the cast in the reprise of "Another Party" and "Design", given there is a fair amount of doubling required. The use of picture frames in "Pola House" as an Act 1 closer was really something of a spectacle.

The story is bookended by and interspersed with the older Shields reluctantly telling his story to an overly impertinent and aggressive journalist. This adds nothing to the musical, other than being a device to increase set changes and expedite its moving but schmaltzy ending. I couldn't help thinking that even since the studio system of long-term contracts was dismantled in the 1960s, not much has changed over the years with regards to Hollywood's power over its talent. Haines abandoned his acting career, but probably didn't regret it, as his integrity remained intact. Joan Crawford once described Haines and Shields as "the happiest married couple in Hollywood", and the saving grace of this tale is that it reflects that well enough to matter in the current climate.

Tailor Made Man, at Arts TheatreJoe Crystal reviews The Tailor-Made Man at the Arts Theatre, starring Dylan Turner.4