A CAST OF STARS by Allan Prior


Email this review


Prior, who made a passable love-story/show-biz diversion from British-music-hall history in Never Been Kissed (1979), now turns to more contemporary London theatricals--in a novel that follows the production of a West End drama. . . but ultimately finds its minimal plot in the droopy question of who's-sleeping-with-whom. Brash, beautiful Jill Viner, assistant to a big London producer, breaks out on her own when her boss turns down The Queen of Finland, a serious anti-Communist play (which sounds truly deadly in summary) by a fanatical dissident-Soviet refugee: Jill quits her job, options the play, and teams up with widower/director Josh Williams, who has quit his job (at the National). The novel then follows Jill and Josh as they persuade four star actors to take roles: US filmstar Austin Ames, a Dustin Hoffman type; Maggie Stride, a Meryl Streep clone who is reluctant to leave her terminally ill lover (a tasteless recycling of real-life Streep material); and two English legends--the Gielgud-ish Sir Harry (homosexual, elegant), the Olivier-ish Sir Piers (boisterous, vain). Next: the raising of the money--as Jill annoys Josh with her ruthlessness (they're now lovers); Jill's crass, publicity-stunt casting of the ingenue (unknown Brigid gets the part); the rehearsals--with shaky Maggie unable to get over her now-dead lover. But, as the production goes out-of-town, standard backstage soap-opera moves to the fore: Josh dumps too-tough Jill, who anguishes; he becomes Maggie's lover/comforter (a role which Austin covets); Brigid sleeps with the stage-manager, gets pregnant, then turns to lesbian designer Tommi for abortion aid and erotic warmth. And, after the play becomes an unlikely hit in London (thanks, supposedly, to the Queen's attendance at a performance), the lovers regroup--Josh with Jill, Maggie with Austin. Only half-convincing as a British show-biz exposÉ (even Simon Brett's mysteries have a more authentic feel), and weakly sentimental as an unappealing-people romance--but the tacky roman à clef touches and nitty-gritty specifics may attract the undemanding portion of the stagestruck readership.

Pub Date: March 15th, 1983
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston