TRACKING RAQUEL

For an actress who hasn’t yet arrived on the London stage, Raquel Welch has been commandeering local arts pages of late, as the British press chronicle her every regional move (and review) during her provincial tour of Shaw’s “The Millionairess,” directed by John Caird. (One piece twice enthused about Welch’s Broadway success in “Applause.” Try again, folks.)

Inheriting a role played at various times by Katharine Hepburn and Sophia Loren, Welch found herself temporarily homeless when Mayfair Theaters decided to give its prime Albery playhouse to a return engagement of the Cameron Mackintosh “Five Guys Named Moe” – guaranteed for five months – rather than the far iffier Welch revival, which in any case would have run no more than 12 to 14 weeks.

The fact that the Albery box office had been selling “Millionairess” tickets for three days before it was pulled April 6 in the end made no difference: Since no ads had yet been taken, the public didn’t realize tickets were on sale. Meanwhile, numerous other theaters are being mentioned for London in May- the Haymarket, Gielgud, and Old Vic among them.

So is Welch any good? The Farnham Herald in suburban Surrey called her “a life-size Barbie doll.” But if she can sustain over an entire evening the elan with which she pronounced her character’s name – Epifania Ognisanti di Parerga – at the recent Olivier Awards, Welch might be just the summer breeze the West End needs.

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