The only live performance of Bombshell (the Marilyn-themed musical from TV’s Smash) can now be streamed here. Donations to the Actors Fund are welcome. Meanwhile, Variety reports that a stage musical based on Smash is heading to Broadway, as well as a new adaptation of Some Like It Hot, also penned by Bombshell composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.
“Like the series, the stage show will follow the efforts to mount Bombshell, the Broadway musical-within-a-musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe. However, its backers said the plot will also deviate from that of the series. Some characters such as writers Julia and Tom (played by Debra Messing and Christian Borle on the small screen), as well as stars Ivy and Karen (portrayed on TV by Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee) will still be central to the storyline. Other details are being kept under wraps, presumably until opening night.”
In March, it was reported that a new musical adaptation of Some Like It Hot would open in Chicago next year (see here.) But as Playbill reports today, it will now go straight to Broadway in Autumn 2021. With music by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman – the songwriting team behind TV’s Smash – and a script by Matthew Lopez, this is not the only stage musical inspired by Marilyn’s comedy classic. The first, Sugar (1972), is still frequently revived in repertory theatres worldwide.
A staged reading of Marilyn, Mom & Me – Luke Yankee’s play about his late mother, actress Eileen Heckart’s friendship with Marilyn during filming of Bus Stop – will be available to stream later today on YouTube, through to Sunday.
Back in 2015, the cast of TV’s backstage drama Smash gave a live performance of the show’s Marilyn-inspired musical (see here.) On May 20, they will reunite to present an online broadcast of Bombshell, the New York Timesreports.
“Actors including Katharine McPhee, Debra Messing and Megan Hilty will reunite May 20 to present a stream of the one-night-only 2015 Broadway concert of the musical within the TV show Smash, The Associated Press has learned. It will be seen on People.com, PeopleTV and the magazine’s Facebook page and Twitter.
The evening will be introduced by two-time Academy Award winner Renée Zellweger and will involve memories, stories and comments from the original cast.
Smash ended its TV run in 2013 and the cast reunited for a one-night only Bombshell In Concert at the Minskoff Theater in front of 1,600 people two years later, which became one of the most successful fundraisers ever for The Actors Fund. The stream of that concert also will encourage viewers to donate to the organization.
In the past seven weeks, the Fund has distributed more than $10.1 million in emergency financial assistance — more than five times it normally provides in a year.”
Actress Shirley Knight has died aged 83, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Born in Kansas, she wanted to be an opera singer but caught the acting bug after director Joshua Logan came to her hometown and hired Shirley and her family as extras on his movie, Picnic (1955), and allowed her to watch Kim Novak and William Holden at work.
Shirley’s first big break was on Broadway in 1960, when Elia Kazan directed her in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs. In 1962, she starred opposite Paul Newman in Sweet Bird of Youth, the big-screen adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play, winning a Best Supporting Actress nomination and becoming one of Williams’ favourite actresses. Then in 1964, she asked to be released from her Warner Brothers contract and moved to New York, where she joined the Actors’ Studio.
Alternating work in the theatre with film roles, Shirley appeared in The Group (1966), Petulia (1968), and The Rain People (1969), which director Francis Ford Coppola wrote for her. After a ten-year marriage to actor Gene Lersson, she married the English writer John Hopkins in 1969, dividing her time between America and the UK.
In 1976, she won a Tony award for her role as Carla, a failed Marilyn Monroe wannabe, in Robert Patrick’s play, Kennedy’s Children, which centred on a group of disillusioned activists meeting in a bar. She reprised the role in a 1982 TV movie of the same name, co-starring Jane Alexander, Lindsay Crouse and Brad Dourif.
Despite turning down the role of Sue-Ellen Ewing in Dallas, Shirley later won three Emmys for her television work, appearing in shows like NYPD Blue, Thirtysomething and Desperate Housewives. Her later films included As Good As It Gets (1997), and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009), written and directed by Rebecca Miller, daughter of Arthur Miller.
In recent years, Shirley was working on a memoir, and enjoyed caring for her rescue dog. She died of natural causes on April 22, 2020 at her daughter’s home in Texas. Due to public restrictions over coronavirus, her memorial service will be held in 2021.
As a part of a series on great American plays, Broadway World presents some interesting facts about After the Fall, Arthur Miller’s controversial play which explored aspects of his personal life, including his marriage to Marilyn. (You can read further posts about the play and its history here.)
“After the Fall premiered on Broadway in 1964. The production was directed by Elia Kazan, and starred Barbara Loden as Maggie and Jason Robards Jr. as Quentin. Barbara Loden won the 1964 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play, and Jason Robards was nominated for the 1964 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play.
The play is based off of Miller’s recent divorce from Marilyn Monroe, and is considered to be one of Miller’s least popular plays with critics. The plot is non-linear and takes on surrealist elements.
After the Fall was revived Off-Broadway in 1984. It was directed by John Tillinger, and starred Frank Langella and Dianne Wiest.
The play was revived on Broadway in 2004 by Roundabout Theatre Company. It was directed by Michael Mayer, and starred Peter Krause and Carla Gugino. The production was nominated for the 2005 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design of a Play.”
Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman – the team behind Smash, an NBC drama depicting the making of a Broadway musical about Marilyn – are adapting Some Like It Hot for the stage, with a pre-Broadway limited run set for Chicago in March 2021, Deadline reports. (The classic movie was, of course, partly set in the windy city in the Roaring Twenties.) Some Like It Hot was previously turned into another stage musical, Sugar, which remains popular in regional theatre. Shaiman and Wittman had earlier discussed bringing Bombshell, the ‘show within a show’ from Smash, to the stage, before announcing their current venture back in 2018 (see here.)
Anne Carson’s verse play, Norma Jeane Baker of Troy, baffled New York’s theatregoers in 2019. The script has now been published, though I must admit I was rather underwhelmed. But art critic Audrey Wollen, who wrote a perceptive essay last year about images of Marilyn reading, has contributed an intriguing analysis of the play in the February/March issue of Book Forum.
“As legends, the parallels between Marilyn and Helen are obvious. They are both superlative in their femininity, girl-ness at god level, with beauty that made them special and made them suffer. Marilyn never directly caused any international conflicts (despite that little JFK subplot), but she has still become a cautionary tale, although what exactly we are cautioned about is unclear. (Personal despair? Public sexuality? Tomato, tomato.) And while she eventually identified as a leftist, officially un-American, her image was often wedded to America’s wars. In fact, her entire career is owed to it: She was discovered as a model while working in a factory assembling drones during World War II, smiling wide next to heavy, morbid machinery. Her ‘bombshell’ moniker greased the association, her name slipping between sex, death, and nation. By the time she visited the American troops in Korea in 1954, a hundred thousand soldiers came out to express their desire and, by extension, their allegiance. Like Helen, she was what they were fighting for.
The play ends with language hardening its shell into event again. The kernel of the story that Carson wants to tell is sung early on: ‘Rape is the story of Helen, Persephone, Norma Jeane, Troy. War is the context and God is a boy. . . . Truth is, it’s a disaster to be a girl.’ At the story’s close, an earthquake hits Los Angeles, causing a tsunami to flood the entire city: ‘Aristotle thought earthquakes were caused by winds trapped in subterranean caves. We’re more scientific now, we know it’s just five guys fracking the fuck out of the world while it’s still legal.’ The light changes, ‘like morning at midnight,’ and our heroine leaves the hotel for the first time, sailing on a war boat through Hollywood’s sunken ruins. Like Euripides, Carson closes the curtains on the wide, open sea. Another fantasy floats to the surface, another absolution: Norma Jeane escapes, inheriting Helen’s endlessness. The clouds watch from above, in sisterhood.”
56 years years ago today, on January 23rd, 1964, Arthur Miller’s After the Fall, opened at the ANTA Theatre on Washington Square in New York, as Playbill Vault reports. Miller’s first new play in eight years, After the Fall proved controversial, not least in the casting of director Elia Kazan’s wife Barbara Loden as Maggie, a drug-addicted, suicidal pop singer, reminiscent of Arthur’s ex-wife, Marilyn Monroe. Maggie’s lawyer husband Quentin was played by Jason Robards, not Christopher Plummer (who would finally play Miller’s conflicted hero ten years later, opposite Faye Dunaway in a TV movie of the same.) After the Fall ran for 208 performances, and remains one of Miller’s more frequently revived plays. You can read more about the play and its links to Marilyn here.
Goodman Basil Espy III, M.D. loved purchasing sports and Hollywood memorabilia, so it’s not surprising that Marilyn’s romance with baseball legend Joe DiMaggio – and especially, their tour of Japan and Korea – would be at the heart of his Monroe archive, as we discover in this third post about the November 14 auction at Julien’s, A Southern Gentleman’s Collection. And first up, this ‘Official American League Ball‘ is signed in blue ballpoint ink ‘Marilyn Monroe’ – but not in the sweet spot! (You can read all posts about this sale here.)
“A set of two travel alarm clocks; the first beige metal with a ribbed plastic retractable cover by Westclox; the second brass with a red face by Tiffany & Co., engraved on the bottom ‘Marilyn Monroe;’ interestingly, MM was shot in a series of black and white photographs by Bob Beerman circa 1953 where the Westclox piece can be seen on her bedside table.”
SOLD for $7,500
Following a two-year courtship, Marilyn and Joe were married in January 1954. Weeks later, they went on a ‘honeymoon‘ of sorts, as Joe promoted baseball in Japan. These four photos show the couple en route, and after their arrival in Tokyo. And sold separately, “a traditional Japanese fan likely made of bamboo and painted black with a natural wood handle … according to a catalogue description from Christie’s where it was originally sold, ‘…Joe immediately purchased this small memento for his one true love’ apparently on ‘February 2, 1954.'”
Photos SOLD for $896; fan SOLD for $2,560
“A standard United States Department of Defense identification card issued to Marilyn, featuring a small black and white photograph of her in the upper left corner, text reads in part ‘DiMaggio, Norma Jeane,’ photograph is dated ‘4 Feb 54,’ card is dated ‘8 Feb. 1954,’ signed by Monroe in blue ballpoint ink on the lower margin ‘Norma Jeane DiMaggio,’ further black fountain pen ink annotations of the issuing officer appear below, verso displays Monroe’s finger prints next to her typed statistics reading ‘Height 5′ 5 1/2″ / Weight 118 / Color of Hair Blonde / Color of Eyes Blue / Religion None / Blood Type UNK / Date of Birth 1 June 26,’ laminated. Monroe visited Japan and then Korea while on her honeymoon with Joe DiMaggio in February of 1954, and she was given this ‘Noncombatant’s Certificate of Identity’ so she could perform for the American troops while there.”
UNSOLD – reserve not met
A group of three snapshots, all taken in February 1954 when Marilyn was performing for the US troops in Korea; the first shows MM from the back as she walks by; the other two show a cake the soldiers presented to her (though she’s not in the shots). And sold separately, a strip of paper with a soldier’s name and other information on it, signed in blue ballpoint ink ‘Marilyn Monroe.'”
Photos SOLD for $320; autograph SOLD for $2,240
“A single sheet of paper, typed with notes about Marilyn’s Korean tour that appears to be for photo captions or perhaps an interview, heavily annotated in pencil in Monroe’s hand where she revises or edits the typed text, ending with ‘I knew it was raining – but I somehow didn’t / feel it – all I could think was I hoped / they weren’t getting too wet / Korea – / an experience I’ll never forget.'”
SOLD for $3,200
“A standard issue military jacket made of olive green wool, long sleeves, two front flap pockets, six button front closure, stamped on inside lining in part ‘Medium,’ adorned with countless Army-related patches, insignia, and lapel pins, further patch sewn above left pocket with white stitching reads ‘Monroe;’ presented to the star by a VIP soldier when she famously visited the troops in February 1954 while on her honeymoon with Joe DiMaggio; the jacket is displayed within a shadow box along with two black and white images [sold separately, here]: one shows MM receiving the folded-up jacket from a soldier named McGarr; the other shows MM with McGarr and Jean O’Doul [wife of baseball great, Lefty O’Doul] wearing the jacket.
Jacket SOLD for $44,800; photos SOLD for $768
“A single page of stationery printed with an ‘M,’ penned in blue ballpoint ink, no date, to ‘Jimmy,’ reading in part ‘I was so happy you met us / at the airport and I got to see you / again – your [sic] one of my favorite / people you know,’ ending with ‘Have a Happy Birthday and a / wonderful time / Marilyn’ — Jimmy being James ‘Lefty’ O’Doul, professional baseball player and later a manager and mentor to Joe DiMaggio; included with its original envelope addressed to ‘Mr. Jimmy Gold O’doul [sic] / Personal.’ And sold separately, four photos taken in Korea; three depict Marilyn with others as she wears her fitted checkered dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953); one depicts Jean O’Doul [wife of baseball great Lefty O’Doul] and a soldier; versos of all display various handwritten annotations in pencil and fountain pen ink including the date of ’27/2/54.'”
Letter SOLD for $6,400; photos SOLD for $1,250
Original photo, though now creased and wrinkled, depicting Marilyn in a living room with four other females circa 1954, a black ballpoint ink annotation handwritten on the verso reads ‘This is the interior / of the house in / Beverly Hills. It was / rented by Joe;’ also included are three other snapshots from the same day but printed decades later.”
SOLD for $768
“A small clutch-style purse, made of beige raw silk, gold-tone metal frame with rhinestone closure, zipper on bottom opens to reveal another compartment, inside lined in tan-colored silk, label reads ‘Saks Fifth Avenue,’ additional studio label reads ‘1-6-3-1667 M. Monroe A-729; used by Marilyn as ‘Vicky Parker’ in an extended sequence with Donald O’Connor as ‘Tim Donahue’ in There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954.)”
SOLD for $15,625
“A standard playbill for The Teahouse of the August Moonsigned in blue fountain pen ink on the top margin of the cover by Marilyn and in turquoise fountain pen ink on the side margin of the cover by Joe DiMaggio.” [The play starred David Wayne, who had appeared with Marilyn in four films, including How to Marry a Millionaire. She would see the play again after moving to New York, when her Actors’ Studio buddy Eli Wallach joined the cast.]
SOLD for $5,670
“A group of four telegrams, variously dated in December 1954, to the star and her lawyer [Frank Delaney] from an executive at 20th Century Fox, outlining how Marilyn needs to fulfill her obligation to The Seven Year Itch even though she’s sick; funny documents showing how Marilyn was being Marilyn and the studio had to acquiesce because she was…Marilyn. And sold separately, a contact sheet depicting 12 images of Marilyn wearing a white fur stole as she stands next to Itch director Billy Wilder in 1954, mounted to cardboard, signed in black felt-tip ink in the lower right corner ‘for Billy Wilder from Dick Avedon / 67.'”
Telegrams SOLD for $1,024; contact sheet SOLD for $3,200
“A small piece of paper with the top and bottom portions torn off, one side has penciled questions written in another hand, likely that of Ben Hecht or Sidney Skolsky [as both men who helped Marilyn to write her 1954 memoir, My Story, which wasn’t published until 1974], reading in full ‘Think about / 1) anecdote about pics / working on / 2) about Johnny Hyde – / how helped you – gave courage,’ rest of page and other side have Monroe’s blue fountain pen ink responses, with one compelling part reading ‘for those who want to / judge – I’ve traded my (paper purposely torn off here but evidently ‘body’) / more than once / for shelter and small quantities / of understanding and / warmth. I never traded for money / or a job directly or anything (one) could see / with the naked eye / except from one man / who was also deeply lonely…’ and it ends there on that cliffhanger!”