Margot Kidder 1948-2018

Margot Kidder as Cherie in HBO’s ‘Bus Stop’ (1982)

Yesterday brought the sad news that Canadian-born actress Margot Kidder has passed away aged 69. Many children of the 1970s (myself included) will remember her as Lois Lane in the Superman movies. But did you know she also played Cherie in a 1982 television remake of Bus Stop? Filmed for HBO at the Claremont Theatre in California, it was a more literal adaptation of William Inge’s play, featuring additional characters not seen in Marilyn’s 1956 movie. If you’re curious about Margot’s performance, watch this Youtube clip from 6:20 onwards – and a full copy can be purchased for $23 from DVD Cafe.

Sugar Heads Back to Broadway

A new Broadway musical based on Some Like It Hot is in the works, Playbill reports.

“A new musical adaptation of the film classic Some Like It Hot is in the works, with a Broadway premiere slated for 2020. The project hails from the Shubert Organization and Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the team behind NBC’s roster of live musicals.

The show will feature a score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, plus a book by playwright Matthew Lopez. Casey Nicholaw will direct and choreograph.

Shaiman and Wittman are no strangers to the Marilyn Monroe canon, having previously penned songs for Bombshell, the fictional Monroe bio-musical in the NBC series Smash. A real-life stage presentation of Bombshell, produced by Zadan and Meron, is long-gestating

The 1959 Billy Wilder comedy was previously adapted for the stage with Jule Styne, Bob Merrill, and Peter Stone’s Sugar, which opened on Broadway in 1972, going on to earn four Tony nominations and play over 500 performances.”

 

‘Finishing the Picture’ in London

Arthur Miller’s last play, Finishing the Picture, looks back to the filming of The Misfits and although Marilyn (depicted as ‘Kitty’) is seldom seen, she is the force that binds together the other characters (based on Miller, the Strasbergs, Huston etc.)

From June 12-July 7, Finishing the Picture will have its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre, above the Finborough Arms pub in Earl’s Court, London. More details will follow – but for now, read my review of the play here.

Marilyn Book News: The Girl, Hollywood and More

2018 is shaping up to be another great year for Marilyn’s book-loving fans. Marilyn: Lost and Forgotten, featuring 150 images from Colin Slater’s Hollywood Photo Archive, is set for publication in October. For those who can’t get enough of those classic Hollywood beauties, a companion volume – Venus in Hollywood: Portraits from the Golden Age of Glamour – is due in November.

Michelle Morgan’s latest book, The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch, and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist, will be published in May. For the latest updates, follow Michelle’s blog here.

Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon, a full-scale biography by Charles Casillo, will follow in August.

Looking further ahead,  Amanda Konkle’s Some Kind of Mirror: Creating Marilyn Monroe, a scholarly look at her film performances, will be published in February 2019. (Only the Kindle version is available for pre-order as yet.)

In related interest, Marilyn graces the cover of Samantha Barbas’ Confidential Confidential: The Inside Story of Hollywood’s Notorious Scandal Magazine, due in September. (The notorious ‘Wrong Door Raid’ is also featured in Jim Heimann’s Dark City: The Real Los Angeles Noir, just published by Taschen.

Reno, a 2016 play by Roy Smiles about Marilyn’s conflicted relationships with husband Arthur Miller and director John Huston during the tumultuous filming of The Misfits, will be published shortly by Oberon Modern Playwrights (the Kindle version is currently available for pre-order.)

And finally, Elizabeth Winder’s Marilyn in Manhattan is now available in Turkish; and Marilyn Monroe: 1926-1962, a new study of her untimely death by Eva Enderström, has been published in Sweden.

When Sugar Came to Broadway

Elaine Joyce (Sugar) with ‘Josephine’ (Tony Roberts) and ‘Daphne’ (Robert Morse)

Ron Fassler, author of Up in the Cheap Seats: A Historical Memoir of Broadway, has written an article, ‘A Sprinkling of Sugar‘, about the musical theatre adaptation of Some Like It Hot. Written by Peter Stone, with music by Gentlemen Prefer Blondes composer Jule Styne and lyrics by Bob Merrill, Sugar was first produced at the Majestic Theatre on West 44th St, NYC, running for 505 performances from 1972-73, and has since become a firm favourite in regional theatre and with amateur dramatics societies everywhere.

Elaine Joyce as ‘Sugar’, with Tony Roberts as Joe

“David Merrick, a producer with an enviable track record, as well as a talent for alienating close to everyone he ever came in contact with, was the man behind figuring out a way to bring a musical version of Some Like It Hot to the Broadway stage — and it wasn’t easy …

Merrick optioned Fanfaren de Liebe, the German screenplay upon which Wilder and Diamond based Some Like It Hot. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t allow for Merrick to set the show in the Roaring Twenties, perfect for a musical, as that was an idea of Wilder and Diamond’s … But with Merrick not being the type to give up without a fight, he eventually nabbed the rights from United Artists to use Wilder and Diamond’s screenplay as the source for his musical.

When Sugar opened on Broadway forty-six years ago tonight at the Majestic Theatre, it featured a relative unknown, Elaine Joyce in the title part, the one first created by Marilyn Monroe in the film … Yet the show remained a bit of a disappointment creatively, even though it did good business.

As a teenager, I saw Sugar early in its run, and though intermittently entertaining on its own merits, the show was really all about the comedic skills, dazzling energy and one-of-a-kind charisma of Robert Morse. As Jerry and his female alter-ego, Daphne, Morse was the real deal.

Sugar’s impromptu pyjama party with Daphne (Robert Morse)

With Some Like It Hot’s status as a film classic not only undiminished over the years, but continuing to grow, there have been numerous attempts to revive Sugar’s fortunes, in hopes of it maybe one day finding its way back to Broadway. One was a 1992 London version with British favorite Tommy Steele, and another was a U.S. touring production in 2002 with Tony Curtis, this time in the Joe E. Brown role of Osgood, the randy millionaire.

Of course, both productions took on a new title: Some Like It Hot.”

Thanks to Jackie at Marilyn Remembered

Marilyn Opera in Vienna

First produced in Banff, Canada back in 2010, then in Long Beach, California in 2015, Marilyn Forever – an opera by composer Gavin Bryars and librettist Marilyn Bowering (based on her 1987 poetry collection, Anyone Can See I Love You) – makes its European debut in English with German surtitles at the Schwarzenbergplatz Casino in Vienna on selected dates from April 13-May 2nd.  Rebecca Babb-Nelsen  stars as Marilyn.

“Starting from the last night in the life of Marilyn Monroe, 5 August 1962, the scenes of the opera unfold in front of the audience like pieces of a puzzle that together make up the myth of Marilyn: moments of her life, set pieces from her poems, her relationship with Arthur Miller, the identities of the orphan Norma Jeane and the fictional character Marilyn, the discrepancy between their personal ideals of love and artistry and the outward appearance of the sex symbol. The eight-member chamber orchestra is complemented by a jazz trio on stage.”

Sunny Thompson on ‘Becoming Marilyn’

Becoming Marilyn Monroe, the new documentary about Sunny Thompson’s one-woman show (Marilyn: Forever Blonde), is set to have its world premiere at the American Documentary Film Festival in Palm Springs on April 10. Sunny recently spoke about her long-running stage role with Bruce Fessier of the Desert Sun.

“Why is Marilyn still fascinating more than 55 years after her death?

I think it has a lot to do with her softness. You can see it in her eyes in all of her photos … I have met young girls who came to the play and said they were big Marilyn fans and yet they had never seen a movie with Marilyn in it.  Only her photos! They had fallen in love with an image.

After 10 years, what did you learn that was most interesting about her?

Maybe how absolutely terrified she was facing the press and yet how charming and witty she was at answering their questions, like coming up with something engagingly clever.

Have you learned to turn the Marilyn character on and off the way Marilyn did?

Funny you mention that because I think I might have an inkling as to how Marilyn must have felt around people. She couldn’t really just be herself … People come up to me and say ‘You play Marilyn Monroe?’ And if I just say yes, they are disappointed. But if I light up and sparkle a bit, and give them a little Marilyn look, then they go away happy.

How would you describe Marilyn’s state of mind on the last day of her life? 

I lived that day on stage hundreds of times and I always felt Marilyn was feeling unloved and disillusioned. I play her reliving her life before an audience and deathly afraid that when her looks go and her body goes she will be nothing! I want to believe she didn’t purposely take her own life.”

Marilyn Musical Heads to Las Vegas

Marilyn! The New Musical, produced in association with ABG – the licensing wing of Marilyn’s estate – is coming to Las Vegas, NBC reports. A version of this show was first staged in Glendale, California back in 2016, but I understand there have been some personnel changes since then. As diehard fans will know, official approval is not always a guarantee of quality but let’s hope this will be an entertaining tribute.

“One of Hollywood’s most iconic stars is coming to the Las Vegas Strip in Marilyn! The New Musicalan original musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. The show will open at Paris Las Vegas with preview performances beginning May 23 and a grand opening June 1, just in time for Marilyn’s birthday. Written, directed and produced by Tegan Summer, CEO of Prospect House Entertainment, in partnership with Authentic Brands Group, owner of the Estate of Marilyn Monroe, the new musical will feature acclaimed Broadway actress Ruby Lewis as the resident Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn! The New Musical features 20 original musical numbers as well as classics like ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ and ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy,’ telling the story of one of the world’s most famous women, from her days as Norma Jeane overcoming a difficult childhood, to her meteoric rise to stardom and becoming one of the biggest and most enduring sex symbols of all time.

The Marilyn! cast includes the best talent that Broadway, Los Angeles and Las Vegas have to offer including: Brittney Bertier as Norma JeaneFrank Lawson as Charlie, Marilyn’s trusted driver, Travis Cloer as Milton GreeneChris Fore as Bill PurselRandal Keith as Darryl F. Zanuck, Christopher Showerman as Joe DiMaggioMatthew Tyler as Arthur MillerLindsay Roginski as Jane RussellUna Eggerts as Jayne Mansfield, and Chanel Edwards-Frederick as Ella FitzgeraldKelley Jakle will serve as the swing for Marilyn Monroe. In addition, the show anticipates a rotating cast of celebrity guest performers in the lead and supporting roles.'”

NBC Confirms Plans to Bring ‘Smash’ to Broadway

Katharine McPhee onstage in ‘Bombshell’, 2015

Plans to remake NBC’s Smash – the 2012 TV drama whose first season focused on the making of Bombshell, a fictitious stage musical about Marilyn – as a Broadway show were announced following a one-off performance of Bombshell back in 2015. Since then there have been occasional updates on the project, such as a Hollywood Reporter article from last year. And as NBC’s Robert Greenblatt confirms in the latest episode of Variety’s podcast, Stagecraft, those plans are still in the works – although it now appears that Bombshell will be re-incorporated into Smash, rather than as a stand-alone musical.

“Superfans and hate-watchers, take note: You may not have seen the last of Smash.

So says Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment … The 2012 series about New York theater people was a polarizing phenomenon among real-life New York theater people — ‘Smash may have invented the concept of hate-watching,’ Greenblatt jokes — but it’s still got a following. ‘Interestingly enough, I hear more about people loving Smash now than I ever did when it was on the air.’

Which is one of the reasons Greenblatt and the show’s team of creators and producers are exploring a future life for Smash beyond the Actors Fund concert staging of the original songs Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman wrote for Bombshell, the Broadway-show-within-the-show. “We’ve been thinking about different ways to think about a stage musical based on Bombshell or Smash,’ Greenblatt reveals. ‘That’s all I’ll say. There’s an incarnation which could sort of combine both. … You may not have seen the last of Smash yet. I think the next incarnation will be on stage.'”

Marilyn Onstage in Milan

The Last Tapes of Marilyn Monroe, a new play starring Italian actress Marianna Esposito, was staged in Milan last Saturday. While Marilyn’s alleged stream-of-consciousness tapes for Dr Ralph Greenson have never materialised, and detective John Miner’s self-proclaimed transcription is also highly questionable, the play – written and directed by Guilio Federico Janni – has nonetheless been praised by diehard fans, including Gianandrea Colombo who posted his review on the Marilyn Monroe – Italia Facebook group.

Marianna Esposito as Marilyn

“A well-written and sincere monologue, which ‘undressed’ Marilyn from the clichés of stupidity and frivolousness. Among ‘educated’ quotations – from Shakespeare to Joyce – Marianna Esposito cried and smiled, retracing the last hours of Marilyn through the ‘relationship’ with her therapist. Being in the front row, I was able to enjoy the skill of this actress whose strong point is a mime and intense expressiveness, the ability to pass from languid glances to inconsolable crying, to stage the same effervescence of the glass of sparkling wine that her Marilyn sips during the show, telling of life, love and cinema. Marianna Esposito crosses the border between actor and spectator with firmness, direct looks and a physicality exhibited without hesitation. A minimal setting, soft lighting and the magic of a play written and certainly acted ‘from the heart’, elevates the soul of the woman behind the mask of the myth.”