Cabaret Tribute to Marilyn at Edinburgh Fringe

So many stage tributes to Marilyn veer into caricature. Fortunately, cabaret artist Viviana Zarbo has avoided the pitfalls in her latest performance piece – pointedly titled I Am Not Marilyn – currently showing as part of this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. By intertwining tales about Marilyn’s life with her own, Viviana recounts how her life was shaped by Marilyn’s songs – earning a rave review from Lorraine at Marilyn Remembered.

“In I Am Not Marilyn, the title speaks for itself.  Zarbo has created a show dedicated to Monroe, but there isn’t a trace of the blonde stereotype on stage before you.  What you see before you is a proper, loving tribute to Marilyn’s talents as a singer. No gimmicks, no nothing… just an incredibly talented singer paying tribute to her idol.  Viviana is accompanied on stage by two very talented musicians, Chris Neill on piano and Stephanie Legg on Saxophone, both complimenting her sweet, sultry, velvet tones and we’re treated to beautiful renditions of Monroe’s finest songs such as Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend, I Wanna Be Loved By You, My Heart Belongs To Daddy and a hauntingly beautiful arrangement of Kiss from the movie Niagara.

Marilyn at the Edinburgh Festival

Marilyn is a hot topic in fringe theatre, though the results aren’t always stellar. At this year’s Edinburgh Festival, she’s the subject of two new shows, reviewed by Joyce McMillan for The Scotsman.

The Marilyn Conspiracy has grabbed a few headlines although Marilyn herself isn’t depicted – it’s set in the hours after her death, as some of the main players in her final months respond to the tragedy.

“The play is desperately confusing at first, and urgently needs to use its tableau-like opening moments to let the characters tell us exactly who they are … It’s a measure of the sheer power of the story, though, that the play rivets the attention nonetheless, as the two doctors in the room, and even Marilyn’s furious friend Pat Newcomb, are gradually worn down … “

However, another audience member – MM superfan Lorraine – told me, “The Marilyn Conspiracy had all the bogus theories – the ambulance, Bobby Kennedy, injections, enemas etc … I could hear people laughing a lot at some of the theories talked about … maybe the audience all knew better!” In his review for The Stage Paul Vale agrees, describing the play as a “stifling, under-developed drama that blurs fact and fiction.”

Theatregoers whom (like myself) aren’t enthralled by conspiracy theories may prefer the lighter option…

“JoJo Desmond’s cabaret show The Marilyn Monroe Story is a fragile little piece by comparison, a brief and simply staged hour of songs and biographical narrative tracing Marilyn’s remarkable life, not least through versions of some of her most famous and fabulous costumes. Desmond sings Marilyn’s songs beautifully, in a near-perfect imitation of her breathily gorgeous voice; and she, too, observes the link with the #metoo moment. Her script, though, never soars into anything like the brilliant writing a life like Marilyn’s invites and for all her charm, she is a long way from even beginning to capture the glowing charisma of the woman herself.”

Once again, Lorraine’s view was quite different to McMillan’s. “On the whole,” she says, “the show was well-researched and the costumes and mannerisms and performances of songs were spot on … the voice was accurate and she had some beautiful costumes (including a ‘Heat Wave’ replica outfit!), and you could tell that she had studied every single movement that Marilyn does in each of the musical performances.”

Where Marilyn is concerned, a diehard fan can be more perceptive than most theatre critics. Lorraine will be posting her full review of both shows soon on the Marilyn Remembered blog.

Marissa Mulder: Fragments of Marilyn

Cabaret singer Marissa Mulder will perform Fragments of Marilyn, a unique tribute blending music from past and present with Marilyn’s own words, at the Gaslight Theatre in St Louis, Missouri tonight and tomorrow (March 18-19), reports STLPublicRadio.

“Marissa Mulder, a cabaret singer, will perform a tribute to Marilyn Monroe in a variety of styles. She said she drew inspiration to do so from a photograph.

‘There was just something about her eyes in the photograph that registered with me,’ Mulder said.

Her performance is unusual in that the music is from all over the place…and different from the style you might normally see in a cabaret club.

‘I’ll be singing songs from Alanis Morissette to George Gershwin to Noel Coward to Nine Inch Nails to Tom Waits,’ Mulder said. ‘It is a musical journey about Marilyn’s life. All of the spoken-word in the show are Marilyn’s words from diaries, recipes, hotel stationery. It is chronicling her inner feelings from joy to sadness.'”

Brighton’s Marilyn Lookalike Opens New Venue

Brighton’s very own Marilyn lookalike, Laura Nixon, has opened her own venue in the seaside city. The Jive Monkey, at 5 Steine Street, is ‘set to be a focus for performers and the first port of call for those who want to see quality entertainment or just have a relaxed drink in a non-pretentious but glamourous setting.’

Opening this Friday, December 2, the Jive Monkey is compared by Latest 7 magazine to ‘a dark 1920s speakeasy with the discretion of a gentlemen’s club plus the excitement of a Berlin cabaret.’

Entertainments will include ‘live music, cabaret, and performance art from the unusual and tongue in cheek to the downright bizarre including screenings of cult movies with a heavy smattering of authentic live jazz.’