Marilyn: Forever Blonde, the acclaimed one-woman show starring Sunny Thompson,will return to North Hollywood’s El Portal Theatre in October, after a sell-out run in 2012, reports Broadway World. The El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood sits next door to the Lankershim Elementary School that a young Norma Jeane attended from 1937-38, and the venue dedicated it’s Forum Theatre to Marilyn as ‘The Monroe Forum’.
I’ve said before that there are so many plays about Marilyn being produced lately that it’s hard to keep track of them all – and frankly, most of them are best forgotten. Marilyn: Forever Blonde, the long-running, one-woman show starring Sunny Thompson, has bucked the trend and become a firm fan favourite. And back in 1983, British actress Stephanie Lawrence gained critical acclaim for her role in Marilyn! The Musical, although the show was panned.
So is Marilyn’s life the stuff that great plays are made of? ‘I think the best way to present Marilyn Monroe’s life is on the stage rather than in a movie,’ says MM biographer Carl Rollyson. ‘Why? Because in this case the right actress can project an image of Marilyn Monroe that is not dependent on camera closeups which keep reminding us the actress is not Marilyn Monroe. In the theatre so much can be done when the audience is not right smack up against the actors.’
As the makers of TV’s Smash try to bring their Marilyn-inspired musical, Bombshell, to Broadway, author Mark Robinson looks back at another ill-fated 1983 production, Marilyn: An American Fable, in an article forPlaybill.
“It was never a bad idea to tell Monroe’s story through the conventions of musical theatre. It simply needed to be done in a way that served to honor the icon and the human being behind it. Bombshell, or at least the TV show that was the genesis of its creation, is already a hit and continues to be a subject of intrigue for those who want to see how a mythical fairytale about the creation of a Broadway musical concludes. It’s the inevitable payoff for two season’s worth of devoted viewership. With a strong book, the right casting and a production that delivers all the splash and flash worthy of Marilyn Monroe, all of the other ingredients are in place for a quality musical. This is not Marilyn: An American Fable, where very few things came together to transport us into this Hollywood legend’s life. All signs point to a ‘happy ever after’ for Bombshell.”
Westside Todayreports on the opening of the Monroe Forum Theatre, a second stage at the El Portal movie theatre, which is located directly behind Lankershim Elementary School, once attended by Norma Jeane.
The inaugural performance was Sunny Thompson’s one-woman show, Marilyn: Forever Blonde, on the 50th anniversary of MM’s death.
“A little known fact is that the former Norma Jeane Baker, soon to become Marilyn Monroe, attended 6th grade from 1937-1938 at Lankershim Elementary School directly behind the then famous movie palace El Portal Theatre, where she often attended matinees with her guardian. The new Monroe Forum Theatre has been outfitted with a lipstick red love seat and collector’s item of seldom-seen black and white photos of Ms. Monroe. A lovely ribbon cutting ceremony took place attended by many celebrities and a few former friends of Marilyn.
After that was an amazing one woman show performance of Marilyn: Forever Blonde starring Sunny Thompson. Guests included Don Murray (Oscar-nominated for his role in Bus Stop opposite Marilyn Monroe), Stanley Rubin- Producer of River Of No Return, Renee Taylor- friend of Marilyn’s who took acting classes with her, legendary stage and film actor Theodore Bikel, Councilman Tom La Bonge, and Joe Razo- Principal of Lankershim Elementary School which is still there!”
Sue Glover’s Marilyn, currently showing at the Glasgow Citizens’ Theatre, is described as ‘a witty take on celebrity and feminism in the 1960s’ in The List. Others, including The Scotsmanand STV, praise Frances Thorburn‘s performance as MM, but consider the play itself rather disappointing.
‘In act one we are given brief insights into the more interesting aspects of Monroe’s personality (such as her defence of her husband, Arthur Miller, against McCarthyism), as well as her burgeoning self-doubt and increasing reliance on drugs and alcohol,’ writes Mark Brown in Herald Scotland. ‘In act two, however, the play really comes apart, descending into a stereotypical “catfight” between Signoret and Monroe (caused by the latter’s affair with Montand) which is so blunt and badly written as to be almost an affront to feminism.’
These comments echo our own ES Updates Fan Review by Lorraine. It would seem that the more you know about Marilyn’s real story, the more problematic this play will be. But it all adds to the continuing public interest in Marilyn, and Frances Thorburn deserves our respect for taking on such a challenging role.
By far the most popular MM-related play among fans is Sunny Thompson’s one-woman show, Marilyn: Forever Blonde, which has toured the world to considerable acclaim. Sunny will appear at the Annenberg Theatre, Palm Springs, from March 3-22.