‘Marilyn!’ Musical Is Leaving Las Vegas

Ruby Lewis as Marilyn

Marilyn! The New Musical is set to close on June 17 (after just twenty-three performances), Scott Roeben reports for Vital Vegas. While a press release states that the show is merely ‘on hiatus’, Roeben predicts it won’t be coming back.

“From what we hear, the implosion of Marilyn! The New Musical had little to do with the talent of its cast. Even as the show opened, there were rumors of behind-the-scenes drama, including a lack of competent direction and serious financial issues, and entertainment insiders predicted the show would have a very short run.”

Here’s another take from John Kasilometes at the Las Vegas Review-Journal

“Sources also report that producer Tegan Summer, founder of Prospect House Entertainment, is seeking a new investor in the project. Those reports are in line with a production that has abruptly lost its primary funding and is forced to go dark while looking for more money.

Marilyn! also suffered myriad unexpected obstacles, such as the late delivery of its stage set — reportedly producers used a company not experienced in furnishing sets to Strip production shows. Thus, the show’s scenery, crucial to any production’s aesthetics, was not completed until the week after its premiere.

But commonly, if a production show holds its financial investment, it can ride out such early production snags. It can also weather a poor reception.

Lewis, who devoted up to four hours a day working with Summer on mastering the title role, said today, ‘I’m pretty bummed out. It’s back to the drawing board, I’m afraid.’ Lewis, who left Baz at Palazzo Theater to join the production, is working on a new album.”

‘Marilyn! The New Musical’ Opens in Las Vegas

Ruby Lewis as Marilyn

Marilyn! The New Musical has opened at the Paris Theatre in Las Vegas to mixed reviews…

“The grand opening performance on June 1 was a rapid-fire affair, bouncing from song to song with roller-coaster momentum and an extraordinary amount of emotion from a gifted cast anchored by Ruby Lewis as Marilyn.

This is only the beginning. It will be exciting to see how Marilyn! evolves over time, but the Vegas entertainment community is already grateful to have an original piece of musical theater on the Strip stage.” – Brocke Radke, Las Vegas Sun

Ruby Lewis recreates Marilyn’s iconic performance of ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’

“The numbers most pleasing to the ear are a series of duets between Marilyn (Ruby Lewis) and her younger self, Norma Jeane (Brittney Bertier). While it’s best to ignore the lyrics, the music lends itself nicely to the melding of two excellent voices.

The overwhelming strength of this production is its cast. Ruby Lewis is a fine singer and actress, and does the best she can with a book that gives her little opportunity for character development.” – Mary LaFrance, Talkin’ Broadway

“Marilyn Monroe was a troubled soul — and a divided personality, the blond bombshell forever haunted by the troubled young woman inside. So perhaps it’s fitting that Marilyn! — the new Monroe musical at Paris Las Vegas — suffers from split-personality syndrome. It wants to be a fizzy, showbizzy Vegas musical eager to wow you with sass and pizazz. Yet it never figures out how to do that while recounting the frequently sad facts of Monroe’s all-too-short life.

Lewis makes a visually convincing Monroe, although she’s less consistent vocally. Especially when she shifts from speaking to singing, replacing Monroe’s breathy purr with her own powerful belting, thereby undercutting the vulnerability that helped make Monroe so much more than the latest in a long line of foxy blondes.” – Carol Cling, Las Vegas Review-Journal

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.'”

Bill Pursel 1925-2017

Bill Pursel, who befriended Marilyn during the early years of her career, has died aged 91, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“William Albert Lloyd Pursel was born July 24, 1925, in Marshalltown, Iowa. His family moved to Las Vegas in 1939. After graduating from Las Vegas High School, class of 1943, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in The European Theatre during World War II. He became a sales manager for KLAS Radio and covered several atomic bomb explosions at the Nevada Test Site. He was a Chartered Life Underwriter and a Chartered Financial Consultant with The Paul Revere Life Insurance Company. He was president of The Life Underwriters Association of Nevada. He was active in The Las Vegas Jr. Chamber of Commerce, a founding member of The Sports Car Club of America in So Nevada, a charter member of Trinity United Methodist Church, and belonged to both the Masonic Lodge and the Elks Lodge. He served two-four year terms as a trustee at Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital (UMC).”

Snapshots given to Bill Pursel by Marilyn in 1947

Bill’s memories of Marilyn – they dated on and off for several years – were unknown to to the public until he spoke with Michelle Morgan, author of Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed. They met in 1946, when 19 year-old Norma Jeane was staying with a family friend in Las Vegas while waiting her divorce from Jim Dougherty. Bill later visited her in Los Angeles, and was waiting at the house she shared with Ana Lower when she returned from a meeting at Twentieth Century Fox with a contract and a new name.

She was dropped by the studio a year later, but pursued her craft at the Actors Lab, even once asking college student Bill to enroll. They remained close after she began a romance with Fred Karger in 1948, and she later asked Bill to protect her from a ‘beach wolf’ – none other than actor Peter Lawford, who would play a significant role in her final days. Bill saw her as both dedicated and vulnerable in Hollywood, recalling a distressing phonecall during the Love Happy promotional tour of 1949. And then, just as their relationship seemed likely to turn serious, Marilyn called it off – leaving Bill with nothing but a couple of signed photos (now owned by collector Scott Fortner.)

Marilyn’s parting gift to Bill

Bill heard from Marilyn just once more, shortly after she began dating Joe DiMaggio. By then, Bill was happily married. He later recalled seeing her singing Happy Birthday to President Kennedy on television, just months before her death in 1962. He felt no bitterness, and knowing her sensitive nature, he was saddened but not surprised by her tragic demise.

Mr Pursel died last Thursday, June 1st – on what would have been Marilyn’s 91st birthday. He is survived by his wife of more than sixty years, Mabel ‘Mac’ Salisbury Pursel; and his children, William ‘Bill’, Kristie, and Kim (‘Bill’) Toffelmire, her stepchildren and their children, and several nieces and nephews.

Michelle Morgan has written an emotional tribute to Bill Pursel:

“He has been a constant presence in my life since 2005, when I first contacted him during the writing of my Marilyn book. What started out as an interview, turned into a friendship between Bill, his beautiful wife Mac, his family and my own … My work has been deeply enriched because of Bill’s stories, and my life has been changed because of his friendship. He was a huge supporter of my career, and gave me lots of advice in recent years … Good night, Bill. Thank you for your wonderful friendship. You were one of the best friends I ever had.”

You can pay your respects to Bill here.

‘The Girl’ and Eddie Fisher

“I have the biggest thing for Eddie Fisher…”

So says Marilyn Monroe as ‘The Girl’ in The Seven Year Itch (1955.) One of the most popular singers of the post-war era, Fisher’s career was later overshadowed by his messy love life (as Liz Smith noted in her column yesterday.)

He also starred with then-wife Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8 (1960), and was the father of actress and novelist, Carrie Fisher (his daughter from a previous marriage to another movie star, Debbie Reynolds.)

Marilyn met Eddie Fisher for real at least once, in 1961, when he performed at The Sands, Las Vegas, alongside Frank Sinatra.

Fisher died last week in Berkley, California, of complications following hip surgery. He was 82.

Thanks to Robert Siney

Marilyn’s Ceil Chapman Dress in Las Vegas

Photo by Ethan Miller

Marilyn Monroe’s Ceil Chapman evening gown is displayed next to Anna Nicole Smith’s custom painted Marilyn Monroe dresser at Julien’s Auctions annual summer sale at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino June 24-27, 2010, in Las Vegas,Nevada.

Scott Fortner has noted on his blog that while beautiful, the gown is partially damaged due to neglect over the years since Marilyn died. Sadly, this is true of many of Monroe’s former possessions – but still, they continue to sell at high prices. Another Chapman gown belonging to the star sold at Christie’s for $100,000 in 1999.

Some info on Ceil Chapman from Vintage Bulletin:

“Ceil Chapman began her career in New York, her first company was ‘Her Ladyship Gowns’ started in 1940 with partner Gloria Vanderbilt. The she went on to another company labeled ‘A Chapman Original’ which later became simply ‘Ceil Chapman’. She was a popular, talented designer through the early 1960’s. Known for her exquisite draping that enhanced the female form, she became a favorite among many stars of the era, such as Deborah Kerr and Elizabeth Taylor. Rumor has it she was the favorite designer of Marilyn Monroe.

Her specialty was evening, formal wear, done in silks, taffeta, chiffon and organdy, embellished with beading and lace. She designed a great deal for movies and television.”