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.

56 Years Ago: Marilyn Remembered at Westwood

Yesterday, the Marilyn Remembered fan club hosted their annual service at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles. Among this year’s speakers were actresses Kathleen Hughes and Terry Moore; author Lois Banner; Juliet Hyde-White (daughter of Marilyn’s Let’s Make Love co-star, Wilfrid Hyde-White); Susan Bernard (author, and daughter of photographer Bruno Bernard); and the advice columnist Jeanne Phillips (known to millions as ‘Dear Abby’.)

You can re-watch the live stream here.

Saving the Date for Marilyn

The 56th anniversary of Marilyn’s death is coming up on August 5, and as always, Marilyn Remembered will be marking the occasion with a service at Westwood Memorial Park. It will be streamed live on Facebook – so if you would like to donate to the 2018 memorial fund, there’s more info here.

Immortal Marilyn will also be sending flowers, and as usual all surplus donations will go to the Animal Haven sanctuary – see here.

Marilyn Remembered at Hollygrove

The water tower on the former RKO lot, as seen by a young Marilyn at Hollygrove

Hollygrove, the family service centre offering help to Los Angeles children suffering from trauma – and formerly the orphanage where Marilyn stayed as a child – hosted its annual Norma Jean Gala this weekend, raised over $400,000.00 for Uplift Family Services at Camp Hollygrove programs for at-risk youth. The gala was attended by celebrities including Busy Philips and Colin Hanks, and items of Marilyn’s wardrobe from the collections of Greg Schreiner and Scott Fortner were also on display. You can read more about the event at the Marilyn Remembered Facebook group.

Marilyn Returns to the Chinese Theater

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes will be screened at the TCL Chinese Theater (formerly Grauman’s Chinese) on Thursday, August 3, as part of the memorial week activities organised by Los Angeles-based fanclub Marilyn Remembered to commemorate the 55th anniversary of her death. George Chakiris, who danced with Marilyn in the classic musical comedy, will be a special guest. Tickets are going fast, so if you’d like to attend, book here.

Marilyn herself visited the Chinese Theater many times as a child, and famously signed her name in cement outside the venue alongside co-star Jane Russell shortly after the enormous success of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1953. The original, rather risqué costume for her signature ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ number, and another Travilla gown (not seen in the movie, but subsequently worn by Marilyn at public events) will be displayed on the night, courtesy of collector and Marilyn Remembered founder Greg Schreiner.

For more information on the Marilyn Remembered itinerary for this year’s memorial week, click here.

Marilyn’s 90th Birthday Bash in Beverly Hills

Photo by Jim
Photo by Jim Parson

A very special 90th birthday party for Marilyn went down last night at Heritage Auctions in Beverly Hills, as part of a Limited Runs pop-up exhibition. Among the guests were collectors Greg Schreiner and Scott Fortner, impersonator Holly Beavon, Tom Kelley Jr (whose father photographed Marilyn’s nude calendar), actress Kathleen Hughes (widow of River of No Return producer Stanley Rubin), and Marian Collier (who played Marilyn’s bandmate Olga in Some Like it Hot.) Photos and videos from the evening have been posted on the Facebook page for Marilyn Remembered.