‘Fellow Travelers’ in the Hamptons

Fellow Travelers, Jack Canfora’s new play about Marilyn, Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan and the Hollywood Blacklist, has opened at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, NY to glowing reviews – although Monroe fans may prefer to judge for themselves…

“While Monroe is not central to the moral issue at stake here, she is an integral part of the two men’s lives. She had a long affair and friendship with Kazan, and she fell in love with Miller even though he was married. The tabloids gorged on her short marriage to Joe DiMaggio, her surprising liaison with Miller, his ‘quickie’ divorce, and finally, their five-year marriage.

Today Monroe is an iconic touchstone of the era. We know her all-too-human story, her emotional wounds, her breathy voice, her luscious body. Ms. Hewitt in a blonde wig does a boffo job of portraying that Marilyn with warm earthiness, touching grace and surprising self-awareness.

Though some might cavil that her part is underwritten, she was not faced with the moral question of betrayal for art. Nor is she the Greek chorus here, for she does not comment on the action but rather lives in it. Her relationships with Kazan and Miller demonstrate how acts of great consequence do not occur singularly alone …

Indeed, Marilyn is necessary here, for she is the force who brought the former friends together in 1963, though they would never be great pals again.” – Lorraine Dusky, 27East

Marilyn (Rachel Spencer Hewitt) with Kazan (Vince Nappo) and Miller (Wayne Alan Wilcox)
Recreating the infamous 1951 meeting with Columbia’s Harry Cohn (Mark Blum)

“Playing icon Marilyn Monroe in a movie or play is always a tall order, but Rachel Spencer Hewitt measured up to the task and took her performance to a high level. The sexy aspects that made Marilyn Monroe along with some shockingly blunt dialogue again kept the audience captured in the story.

Fellow Travelers is an important play because it deals with a dark time in our nation’s history. A time with congressional hearings on ‘Un-American Activities’, and blacklists and betrayals to friends, and in some cases, to the country. Fellow Travelers is a hit because it is a great script that comes to life with excellent acting and wonderful directing.” – T.J. Clemente, Hamptons Theater Review

“As Monroe, Rachel Spencer Hewitt holds back on the bombshell we know so well, instead showing us a troubled woman coming to terms with her public perception … While dialogue drags at times, the play offers illuminating glimpses of the creative genius of Miller and Kazan.” – Barbara Schuler, Newsday

“The cast is exemplary … Hewitt is a strong presence as Monroe, and later as Barbara Loden, Kazan’s second wife, who then portrays the Marilyn character, Maggie, in Miller’s After The Fall, directed by Kazan.” – Bridget LeRoy, Hampton Independent

“Among the top-notch cast is Rachel Spencer Hewitt strongly portraying Marilyn Monroe. Fans of the starlet will appreciate how Ms. Hewitt doesn’t necessarily copy Monroe’s famous public persona, but cleverly infuses her own take on the role.” – Melissa Giordano, Broadway World

“With the play’s punchy, often vulgar dialogue, Mr. Canfora wrings genuine conflict and emotion from his two talented and driven characters … But in a production with so many excellent performances, it is no small compliment to say that Rachel Spencer Hewitt, as Marilyn, makes the play her own. So iconic is Monroe — and so caricatured in popular culture — that there may be no more treacherous role for an actress to play. Just on sheer guts, one must tip his hat to Ms. Hewitt for trying.

But the actress does much more than that, with a portrayal that captures both the iconic Marilyn and the tender and innocent woman she most likely hid from the world. In Fellow Travelers, we get a Marilyn on the cusp, both world-weary and yet still hopeful about her career and the possibility of love. After her divorce from Miller, she would never be quite the same.

While the play hardly absolves Kazan, there is at least the desire to understand him. And just when Miller’s saintly posturing grows tiresome, Mr. Canfora has both Kazan and Harry Cohn take pithy potshots at the playwright’s sanctimony.

But it’s Marilyn Monroe who, even in death at play’s end, gets the last word. Just as her image bedeviled millions of filmgoers (and continues to do so), so did she loom in the minds of Miller and Kazan; neither ever really got over her. Thanks to a great performance by Ms. Hewitt and the tender writing of Mr. Canfora, she ultimately dominates Fellow Travelers as well.” – Kurt Wenzel, East Hampton Star

‘The Marilyn’ Blocked From Two Bridges

Permission to open ‘The Marilyn’, a new speakeasy-style cocktail on Monroe Street, NYC, has been denied, Bowery Boogie reports. Monroe Street is in the Two Bridges district of Manhattan. While in theory it sounds like perfect branding, it seems the developers failed to address residents’ concerns.

Two Bridges is located near the footings of the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge, the subject of a touching 1955 poem by Marilyn…

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.”

 

Marilyn and the Moon of Baroda

On July 8, 1953, Frank Powolny photographed Marilyn wearing one of the world’s largest diamonds, the so-called ‘Moon of Baroda’. It was then owned by Meyer Rosenbaum, a jeweller from Detroit, and was loaned to Marilyn for the shoot, in which Sidney M. Brownstein, president of the Jewellery Academy, presented her with a special award for her role in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, proclaiming her ‘the best friend a diamond ever had.’

But as the Times of India reports today, the Barodian royal family want their precious jewellery – also including the world’s most expensive pearl carpet, the ‘Star of the South’ – to be returned home for a public exhibition.

The Moon of Baroda was last displayed at the Antwerp World Diamond Centre in 2008. In 2012, a ‘Mr Matsuki’ appeared on a Japanese television show with what he claimed was the legendary gem. It was authenticated and valued at 150 million yen.

The Mad About Marilyn fan club chronicled the Moon of Baroda’s history in 2013, including a bizarre rumour that Marilyn fell victim to the diamond’s curse.

Halsman, Stern’s Marilyn in New York

Marilyn is at the centre of an exhibition of some of the world’s most iconic photographs, on display in Manhattan until May 25, as Carl Glassman reports for Tribeca Trib.

“If only size mattered, then Marilyn Monroe would be the star of this eclectic display of photographs, simply titled ‘Photo Show,’ now at the Hal Bromm Gallery. Upon entering the Tribeca art space, she greets you nearly from floor to ceiling in 10 poses, wearing that come-hither look and little else. The set of framed color photographs, faded into reddish hues, is from Bert Stern’s famed 1962 series, ‘The Last Sitting’ … While Marilyn may be the show’s dominant presence, she is just the opener in an unusual mix of artists and eras that come together in a logic all its own.

Others include … Philippe Halsman, represented by his own famous—maybe the most famous—Marilyn portrait.”

Meanwhile at Christie’s NYC, ‘Crucifix IV’, a chromogenic print by Stern from 1995, is among the lots from the Yamakawa Collection, to be auctioned on April 6.

Marilyn and the Leading Ladies of Song

Marilyn is featured in ‘Leading Ladies Who Sing‘, a free event in the Scenes Through the Cinema Lens series at BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Centre in Manhattan on Tuesday, March 20 at 7:30 p.m.

Leading Ladies Who Sing will showcase choice moments in cinema history when stars who can both act and sing are presented at their most glamorous. The event will focus on distinguished jazz singers like Abbey Lincoln, Peggy Lee and Billie Holiday, all of whom successfully made the transition to cinema, as well as timeless performances by singer/actresses including Judy Garland, Diana Ross and Marilyn Monroe.

Scenes Through the Cinema Lens is curated and hosted by Krin Gabbard, Professor of Comparative Literature and English at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and author of Hotter Than That: The Trumpet, Jazz, and American Culture.

Each Scenes Through the Cinema Lens screening is followed by a Question and Answer session moderated by Professor Gabbard, and all events are free. No reservations are necessary.”

Marilyn Meets Helen of Troy in NYC

Marilyn by Cecil Beaton, 1956

The first season at The Shed, a new multi-arts centre opening at the Hudson Yards next year, will include Norma Jeane Baker of Troy, an intriguing collaboration depicting Marilyn as the Spartan queen famed in Greek mythology, whose incomparable beauty was said to have sparked the Trojan War, as Andrew R. Chow reports for the New York Times.

“On Wednesday, the Shed’s artistic director, Alex Poots, revealed the first batch of commissions for the Hudson Yards venue’s inaugural season.

The ambitious, genre-melding performances will begin in the spring of 2019, and include a musical series conceived by Steve McQueen and Quincy Jones and a collaboration between the poet Anne Carson, the actor Ben Whishaw and the opera singer Renée Fleming.

A newly commissioned piece by Ms. Carson entitled Norma Jeane Baker of Troy, based on Euripides’ Helen, will be shown in the venue’s more intimate theater space. (The play draws a line between Helen and Marilyn Monroe, who was baptized as Norma Jeane Baker.)

‘I asked Ann, Would you ever consider writing a dramatic monologue for a performer?’ Mr. Poots recalled. ‘Within six to nine months, she sent me the first draft and said: ‘I’ve written this for Ben Whishaw. And he’ll do it.’ Mr. Whishaw will perform it with Ms. Fleming.”

Marilyn’s Hurricane in Mink

Michael Colby is a songwriter and the grandson of Ben and Mary Bodne, who owned Manhattan’s famed Algonquin Hotel from 1946-1987.  In an interview with the New York Post‘s Barbara Hoffman, Colby recounts a somewhat risque tale of Marilyn.

“‘Marilyn Monroe used to come in at lunchtime and get a Beefeater martini,’ says Michael Colby, striding past the bar in the Algonquin Hotel on West 44th Street. And it was just down the street, at Fifth Avenue, that his grandmother once spotted her wearing a white mink coat.

‘If you think that’s something,’ the actress told her, perhaps after a few too many martinis, ‘you should see what’s underneath!’

Yes, Colby tells the Post, leaning against a portrait of hotel regular Tallulah Bankhead: His granny got flashed by Monroe.”

As fans will know, Marilyn was proud of her body, often went out sans underwear and thought nothing of wandering round her apartment or dressing room nude. Sam Shaw and Yves Montand have also told of similar encounters; but tales of Marilyn have a way of growing so that practically anyone vaguely connected to her will claim to have experienced the same.

Monroe biographer Carl Rollyson considers it ‘possible’, but points out that the Algonquin was not known as one of Marilyn’s more regular haunts, and that particular brand of exhibitionism was more commonly associated with the outrageous Tallulah Bankhead.