Marilyn: Forever Blonde, or forever bland?
Wednesday afternoon I got VERY last minute notice that I had complimentary tickets to see the opening night of “Marilyn: Forever Blonde”. Of course I went in to high gear to make myself at least reasonably presentable to the world, and fought my way through (thankfully) less than usually tragic traffic, which normally separates my seriously suburban home from the dynamic din which is Toronto. I managed to pick up my escort for the evening and make it to the vicinity of the theatre just as the curtain should have been rising. I sought out a spot to leave the car, in the perplexity of potential parking places (I’ll fight that damn ticket if it kills me), and we rushed to the theatre doors. As opening night, the curtain was late and we scurried to our surprisingly splendid seats in the mezzanine of the visually stunning and historic Wintergarden Theatre. Loved the view, hated the stairs… but, that’s another matter, entirely.
When the curtain rose, just under a half hour late, we were greeted with a one woman show reflecting the imagined thoughts and reminiscences of Marilyn Monroe during the last hours of her life. To quote directly from the programme, “It is 1962 and Marilyn Monroe is in the midst of a photo shoot. She is 36-years-old and while she’s still beautiful, she has lost a little of the girlish charm that made her Hollywood’s biggest star in the 20th Century Fox prime of her early twenties. Divorced for a third time and living alone, frustrated by Hollywood and tired of the label “sex symbol”, Marilyn longs to be respected for her talent and loved for who she really is rather than the character she has created for the silver screen. She wonders what it would be like to do it all over again.”
I think the concept of the photo shoot was disconnected from the real story, and though seemingly useful as a jumping off point to instigate the story, I found that the premise did not carry through the body of the show, despite the best efforts of the playwright. When the curtain finally fell, my partner in crime asked who was supposed to be the voice-over at the end, giving a sparse eulogy to the beauteous corpse sprawled on the white satin sheets of the single set. Obviously, he (and many other audience members) failed to make the connection from the opening speech of the photographer to the final statements of same. Within this same fault of the direction of the play was the awkward staging wherein the photographers umbrella lights distorted the large screen projections meant to assist in the narration. Perhaps the producer might consider rear projection in future stagings.
Although the play was deeper than I had expected, insightful and thought provoking, and peppered with witty quips and oft quoted Marilyn philosophies, it was only the performance of the one actress to grace the stage, Sunny Thompson, who kept “Marilyn: Forever Blonde” from being “Marilyn: Forever BLAND”. Sunny Thompson could be described as a “Christopher Peterson quality” Marilyn – visually and audibly impressionistic of the original. Unfortunately, the pace lagged in general, there were several dramatic pauses which failed to be dramatic, and a number of the songs used to illustrate plot points were either extraneous or a couple of verses too long. It’s one thing to illustrate a plot point, it is entirely something else to try beating it into the audience like we are so many dead horses.
Overall, I would rate this play as a 7/10. Two hours on stage as the sole performer, on opening night has to warrant some degree of laxity from a critic; however, the script is the script and some of the playwright’s choices, or perhaps it is the fault of the director, but someone’s choices require reconsideration.
A faster pace, less attempted intensity, and a bit of editing would take this production up a few notches – easily to 9/10. I would definitely support the intention of any Marilyn Monroe fan to invest the time and dollars in to experiencing this production – a true fan will easily overlook the few glaring short-comings. A non-fan might be a little more critical and a little less appreciative of the many pluses.
189 Yonge St., Toronto
Friday, February 13, 2015 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 14, 2015 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 15, 2015 at 2 p.m.