Gracing the Winter Garden stage just in time for Valentine’s Day comes a Greg Thompson production based on the silver screen legend, Marilyn Monroe. Written by Greg Thompson and starring Sunny Thompson, Marilyn: Forever Blonde provides audiences with an objective take on what might have been Marilyn's final words.
Featuring an array of familiar songs performed by Marilyn throughout her various films, the Hollywood starlet is given a voice in this theatrical adaptation that is meant to engage with her life, her works and finally, her words.
The motivation to undergo 20 years of intense research was sparked by a one man, off-Broadway show on the life of legendary comedian, television and film star, Groucho Marx. "Groucho was a sad and angry man," says Greg Thompson. This came as no surprise seeing as many performers lived for the stage despite their sad and miserable personal lives. From this, parallels were drawn and Thompson began working on what became his "labour of love" in the '80s.
In Marilyn: Forever Blonde, theatergoers are presented with a realistic take on the struggle to overcome the patriarchal forces in a male dominated industry. The script is an overall melange of music and quotes constructed from Marilyn's actual words. Through this, Thompson intends to remove the hype created by writers and the perceptions created from the glorification of the silver screen.
The verdict thus far? Monroe fans have been appreciative for the voice that is finally given to Marilyn. "Audience members who have seen the play (felt) they got to spend time with Marilyn," says Sunny Thompson. They are grateful to once again see the beautiful nature of the woman before their eyes, all presented in a "candid friendly conversation."
The overall goal is to honour Marilyn. "She was wonderfully funny and terrific company," remarks Sunny. "I admire so many things about Marilyn... her wit, her style, her shrewd marketing sense. But the trait I admire the most is her ability to see the upside or the funny side when faced with a bad situation."
Prior to researching the iconic actress, Sunny felt there was a certain sadness that embodied Marilyn's persona. After extensive research, she quickly fell in love with vulnerable yet determined woman bound to succeed. "(She) merely wanted to be loved for who she really was… not the movie star image she worked so hard to create." As for the overarching message, Sunny leaves it to Marilyn: "All I ever wanted was to be wonderful."
With twenty years of development, finding the perfect actress to conquer the role was no easy task.
While developing Marilyn, Greg was busy working on a series of other productions throughout the world as well. Sunny was busy starring in one of Greg's shows at the Samba Theatre in Las Vegas. Sunny performed a number of impersonations, one of which was Marilyn Monroe. The production was also featured on HBO.
Greg offered the script to Sunny in 1999 and she originally refused because she felt that no woman should be compared with Marilyn Monroe. The couple later wed in 2000 and it took Greg six years of "constant nagging" before Sunny relented and accepted the role. Greg prefers to stick with his story, quoting "Ok! Ok! I'll marry you if you'll do the part!"
Despite the adorable difference over the decision to undertake such a tremendously captivating role, audiences will be presented with Marilyn Monroe realism leading through this upcoming Valentine’s Day weekend.
photo credit: Howard Petrella