The Eternal Question: Do Men Really Prefer Blondes?
Marilyn Forever Blonde – The Marilyn Monroe Story in Her Own Words opened this week at the spectacular Elgin Winter Garden Theatre to a full house and to even greater accolades for star Sunny Thompson, who personifies sex appeal in her spot-on portrayal of a classic Hollywood starlet.
Marilyn Forever Blonde has been touring the world to rave reviews and blockbuster box office success and has finally landed in Toronto, having performed the play over 600 times across the United States, across Canada, with tours of New Zealand and England. The play has had a 12 week run in London where the West End Review called it “Magic and enchanted”, and the London Sunday Times called it “Extraordinary! It is rare to see something so authentic or so full of integrity and depth”.
The play, written by Sunny’s award winning husband Greg Thompson, focuses on the life of an iconic tragic celebrity. Conceived by award winning producer and writer Greg Thompson, the script was painstakingly researched from hundreds of quotes from Marilyn herself and the result is two hours in Marilyn’s personal presence or so it felt. The words in the play are all Marilyn’s own and the songs are all songs she sang in her movies, although they are sung in a personal “storybook” style.
These are the final thoughts of a little girl who became a legend and in turn could never be loved or accepted for herself. The play is funny, sad, witty, titillating, sensual, often scandalous and in the end heartbreaking as we watch the desperation of a woman lost in a world of Hollywood make-believe. The production allows the audience an intimate opportunity to see the life of such a larger than life personality, laid out in a starkly black and white fashion – more frankly than thought possible.
Director Stephanie Shine lays out a marvellous train wreck of Marilyn’s life and career with tabloid –like efficiency. We are swept along through Marilyn’s torrid love affairs, aspirations, hopes and dreams as helpless, but oh so willing observers. When Marilyn Monroe died it shocked and fascinated the world. Whether she overdosed or whether murder was involved is still a question for conspiracy theorists, but the mystery surrounding her death remains a source of infinite fascination for her fans. There is a huge amount of speculation about her life and the nature of her talent. The consensus seems to be that she was a lot more talented than people gave her credit for. Her extraordinary beauty was what people noticed first and then they notice the life and innocence behind her eyes.
The portrayal of Marilyn by Sunny Thompson is just about as perfect as one would wish for. She captures perfectly Monroe’s looks, voice, gestures, the way she sang, and her wit, and, being a natural beauty herself, Monroe’s astonishing allure. The story is told from the perspective of photographer Bert Stern who took the last pictures of Marilyn only weeks before she died in August, 1962. Apparently the star opened up to him and discussed her life openly and frankly. Thompson joins a long list of actresses who’ve taken on the challenging role of the woman who married two titans of her time — baseball great Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller — consorted with U.S. president John Kennedy and dominated the box office with her dumb blonde persona.
Every time we watch Marilyn take a drink from her endless champagne glass, the audience gasps – Every time a famous suitor is referenced, the audience shakes its head in mutual disapproval. When the Kennedy brothers are referenced you could see the conspirators whispering in each other’s ears all over the theatre. Essentially the central feel of the production reflected a certain fascination with abomination. We all know how it is going to end and you cannot help but pity the beautiful girl on the stage.It’s too hard to look away.
The musical numbers, while beautiful sung, easily denoted the sadness being conveyed by Marilyn and her own perceived failures in Hollywood and with her own personal demons.In a generation that has watched celebrities self-destruct with minute-to-minute precision on social media and within the context of entertainment news coverage – it is refreshing to watch Marilyn Monroe’s story handled so honestly and with grace and poise.
It turns out gentlemen prefer blondes after all.
Photo Credit: Howard Petrella