by Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom
That blonde bombshell and superstar Marilyn Monroe is on stage at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in downtown Jacksonville next to the Main Library. MOCA Jacksonville is a cultural resource of the University of North Florida. After you have seen this 90-minute one woman show by actress Sunny Thompson, you will truly feel you have been in the presence of the glamorous Marilyn. This unique engagement will be here until March 7, with performances Thursday, Friday, & Saturday at 8 PM, and matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 PM.
This award winning play comes to Jacksonville directly from London’s West End and with rave reviews from everywhere it has played since it debuted in 2006.
The action all takes place during a photography shoot in 1962, and is a recreation of an actual photography session, the final one prior to the death of the actress at age 36 a few weeks afterward. Between poses, Marilyn talks directly to the audience, telling us about her life from the beginning of her rags to riches saga, relating her views on her fame, her sex life and the men she loved and left or lost.
The play was written by Greg Thompson, Sunny’s husband, and was a project he worked on for many years doing extensive research. The result is a play that uses Marilyn’s actual words, gathered from quotes and interviews of Marilyn over the years. The viewpoints of friends, husbands, and lovers are also presented, along with blowups of historical photos. The result is a brilliant theatre piece done to perfection. Sunny looks like Marilyn, dresses like Marilyn, talks like Marilyn, and sings portions of 17 songs associated with the Monroe legend including all of “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.”
Sunny Thompson has had an interesting and colorful career as a performer. She majored in music and opera at Concordia College, and can go from the sexy, sultry singing voice of Marilyn Monroe to belting out an aria if need be. Sunny had her own theatre in Branson Missouri and was known as Rhinestone Cowgirl and star of the Great American Wild Wild West Show. Ten years ago, she met her husband Greg, a musical theatre producer in Reno and Las Vegas. She appeared in a very successful show produced by her husband, called Sunny Hollywood Blondes, with impersonations of Bette Middler, Dolly Parton, Mae West and of course, Marilyn Monroe.
Sunny was reluctant to take on the Marilyn story penned by her husband, but he convinced her she could do it and do it well. To direct, he hired Stephanie Shine, Artistic Director of the Seattle Shakespeare Company. The rest is history and, judging from the reception everywhere Marilyn: Forever Blonde has played, a long and very successful run can be predicted.
The show is on MOCA’s intimate auditorium where every seat is like a Broadway orchestra seat. You will see those lovely costumes, the gorgeous and sexy Marilyn, close up and personal, just as if you were sitting alongside the photographer.
Now if you just don’t happen to know very much about Marilyn Monroe, MOCA has that covered as well. The ticket price includes admission (normally $8.00 for non-members) to their current featured exhibition, “Life as a Legend: Marilyn Monroe”. The exhibit includes almost 300 objects of art that chronicle the life and times of Ms. Monroe, and includes that famous Playboy scene on red velvet! After seeing the paintings and other works by some of the world’s most famous artists, who were inspired by Marilyn’s magic, I could not wait to see the play. So be sure to go early enough to stroll through and enhance your enjoyment of the stage show.
I have seen a number of solo shows in tribute to famous personalities, like Mark Twain, Truman Capote, Groucho Marx, Golda Meir, and Emily Dickinson but none compared to Marilyn: Forever Blonde. I truly felt I had spent the entire evening in the company of the screen goddess Marilyn Monroe. Thanks Sunny & Greg Thompson, for a great theatre experience.
Don’t miss it.