By Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Critics On The Aisle
Although Marilyn Monroe died 50 years ago, she is still box office and how she would have loved it, at last, being a star attraction on stage, her greatest professional ambition.
There have been hundreds of Marilyn imitators over the decades, but the crème de la crème is the gifted actress/singer Sunny Thompson who so convincingly becomes the charismatic Marilyn in Greg Thompson’s compelling, award-winning play “Marilyn: Forever Blonde.”
Greg Thompson’s play includes seventeen songs that Marilyn performed on screen and are integrated into the well-researched documented quotes from the star and the people that were a pivotal part of her personal life and career. The tunes include “My Heart Belongs To Daddy,” “I Want To Be Loved By You,” “Running Wild,” “That Old Black Magic,” and “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.”
Sunny Thompson has been touring the US and overseas to big box office and critical acclaim as Marilyn since 2007. The “Sunday Times of London” called it “Extraordinary! It is rare to see something so authentic or so full of integrity and depth.” The “San Francisco Chronicle” called it “One the greatest performances of the modern stage.” BroadwayWorld.com said, “Amazingly captures the essence of Monroe! Sunny Thompson exhibits an uncanny resemblance to Monroe, not only in her vivacious figure but also in her delicate voice. Portraying an extremely vulnerable woman with such touching sincerity, it is hard to discern where Monroe stops and Thompson begins.”
We saw this surprisingly honest and intimate play at the venerable Ivoryton Playhouse in Connecticut, where Katharine Hepburn got her first leading lady stage roles in 1931, and since that time nearly every major film and stage star of the 20th century, including Marlon Brando, has trod its boards. It’s a fitting theater for this superbly written and performed play about the private life of Marilyn Monroe.
In 2008 the Connecticut Critics Circle gave “Marilyn: Forever Blonde,” produced by Greg Thompson, its annual award for Outstanding Road Show and Sunny won glowing personal notices from the top Connecticut critics for her portrayal of Marilyn. Throughout its record-breaking national and overseas tour, Sunny and the play have continued to win major awards for producer/playwright Greg Thompson, as well as accolades for Stephanie Shine’s direction and the all-important lighting, scenic, sound, costumes, hair and make-up designs. (Stephanie Shine is also the Artistic Director of the Seattle Shakespeare Company and she her plays have been presented at regional theaters across the country.)
Greg Thompson, producer, director, playwright, has produced 600 shows for the stage, playing an incredible 50,000 performances world-wide during the past forty years.
His play “Marilyn: Forever Blonde,” now in its fifth year on tour, has a special engagement August 2 – 5, 2012. Although the famed Actor’s Studio in West Hollywood has named its theater the “Marilyn Monroe,” the El Portal Theater Complex in North Hollywood (NOHO) will be renamed “The Monroe Forum Theater” on August 4. Sunny Thompson will cut the ceremonial ribbon as well as appear in the internationally acclaimed play on its main stage.
Naming the theater for Marilyn and having Sunny stage center for the dedication must feel like old home week in North Hollywood because as a young girl in the late 1930s, Marilyn, who lived nearby and went to school next door, was a regular at the theater. When contacted for this story, we asked Sunny if the ongoing tour would again include Connecticut. She said, “We loved our time in CT and would certainly welcome the chance to return.” Stayed tuned.