Review: Goodbye Norma Jeane, Above the Stag Theatre

“An insight into Hollywood politics”

Everybody knows of Marilyn Monroe. She’s been the subject of stage productions and screen countless times since her passing and her history with others that she’s worked alongside is equally as interesting.

Tim English

Liam Burke’s two-hander play focuses on one choreographer who worked with Norma Jeane, herself. We meet Jack Cole (Tim English) on the day he hears of Monroe’s death over the radio and as he expresses his tale to the audience and he reconnects with all the other Hollywood starlets he used to work with such as Gwen Verdon, Betty Grable and Lana Turner (all played by Rachel Stanley). Monroe is never mentioned by her stage name throughout the play – only Norma Jeane at most, or ‘Baby Doll’ as Cole repeatedly says.

Jack Cole is considered to be one of the unsung legends of Hollywood. He brought theatrical jazz dance into the spotlight and helped many leading ladies achieve their stardom. They were always grateful to him, but eventually, left him to reach higher heights. Jack feels used and poisoned by Hollywood.

English plays a suitable Cole, who monologues nearly the entire production. However, the character is very ‘one-note’ throughout. The dialogue, which is insightful, doesn’t pop as much as it should in English’s performance and with Stanley’s overly theatrical entrances, our duo find themselves on different ends of the performance scale – not really complimenting each other but rather changing and taking hold of the show’s narrative briskly when it’s their turn.

Stanley is entertaining but her multiple entrances and characters soon blend into one as the show goes on. Fantastic wigs, outfits and Hollywood charisma can only go so far before you realise all these leading ladies were very similar. Stanley’s charm still sells it and you look forward to her gracing the stage in another different attire to add some life into the room.

Rachel Stanley

The show is in two acts and runs for 90-minutes, including an interval. I believe it would look a lot stronger as a more refined 60-to-70 minute one-act piece. The direction is polished and the set is picturesque.

The potential of the show being a proper insight into Cole’s life is certainly there but at the moment, the production doesn’t say much nor does it go anywhere new. For what is meant to be an insight into Hollywood politics and the topics it addresses, it’s certainly not deep enough.

 

RATING:

‘Goodbye Norma Jeane’ runs at the Above The Stag Theatre, Vauxhall until April 7.

Tickets can be bought HERE.

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