The World premiere of ‘Norma Jeane The Musical’ opened at ‘Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre Pub’ in Walthamstow and runs from March 2nd – March 22nd.
We join Norma Jeane (more commonly known as the sexual pin-up and movie screen legend Marilyn Monroe) as she has been admitted to Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic after a turbulent and traumatic time in her personal and professional life. This musical is an exploration of some of the issues, people and emotional situations that could have led to Marilyn Monroe’s death 18 months past this time of incarceration at the clinic.
Author Belvedere Pashu has delved deep in to Marilyn Monroe’s history and looked at plausible situations that may have led to this point in her life.
We first meet Norma Jeane in the clinic, this portrayal of a dishevelled and emotionally unstable ‘Norma’ is delivered with gusto and passion by Rebecca Cole. Meanwhile Ex-Eastender Melissa Suffield plays the glamorous alter ego and sex siren of Miss Monroe’s persona. Although young Suffield portrays the role with elegance and poise and delivers the musical numbers with a strong yet feminine vocal that layers onto the characters vulnerability.
Chris Edgerley, Ex-Emmerdale star, plays Dr. Mcarthy and delivers a grounded and powerful performance in this role adding an ethereal atmosphere to the piece as he delivers most lines to the edge of the playing space. There is a wonderful rapport between Edgerley and Suffield allowing for some poignant and emotional moments throughout.
Notice has to be paid to Maggie Robson as Norma Jeane’s mother who drives an emotional character in Gladys Monroe (Marilyn’s Mother). Also Amanda Swift brings a fantastic powerhouse performance during her musical number in Act 2.
Although there were some strong performances there were also some odd casting decisions in the ensemble and this production unfortunately falls short under set, design and costume – all being very basic and at times amateur.
The show loses elements of musical continuity, this maybe due to there being six different songwriters and composers for various numbers throughout the show. A live band always adds to the ambience and quality of a production and it would’ve allowed the actors more freedom on stage and with the piece as a whole as opposed to a digitally recorded track.
Overall an enjoyable evening at the theatre. The principal roles are extremely strong although not always supported by ensemble or production values. It’s well worth a watch to make up your own mind and if you’re a fan of Marilyn Monroe make sure you get to see it before ‘she’ checks out of the clinic on 22nd March . . .
Reviewed by Matthew Andrew Wren