The image of Marilyn Monroe is ubiquitous; it pervades the landscape of popular culture and it's become as familiar as an old friend. Forever Blonde is an affectionate homage to the ultimate leading lady, billed as ‘the Marilyn Monroe story in her own words and music’.
Forever Blonde is a one-woman show performed by Sunny Thompson, set on the day of Monroe’s last photo shoot. The star tells her life story to an unseen photographer (who appears only in the occasional corny voiceover) and takes us through her troubled childhood, rise to stardom and search for love.
Thompson does an uncanny impersonation, from the breathy voice to the famous wiggle. As the curtain opens she is posing for photographs, writhing and wrapped in white satin, and the initial resemblance is certainly striking. But no one can replicate the original’s mesmerising mixture of charisma and vulnerability. Although the story is ultimately tragic and Thompson evokes some very touching moments, her self-pitying portrayal of Monroe rings slightly hollow.
Writer Greg Thompson says that the play is his attempt to ‘humanize’ Monroe. I thought it pedestrianised her. Monroe’s sad story is hardly a secret - she herself talked about it often. She was a very modern celebrity, a prototype for the Cheryl Coles of today, whose fame and fan base depended not only, or even primarily, on glamour, beauty or talent, but a courageous vulnerability. Sunny Thompson is a talented actress - an adoring first night audience gave her a riotous standing ovation - but in truth she never quite captures this rare star quality.
This is the E! true Hollywood story of Marilyn Monroe, complete with voiceovers, violins and salacious gossip. It’s quite a thrill to catch glimpses of a lookalike in the flesh, but a true fan might be better off reading a biography and renting Some Like it Hot instead.