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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MARILYN LIVE (article first published : 2001-10-10)

The legendary Marilyn Monroe was an enigma. Since her death in 1962, it is estimated that over 100 biographies have been published as writers have tried to capture the essence of the blonde bombshell who hit Hollywood as a number 1 sex symbol in the 50s and died at the age of 36 from an overdose of barbiturates. Her death, two months after her much-publicised final performance in May 1962 when she sang Happy Birthday, Mr President to John F Kennedy at Madison Square Garden, added fuel to the rumours of her alleged relationship with the USA President. Was her death suicide? Or murder - to save the Oval Office from scandal?

The answer to this question may never be revealed but the star remains forever young in the memories of her fans. Her sad and all-too-short life became inextricably linked to that of the late Princess of Wales when Elton John rewrote the lyrics of his tribute to Marilyn, Candle in the Wind, and performed it as Goodbye, Princess Rose at Princess Diana’s funeral.

This then is the stature of the star that performers of today must attain when impersonating Marilyn Monroe in a production such as Marilyn Live running at Kwasuka Theatre until November 4. Julie Hartley comes through as a blazing triumph – provocative pouts, bobbing blonde curls, sexy stance and distinctive walk to the fore. This young lady has come a long way since Durban audiences first saw her in John Moss’s Cinderella and the musical Singin’ in the Rain There’s an added vocal maturity and dramatic sensitivity … and she always was a hot-shot dancer!

As Marilyn – “I’ve been on a calendar but I’ve never been on time”- Monroe, Julie impresses with her renditions of A Fine Romance, My Heart Belongs to Daddy and of course, the ultimate Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.

“I’m just a woman,” she purrs. “I know, but you do it so well,” answers Mike Huff as Jimmy D’Amato, the host of Lake Taho’s famous Cal Neva Lodge which was once owned by Frank Sinatra. Mike Huff is also no stranger to Durban audiences, having appeared in the Playhouse Cellar’s opening show Piaf – No Regrets as well as Christian, Buddy – The Buddy Holly Show and Singin’ in the Rain. This loose-limbed, easy-going and genial singer is always a joy to watch and in Marilyn Live he gives his usual relaxed and controlled performance.

Nice to see Lisa Melman, who wrote and directed the show with David Fleminger, back on the Durban stage where she was formerly seen in Playhouse Cellar productions. She is a powerful performer with a strong and magnetic voice, exploding into the action when she throws off her disguise as a scruffy cleaner and turns out to have strong connections to Marilyn.

Choreographer Cinda Eatock’s dancers Erla Wahl, Andre Ahlers and Bheki Tshabalala seemed a little unsure on opening night although this may have had something to do with the production’s short set-up time in the theatre. Mention must be made of Bheki’s charming cameo when, as a person of colour, he acknowledged Marilyn Monroe for her support of Ella Fitzgerald.

For once, we weren’t battered with sound technology and overpowering backing tracks but the live levels could have been a trifle higher. Julie Hartley’s gowns are beautiful and Kwasuka’s stage has never looked so sophisticated and swish with plush red velvet curtains and two further curtain settings creating a space for different scenarios.

In a world battered with the effects of terrorist attacks on the United States and the understandably warlike response, Marilyn Live offers audiences the chance of transcending time and space to step back into the Hollywood heyday of glitz, glam and sophistication. Get togged up, go out on the town, enjoy a fine show and forget Afghanistan and its connotations for a few short hours.

Book through Computicket or Kwasuka on (031) 309-2236.Tickets R45 (exc. of Computicket charge). Performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 19h30 with extra performance on Saturdays at 14h30. Sundays at 18h00.




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