Norma Jeane – The Musical review at Lost Theatre, London – ‘a mixed bag’
As the world commemorates what would have been Marilyn Monroe’s 90th birthday, it seems appropriate that director Christopher Swann chooses to revive Norma Jeane The Musical. Originally staged at Ye Olde Rose and Crown in 2015, the show attempts a psychological exploration of Monroe’s early life, while she is held incognito in a Manhattan mental asylum. Based on true events, TL Shannon’s book may lack a spontaneity, but it does provide a unique premise on which to build a musical.
In transferring to the Lost space, the show has certainly upped its production values. Peter Bingemann’s brutalist set design makes inventive use of the stage, while James Thacker’s recreation of Monroe’s signature costumes add a splash of glamour. The addition of a live band is a genuine pleasure but the score, written by a variety of composers, remains a mixed bag, still lacking a cohesive, narrative thread. Geoff Cotton’s In My Mind stands out as one of the stronger numbers, a duet between Sarah Rose Denton’s fragile Norma Jeane and Joanne Clifton’s self-assured Monroe.
Given top billing, the Strictly Come Dancing star proves to be one of the highlights, delivering a finely tuned physical impersonation of the 1950s icon. Her body never still, Clifton not only demonstrates some intuitive comic timing but also captures the artifice of Monroe’s screen persona. Choreographer Adam Scown injects some lively dance routines into the mix but all too often, the songs don’t quite live up to the numbers Monroe is associated with.
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