MARILYN & SINATRA – Jermyn Street Theatre, London.
Marilyn & Sinatra, fresh from the Edinburgh Festival and just an hour long, is a stylish, if minimal, exploration of the little known relationship between two Hollywood icons. Written by Sandro Monetti and performed warmly by two very capable actors, the play does remarkably well at invoking something of the aura that surrounded Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra in the heyday of Hollywood.
“I hope you live to be a hundred and the last thing you hear will be my voice.” The words Sinatra says to Marilyn during their first meeting will half come true. Monroe listened to Frank Sinatra records the night she died. Taking the format of narration to the audience by both stars punctuated with renditions of some their most well known songs , the pace of the play flows easily along and both actors embody the public personas of Sinatra and Monroe with ease.
Marilyn goes after Frank without apology when they are both still married, under the pre-text of wooing him to star with her in a movie. When their marriages break down they are drawn to each other but when they move in together, reality is a far cry from domestic bliss.
By Marilyn’s own admission she is selfish, impatient and hard to handle. And he can be unsupportive and unsympathetic. Their match was unsuitable from the start but Frank sticks by her, through many doomed relationships, her failing career and her slow descent into drug and alcohol addiction.
Marilyn managed to be sexy and innocent all at once. She was painfully self-aware and constantly performing, attempting to hide her insecurities with bravado and a coy smile. Erin Gavin shows vulnerability and sass as she slinks her way around the stage in glamorous dresses. “If you can’t handle me at my worst you don’t deserve to see me at my best” she says in a rare moment of self-belief. But all too soon she falls back to judging her worth by how perceive see her.
Jeff Bratz oozes suave sophistication as Sinatra and his singing voice is smooth and a joy to listen to. He excels at the charming side of Sinatra’s character but he doesn’t get to explore the darker side of Sinatra’s personality that the public didn’t see. While the Marilyn of this production wears her heat on her sleeve, the closest we get to the truth of Sinatra’s character is when he is performing his songs.
We all know how the story of Marilyn Monroe ends, and the tragic day of 5 August 1962 hangs in the air throughout. She was searching for something that she would never be able to find and ultimately succumbs to the pressures of her past and her fame. Marilyn Monroe’s story has been told on stage hundreds of times in dozens of different ways but her character is always compelling. The play only just scratches the surface, never really delving deeply into what made Marilyn and Sinatra tick. It falls short of being truly emotional but is entertaining and well crafted and a lovely way to spend an evening.
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By Catherine Duffy