Norma Jeane: The Musical at the LOST Theatre
On the week that Marilyn Monroe would have turned 90 a new show comes to London exploring the very reasons that the troubled Hollywood superstar didn’t live to see her old age. Norma Jeane: The Musical is set 18 months before the star’s death at the time when she was checked into a lunatic asylum under the pretence that she would be visiting a spa to rest. The audience watches as Monroe, or Norma Jeane as she was baptised, is confined to a cell-like chamber and battles with the voices in her head as she experiences flashbacks to her life before it was touched by fame.
Joanne Clifton plays one of the characters conjured by Norma Jeane’s imagination, taking the form of the familiar, glamorous version of Monroe. Dressed in long elegant dresses and sparkly jewellery, her face and hair perfectly made up, she marks a stark contrast to the tired, frantic Norma Jeane, an asylum patient stripped down to a nightdress and a bare face. Mirroring the gestures and vocals of Marilyn Monroe, Clifton bears a striking resemblance to the star and, with all the grace that a dancer could bring to the role, she claims a strong on-stage presence. However, this just isn’t enough to make the overall production a success commensurate with the powerful true story of Norma Jeane’s life.
The tone of the piece, as well as the message it is trying to communicate, is somewhat unclear. The audience is presented with an apparent exploration of the mental illness suffered by Norma Jeane and the persona that masked her true self, however the sombre scenes lack the potential for any real emotional reaction due to their overshadowing by big show-pieces backed by an ensemble of enthusiastic tap dancers. The soundtrack boasts an array of pre-recorded backing tracks that sometimes drown out the singers (aided by the tapping feet of the dancers), and the songs themselves, though at times catchy, lack any real depth.
Norma Jeane: The Musical is content to softly touch on the problems that the young star faced and present them in a light-hearted manner. The production is an easy watch with a number of laugh-out-loud moments keeping the audience entertained; and the main reason to snap up tickets is Joanne Clifton shining in the role of Marilyn Monroe.
Norma Jeane: The Musical is on at the LOST Theatre from 30th May until 19th June 2016, for further information or to book visit here.