On Writing a Marilyn Musical – A Different Take

Fifty Cent Soul

English: Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell putti...

Lights up on a man, riding a woman. She is on all fours, dressed in lingerie. He is wearing a shirt and tie, and apparently nothing else. The man is Chicago mob boss SAM GIANCANA, and the woman is MARILYN MONROE.

“Bobby, you’re next!” sings SAM, while he slaps playfully at MARILYN with a riding crop. BOBBY KENNEDY, smoking pensively in the corner, says nothing.

“As unresponsive as a fossil!” sings MARILYN, in a surprisingly full soprano. This is an actual quotation, and that’s all she’ll sing, all night: fragments of things she really said.

BOBBY pushes SAM off MARILYN, and tries to kiss her.

“Lipstick and mascara and precocious curves,” sings MARILYN, running away from him, “as unresponsive as a fossil!”

BOBBY slaps her, and returns angrily to his corner. Another blonde woman enters, and comforts MARILYN. This is JEAN HARLOW.

“Machinery is going to take the place of every profession,” sings JEAN.

“As unresponsive as a fossil,” sings MARILYN.

SAM tries to grope both women. Then JANE RUSSELL enters, and shoots BOBBY KENNEDY dead.

All three women face the audience, get down on all fours, and press their palms into wet cement squares at the edge of the stage. “Jane/Jean/Norma Jean,” they chant while SAM rides them, one after the other.

Pros: This freewheeling, grab-bag approach to the culture surrounding Monroe allows a writer tremendous scope, and can avoid all those straightjacketing bio-fiction cliches.

Cons: An indulgent and shallow approach like this can be clever, but usually that’s all it can be. Me, personally?  I’d thoroughly enjoy this night. But in terms of writing the show that appears in Smash – a big, glossy, mainstream Broadway show – this is cheating. It would never get enough backers.

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