You might not consider Marilyn Monroe’s life particularly mysterious, but this show aims to get into the more obscure details of her time as Hollywood’s prime icon. Jojo Desmond sings, dances and acts the part of Monroe, from her early years as a foster child to her untimely death, via that famous white dress.
The Marilyn Monroe Story certainly provides information about Monroe that most people wouldn’t know. In true cabaret style, audience interaction and a roster of tunes are aptly chosen to reinforce the events in Monroe’s life, with a touch of irreverence. We’re witness to an impressive number of costume changes, skilful lighting and some heartfelt singing. This is most notable in the second half when we see a woman desperate for human connection, rather than just the image an of inconveniently strong-willed peroxide blonde.
It's the general absence of this sort of emotional insight in the first half of the show that makes the monologue and singing feel initially lacklustre. Because the drama here is in the songs, these really need to be performed with full force. The delivery of lines about her films and lovers tends to lack variety. The issue with the monologue is deeper than the delivery though. With a biographical focus on fact more than feeling, she refers to events as though they were scripted, rather than lived.
Among the familiar images, glitzy costumes and entertaining musical numbers, the real Marilyn still feels at arm's length.