By Ernest Barteldes
Siren’s Heart… Norma Jean and Marilyn Monroe in Purgatory
Playing at the Actors’ Temple
339 W. 47th Street
New York, NY
Tuesday at 7 PM
Wednesday at 2 PM
Saturday at 4:30 PM
Sunday at 2 PM
For tickets call 212-239-6200 or visit www.telecharge.com
On “A Siren’s Heart,” Marilyn Monroe (Louise Bradshaw) finds herself in purgatory half a century after the ‘accident’ that ultimately took her life. There, she reflects about her life – including her crazy mother – and the ups and downs of her life and career with great dramatic flair.
The musical – which is playing at the Actors’ Temple on select evenings – looks back at an icon that captivated the hearts and minds of America throughout the 50s and that continues to intrigue many of us even today. Louise Bradshaw embodies her spirit well, recreating many of Monroe’s most memorable poses, including the subway grate scene from “Seven Year Itch” that ultimately led to the end of her marriage to Joe DiMaggio.
The original music (mostly composed by Walt Stepp) sounds as if it had been written during Monroe’s lifetime. Among the most memorable is “The Shiksa Strip,” an uptempo number written by Bradshaw, musical director Gregory Nissen (who also serves as the one-man orchestra) and Lissa Moira that explores Marilyn’s marriage to playwright Arthur Miller. Bradshaw does not try to impersonate Monroe per se – instead, she gives an impression of a more self-aware woman who is trying to not only forgives those who did her wrong during her lifetime, but also to forgive herself. There are strong comedic moments, but as the narrative evolves the theme becomes more and more serious, and we see a picture of an admittedly flawed superstar out to move on in the afterlife.
I believe A Siren’ Heart deserves a wider audience because it is a rare look not at Marilyn the superstar, but at her long-lost real persona: Norma Jean Baker, a woman unprepared for the superstardom that would resonate many years after her own life came to an end.