East Coast premier stars Sunny Thompson

“Who would want to be compared to Marilyn Monroe?”

That was actress Sunny Thompson’s initial reaction when her husband, Greg Thompson, asked her to read for the one-woman show he had written about one of Hollywood’s most iconic figures. “Marilyn: Forever Blonde” is set to make its East Coast premier this week at Stoneham Theatre.

The one-woman play finds Marilyn Monroe in 1962, in the midst of one of her final photo shoots. She’s 36 years old, and while still beautiful, she’s lost some of the girlish charm that made her Hollywood box office gold in the mid-20th century. She’s tired of the “sex symbol” label and wants to be respected as an actress and loved for the person she really is.

Because Sunny Thompson is a serious actress and not a Marilyn Monroe impersonator, she knew the risks of trying to portray the most famous actress who ever lived.

“She’s so well-known,” Thompson says. “Everyone has their own relationship with her and it’s so personal.”

Thompson was also well-aware of actresses who had attempted to play Marilyn in the past and fallen well short of the mark. So she resisted Greg Thompson’s entreaties at first. She already had her own successful career after all, as an actress and an international recording artist with a gold record.

Greg Thomson had an impressive track record of his own, having produced over 500 musical revues for stage and television over the last 35 years. He had written “Marilyn: Forever Blonde” over a period of ten years as a labor of love. Painstakingly researched from hundreds of quotes from Marilyn herself, it’s her life story in her own words.

The Thompsons looked for other actresses to play Monroe. But none of them were quite right. Either the acting or the singing wasn’t there. Finally, after six years of cajoling, Greg finally convinced Sunny to read for the part. He knew right away that he had found his Marilyn.

The show features 17 of Monroe’s song hits from the movies by such great songwriters as Irving Berlin (“You’d Be Surprised”), Cole Porter (“My Heart Belongs To Daddy”), Gus Kahn, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer (“That Old Black Magic”), just to name a few.

That suits Sunny Thompson just fine, as she thinks of herself as a singer first. The Minnesota native studied opera at Concordia College and earned her tuition by singing at every venue with a piano that she could find. Upon graduation, she traveled the world performing in song and dance revues and off-Broadway productions, before winding up in Spain, where she recorded a hit album and became a music video star. In all, she has recorded eight albums and starred in her own shows in Las Vegas, Reno and Branson, Missouri.

Thompson stresses that the songs in the show are not merely decorative, but fit in and advance the story. For example, after her breakup with playwright Arthur Miller, Marilyn sings, “I’m Through with Love.”

Thompson studied books, video and audio of Marilyn Monroe to prepare for the role. One DVD, “Final Days” was especially helpful, Thompson says, because it contains out-takes where Marilyn can be seen laughing and observed when she doesn’t know the camera is on.

Thompson also has a specific routine to prepare for each individual performance.

“I always have books and pictures right there,” she says. “I look at poses. And I listen to Frank Sinatra.” Sinatra is also the music audience hears as they enter the theater and take their seats.

“It brings you back to that time,” Thompson says. “It’s the perfect music to listen to.”

Thompson says that the two and a half hours she spends in makeup preparing for each show also helps her to get into character. “Marilyn took six and a half hours to get ready,” Thompson laughs.

Thompson hopes that the show will give audiences a glimpse into the human side of Marilyn Monroe.

“We know her from her films, but we don’t know her life,” Thompson says. “This is Marilyn Monroe as a person—-her marriages, courtships, affairs.” Thompson says that, true to Monroe’s personality, there are a few titillating moments too.

“She has a wonderful sweet side that is so adorable,” Thompson says, “then the next moment she’s just a brat.”

These two-hours in the presence of Marilyn Monroe will offer Stoneham Theatre audiences a glimpse into the last days and final thoughts of a woman lost in the world of Hollywood make-believe.

Marilyn: Forever Blonde runs from October 25 – November 11 at Stoneham Theatre, 395 Main St., Stoneham. For show times and tickets, go online at or phone 781-279-2200.


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