Friday, January 9, 2009

Marilyn is this girl's best friend (with video) | ®

Marilyn is this girl's best friend (with video) ®

Marilyn is this girl's best friend (with video)
By Kathleen Allen
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona Published: 01.09.2009

Sunny Thompson most definitely did not want to be Marilyn Monroe. • But thanks to a persistent husband, a primo Monroe impersonator and an actor's curiosity, the platinum hair, luscious lips and heavy-lidded eyes are now part of her. • And Invisible Theatre brings her one-woman show, "Marilyn: Forever Blonde," to the Old Pueblo this weekend.

Sunny Thompson plays Marilyn Monroe in the one-woman show, "Marilyn: Forever Blonde," which Invisible Theatre brings to the Old Pueblo.
Photos by Howard Petrella / Courtesy of Invisible Theatre

Her husband, Greg Thompson, had spent much of the last decade perfecting his script, based on interviews with and writings by Monroe, who died in 1962 from what may or may not have been an accidental suicide.
The last six years of that decade he spent trying to persuade Sunny, an accomplished singer and actress, to take on the role.

"I didn't think I needed to be compared to Marilyn Monroe," said Sunny, explaining why she nixed her husband's idea.

"Nobody ever, ever has come close to what she's done, and they know her everywhere around the world. What did I think I could bring to the character? I didn't need that pressure and that criticism."
But her husband kept after her. Finally, she agreed to do it. But only as an acting exercise.
Then, being a professional, she had to do it right, even if it were just an exercise.
Along the way, she met up with Monroe impersonator Jimmy James.

"I saw a DVD of his Marilyn," recalled Sunny. "I cried when I first saw it. So I asked him to come work with me. He worked with me for a week, walking, talking and makeup. It took eight hours the first time to put on the makeup."

James had gained fame for his Monroe impersonation but was ready to hang up his gown.
"I said if Jimmy said I could do it, I would," said Sunny. "He wouldn't lie to me. At the end, he said he thought I could do it. He passed the torch to me."

Thompson's confidence was strong. She felt her Marilyn was solid.
"Then my husband announced we were going to open on Hollywood Boulevard, and all my confidence melted away."

It shouldn't have. Since that 2007 show in Los Angeles, Sunny has traveled around the country with her Marilyn, and the one-woman show has received glowing reviews.
And she keeps working on perfecting the role.

"I have almost 400 books about her, all of which I've read," said Sunny.
"I have all her films on tape, and every piece of footage of her that we could find — press conferences, outtakes from films when she didn't know the camera was running, and listening to her audio."
In learning Monroe, she also learned to embrace her.

"I love her tremendous kindness," said Sunny. "I really love that about her. She wanted to please the truck driver as well as the millionaire. And she wanted to make her work wonderful — she never stopped trying to make it better.

"I wasn't a real fan when I started. I didn't really know how bright she was, how street-smart and tough. She was funny and smart and insecure and tough all in the same breath."

On StarNet: Watch Sunny Thompson transform herself into Marilyn Monroe:

● Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at or 573-4128.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tucson Weekly : CityWeek : Pick of the Week

Tucson Weekly : CityWeek : Pick of the Week:
"Pick of the Week"

Audiences Prefer Blondes?

During the opening performance of Marilyn: Forever Blonde, actress and singer Sunny Thompson faced a tough crowd.
The play opened in Hollywood, Calif., across the street from Marilyn's Walk of Fame star. In the audience sat former producers, co-stars and friends of Marilyn. The pressure was on for Thompson, who personifies the iconic blonde in the one-woman play about Marilyn's life.

Sunny Thompson

"It was terrifying at first, because there were so many people who came to the play who knew her and worked with her," Thompson said. "I thought, 'Gosh, can we open it in Dayton, Ohio, where they don't claim her?'"

Opening in Hollywood was Thompson's husband's idea. Greg Thompson, the show's playwright and producer, thought that if the play was true to who Marilyn was and authentic to those who knew her, they would know they had created something successful.

The play got positive reviews and approval from the audience. Now, Tucsonans will be able to see Thompson as the legend when Marilyn: Forever Blonde makes its Old Pueblo debut this week.

Instead of portraying her as an overtly sexual movie star, the play, brought to Tucson by Invisible Theatre, seeks to expose the woman behind the icon. Set during Marilyn's last photo shoot before her death, the play uses only quotes from Marilyn, as well as 17 of her songs. Marilyn reflects on her life, from her childhood in nine foster homes, to the studio system that controlled her life and work, to her loneliness as she grew older.

"We can see, through both the music and her own words, how she, at the end, was all alone, and really questioned what it would be like to do it all again," said Susan Claassen, artistic director of Invisible Theatre. "I think that audiences know only Marilyn as an icon rather than Marilyn the person."

Thompson was initially hesitant to take on a one-woman play about such a larger-than-life woman. Her husband had been asking her for years to consider starring in the play, and she took on the role reluctantly.

Stephanie Shine, artistic director of the Seattle Shakespeare Company, was asked to direct the play. Shine's previous work made her an attractive candidate.

"Shakespeare is very gritty and sexy. ... I knew (Shine) wouldn't be afraid to explore Marilyn's sexual appeal, and that's a part of Marilyn, a distinctive part of her," Sunny Thompson said. "To leave that out would do (Marilyn) severe injustice."

Beginning in the fall of 2005, Shine and Thompson began researching every aspect of Marilyn, scouring books, movies and audio recordings for glimpses into her life. The two women discovered a strong individual, a marketing genius, a hard worker and a performer who never thought anybody was beneath her; her work was meant equally for truckers and millionaires, Thompson said.

Marilyn was a career woman of the 1950s who did whatever it took to get ahead--which could mean sleeping around.

"She looks at it as, 'Well, this is what it takes. Nobody ever got cancer from sex,' and we say that in the play," Thompson said. "It's a means to an end."

As Thompson immersed herself in Marilyn's life, she had to recast herself physically as Marilyn. For the "external work," a professional was called in: Jimmy James. A drag artist who famously impersonated Marilyn in the 1980s, James showed Thompson how to walk, talk and look like Marilyn.

"It took him eight hours to do my makeup for the first time," Thompson said. "It's more like painting a canvas than makeup."

At the end of the week, James gave Thompson his blessing. After all of the careful study of Marilyn's internal struggles and external beauty, Thompson took the stage as Marilyn. As a result, audiences will be able to see Marilyn's rollercoaster life and early death depicted in a novel way.

"It's definitely a play that hits the highs and understands the lows," Claassen said. "But it's definitely hopeful."

The play is also very funny, Thompson said, thanks to Marilyn's wit.

"It is tragic in the end, no doubt about it, but it's tremendously funny, in a glamorous way," Thompson said. "It's true to Marilyn."

Invisible Theatre's presentation of Marilyn: Forever Blonde will take place at the Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway Blvd., at 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 10, and 1 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 11. Tickets are $42. Rush tickets, subject to availability, will be available for half-price a half-hour before curtain. For more information or reservations, call the Invisible Theatre box office at 882-9721, or visit IT's Web site.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Celebrate 'The Blond Bombshell' at Marilyn events | Culture

Celebrate 'The Blond Bombshell' at Marilyn events Culture

Published: 01.01.2009

When memories just aren't enough, taking in a tribute performance can be nice. When one's memories get to be more than 50 years old, what brain doesn't appreciate a nostalgia-boosting experience to relive the excitement of the times when cars had fins and there was only one way to make a martini?

Sunny Thompson stars in Invisible Theatre's
"Marilyn: Forever Blonde!"

One of the hottest buttons for dream date fantasy was Marilyn Monroe, a pop culture icon still sweet enough to be the girl next door, even after she became the bride first of Joe DiMaggio and then of playwright Arthur Miller. Another part of the legend is that alleged link between Monroe and President John F. Kennedy. And who mysteriously snatched away her address book after she died?

How did she keep that glow alive for so many influential men? There will be insights aplenty in a trio of events celebrating the mystique of Marilyn Monroe, beginning Wednesday with a special program at the Loft Cinema, "Gentlemen Prefer Marilyn." A screening of "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (1953) will be combined with a Marilyn Monroe look-alike contest (of course), in which both genders are encouraged to indulge their "inner Marilyn." Additional prizes will be awarded during the preshow Marilyn trivia contest and everyone will be encouraged to sing along to additional numbers from other Monroe movies.

Admission for the 7:30 p.m. event is $6.
A fundraiser for Invisible Theatre, aptly titled "The 'Marilyn Merlot' Wine and Dine Fundraiser," is Jan. 9 at Pastiche Modern Eatery, 3025 N. Campbell Ave. Music will be by singer Joe Bourne and pianist Rob Boone. Tickets are $125. Wines, appetizers and desserts will be served.

The weekend of Jan. 10-11 will be given over to a fully-costumed stage production of "Marilyn: Forever Blonde!" featuring Sunny Thompson at Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave. All tickets are $42. For additional details, 882-9721,

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Tucson Weekly : Chow : Noshing Around

Tucson Weekly : Chow : Noshing Around:

Noshing Around

Marilyn Merlot

Nova Wines of Napa Valley has been making popular Marilyn Monroe-themed wines since 1985, including Blonde De Noirs, Marilyn Cabernet and the playfully named Marilyn Merlot. Those wines will be highlighted at an Invisible Theatre Company fundraiser at Pastiche Modern Eatery, 3025 N. Campbell Ave., at 6 p.m., Friday, Jan. 9. $125 per person, $75 of which is tax-deductible. Appetizers, sweets and music by Joe Bourne and Rob Boone are included. Call 882-9721 for reservations. Visit or for more information.

Marilyn: Forever Blonde

Loft celebrates Marilyn Monroe with costume contest, screening | ®

Loft celebrates Marilyn Monroe with costume contest, screening ®

Loft celebrates Marilyn Monroe with costume contest, screening
Tucson, Arizona Published: 01.01.2009

Tucson's Invisible Theatre will present the Southwest premiere of "Marilyn: Forever Blonde" Jan. 10-11 at the Berger Performing Arts Center.

To help prime the pump for the stage show, IT and the Loft Cinema have cooked up an event called "Gentlemen Prefer Marilyn: A Marilyn Monroe Celebration."

The one-night-only event, at 7:30 Wednesday, will include a costume contest, trivia and a screening of the classic 1953 comedy "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," in which Monroe sings "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." Admission is $6.

For information about the Invisible Theatre production, call 882-9721.