This review originally appeared on NiteLifeExchange.com.
Fifty years after her death, "Norma Jean/Marilyn Monroe" is still alive, though now she is living in the body of Louisa Bradshaw who wonderfully portrays the famed icon in Siren's Heart...Norma Jean & Marilyn in Purgatory, written by Walt Stepp, who also composed the original music/lyrics and directed by Lissa Moira. I saw this show last year when it premiered at Theatre for the New City and a year later, it's still great! (click here for that review)
With humor, heart, and a mixture of original and known songs, Siren's Heart successfully showed a different side to "Norma Jean/Marilyn Monroe," as she reflected on her life from purgatory giving insight into the mind and feelings "Norma Jean/Marilyn" felt as she rose to fame. Hidden underneath that soft exterior was a very vulnerable woman who actually had a lot of questions about how she lived her life with regards to her career, personal relationships, and own self-worth.
Walt has written a very cerebral yet humorous show. I definitely enjoyed the interspersed songs throughout the show, which helped move this story forward. "If You Could See Me As I Am" was my favorite song because it's the moment when "Norma Jean/Marilyn" is exposed the most. I wish this song ended the show as I felt it captured the essence of Siren's Heart.
Lissa Moira has continued to do an excellent job directing Siren's Heart. There was not one moment I where I wondered why Louisa did something or posed a certain way. Lissa's love for truth in storytelling and in this case, Norma Jean/Marilyn really came through.
From the voice to her movements, Louisa Bradshaw once again shined bright as "Norma Jean/Marilyn Monroe." It's evident Louisa has spent a lot of time studying Norma Jean/Marilyn Monroe. One of the strongest moments was when Louisa reenacted the famous scene where Marilyn Monroe stands over the subway grid and her dress blows up for all to see. With her gorgeously powerful vocals, Louisa blew the roof off of The Actor's Temple. As mentioned above, I adored "If You Could See Me As I Am," but I also thought Louisa flourished on "The Mask," "Looking at Her," and the blues-inspired "And Not My Yellow Hair." Louisa did a great job singing many songs Marilyn was known for including "When I Fall In Love," "Happy Birthday, Mr. President," "My Heart Belongs To Daddy," "I Wanna Be Loved By You." In addition to her strong voice, Louisa's genius comedic timing won me over. She was spot on at every key moment sending the audience into much laughter.
In addition to the retrospective insight I got from Siren's Heart, I learned a bit about Norma Jean/Marilyn Monroe's life as the show took me through the many loves, friends, and enemies of Norma Jean/Marilyn Monroe. While I did enjoy the education about Norma Jean/Marilyn Monroe's life, I think the show would be that much stronger if a few references were cut.
There has been a lot written about Norma Jean/Marilyn Monroe over the years, but Siren's Heart brought a new viewpoint to the mystery/legacy that is Norma Jean/Marilyn Monroe. Within this 90-minute show, not only did I see "Norma Jean/Marilyn Monroe's" journey, but Louisa's as well as an actress. Siren's Heart...Norma Jean/Marilyn in Purgatory plays Sundays at 2pm and 7pm, Tuesdays at 7pm, and Wednesdays at 2pm at The Actor's Temple in NYC (339 West 47th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue). Click here for tickets and follow the show on Facebook!