Analisa Bell comes DownStairs at the Maj with her new cabaret based on songs sung and inspired by Marilyn Monroe.
The genesis of the show came from a moment outside a Melbourne theatre, after seeing Legally Blonde, that prompted her to question whether she was a “Jackie O or a Marilyn Monroe”. As a tram passed by her skirt blew up and she caught the eye of a gentleman nearby; she knew then that she was a Marilyn. And since then, she’s been “polishing the diamond within.”
Bell isn’t trying to do an impersonation of Monroe, thankfully. Monroe was such a unique star in the sky, whose essence is impossible to replicate, that those who try to imitate her often pale in comparison. But what Ms. Bell does do is use Marilyn as an example in finding her own inner light and allure. Bell is charming, sweet, a little bit sassy, and all class. She interprets classic tunes like ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,’ ‘I Wanna Be Loved by You,’ and ‘You’d Be Surprised’ in a light and slightly breathy voice, even though she’s quite capable of a brassy belt, which she uses sparingly and to excellent effect.
There were a bit of nerves, as is completely understandable on opening night when you’re front and centre by yourself for an hour. But once she acknowledged it with a joke or two, we all laughed off those moments of forgotten lyrics and funny mishaps. She worked in plenty of audience participation, coming down off the stage into the crowd to find a “daddy” in ‘Every Baby Needs a Da Da Daddy’, bringing a gentleman up on stage with her during ‘You’d Be Surprised” and later asking a young woman up to take an iPhone selfie while saying the word “prunes” to get the perfect Marilyn pout.
Other funny moments came from Bell donning a curly blonde wig and pulling out a fan to make her skirt billow up the way Marilyn’s did in The Seven Year Itch, and dancing with and serenading a cardboard cutout of Cary Grant, who she observed was “feeling a little flat.” To add dimension to the evening, she did a touching, unique interpretation of Elton John’s ‘Candle in the Wind’ and covered Nicki Minaj’s ‘Marilyn Monroe’ and Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’, which brought the evening back to the present day, subtly nudging us to contemplate femininity and female identity in our times.
Ms. Bell was backed by Mia Brine on piano and ukulele (let’s not forget Marilyn’s wiggly ukulele playing in Some Like It Hot) and was directed by Jeremy Rice, with costume consultation by Cherie Hewson and sound and lighting by Jacinta Radbourne. Together they’ve created a lively, genuine and super-cute show that had the audience in stitches.
Analisa Bell’s inner diamond is precious.