Goodbye Miss Monroe, a show about Marilyn, right? Right, and wrong. Ultimately this two-hander is about Jack Cole, dancer and choreographer extraordinaire from the Golden Age of Broadway and Hollywood film.
You know him! Well I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t heard of him before. I am especially ashamed as he is credited with being the man who developed the first theatrical Jazz Dance style. In the 1940s and 1950s Jack Cole worked between Broadway and Hollywood. He choreographed Kismet and Man of La Mancha, to mention just two, and worked with film stars such as Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe.
Goodbye Miss Monroe, a show written by an American, right? Wrong. This show is written by an Aussie who has recently returned after 20 years abroad. Brisbane born Liam De Burca featured as a dancer in the 2005 film The Producers, assisted Broadway Director and Choreographer Susan Stroman on three major musicals and has been writing for Timeline Films in LA.
Actor Matt Young, who plays Jack Cole, tells me that he met Liam during a gruelling 8 hour audition – “We were both auditioning for UK physical theatre company DV8 in Sydney. At the lunch break, I introduced myself” – and the rest, as they say, is history.
Like Liam, Matt had lived in New York City before moving back to Australia and the two discovered that they both knew and had worked with many of the same people. Liam handed Matt the script and Matt was in.
The second actor in Goodbye Miss Monroe has to play multiple roles including Rita Hayworth, Jane Russell, Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe. Liam was still trying to find the right person to play this part when Matt suggested Anna Burgess. Matt and Anna had worked together on The Producers and Anna had worn what came to be known as the ‘Marilyn dress’ to the opening night.
When I speak with Anna she admits to being “obsessed” with Marilyn. At first she was drawn to Marilyn’s soft femininity, but later came to admire her strength and intelligence. There is a line in the show which Anna tells me goes something like this, “When he met her it was like there was this longing in her eyes … this need to be liked … no loved”.
This line resonates with Anna, especially her own need to act. “You just want to tell your truth and share and connect with people”.
Without funding, the team decided to try crowd funding via a campaign on Pozible. They were excited when money began to come in from theatre groups and theatre lovers. As Anna tells me, “It was really lovely to see the industry coming together. Lovely to see people’s support”.
Given a short rehearsal time, two weeks, I was interested to know how involved the actors were in the process. Anna explains.
“When he [Liam] met me, Marilyn wasn’t actually written into the play. He wanted her to be spoken of and not be seen. Then when he met me he decided he had to write her [Marilyn] in; “You can do her and do her justice”, he said.
How flattering to have a role written for you!
According to Matt, Liam had a great work ethic, “He trusted me to do my job as the actor, and I trusted him to do his as the writer/director. He’s been a hard task master … but an absolute champion for my interpretation of the role.”
Given I hadn’t heard of Jack Cole till now, I wanted to know whether the actors had known of his work before reading the play. Matt’s reply was a resounding ‘yes’!
“I’ve danced in the studios he studied at in Greenwich Village in NYC. At New York University, he was constantly referred to when learning choreography by Fosse, Robbins, Bennett, or virtually any music theatre choreographer. I read biographies of him at New York University … in my experience he has always been present as the ‘father of musical theatre dance’.”
Anna adds, “I think it’s a really great story … we follow a man who doesn’t have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; [but] he’s in the History books, if you care to look ….”
Matt talks with passion about Jack Cole’s achievements and what he deems to be his most iconic work, Marilyn Monroe singing ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
“It’s almost a one-take number. The choreography of the camera is extraordinary, and Marilyn is incredible. For someone who ‘wasn’t a dancer’, she shows amazing skill in this number. … Today’s audiences can be tricked … with clever editing. Back then they were the real deal [they actually danced] and Jack was the task master that made them that way.”
Goodbye Miss Monroe
Dates 29th April – 4th May
Information and Bookings: Chapel off Chapel