This accessible production of Marilyn & Sinatra has a largely self-explanatory title, with no attempt to use such famous names as backdrops for a completely different story. The ‘Marilyn’ is indeed Marilyn Monroe (Erin Gavin) and the ‘Sinatra’ is Frank Sinatra (Jeff Bratz), and we are exposed to a balanced and non-judgemental survey of a mutual love for one another, which included more than an element of being in love. There appear to be a number of versions of the story of their relationship, though this play prefers to avoid being unnecessarily sensationalist. It is quite likely, given how private conversations are acted out on stage, that there was a modicum of artistic licence going on – the play never claims to be a verbatim account of who said what and when.
Some well-known tunes from the era in which the play is set are sublimely performed, and without too much volume, partly to suit the relatively small theatre space, and partly to reflect a more poignant and heartfelt style of that era’s singing. It’s a cliché, or at least an adaptation of one, but they really don’t sing songs like that anymore these days. There are more songs than I expected, giving a cabaret-style feel to the overall production. The transitions between songs and spoken dialogue seemed effortless, and I never felt that I wanted a song to finish in order for the plot to continue, or for the conversation to pause for another song sooner rather than later: it’s all optimally balanced.
Sandro Monetti, writer and director, kindly provided some helpful background just prior to the show proper: why was it that Monroe was listening to Frank Sinatra records on the night she was taken by her own hand? There are personal reasons for her doing this, over and beyond Sinatra being a popular singer (amongst other things) of that generation, and if their relationship wasn’t exactly plain sailing, this made it all the more credible. I am not sure whether Monetti personally introduces every show of this production, but I thought it was a nice and hearty opening statement. In providing useful information in this way, the show can be appreciated all the more.
Erin Gavin is simultaneously delightful and vulnerable in her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe, a compelling performance despite the audience knowing well in advance how things will turn out eventually. Jeff Bratz’s Frank Sinatra owns the room, so to speak, with a confidence and elegance that makes him incredibly likeable even when he is being abrasive and terse.
The character development in both parts is substantial, and the show has fully grasped the concept of ‘less is more’. While there’s more than enough attention to detail to maintain interest, it is not in a hurry to reach its conclusion, which I found most refreshing in comparison to so many new one-hour, one-act shows that seem to want to cram and crowbar as much content in as possible and then some. There are pauses, silences even – the show is allowed to breathe.
I’m pleased, too, that there’s no leapfrogging backwards and forwards over the eight-year period the show covers – the narrative is all in simple chronological order. Cleverly, the show manages to concentrate on the two characters; there is discussion and name-dropping of others, but everyone else is very much on the periphery. This is a very charming piece of theatre, keeping it simple, keeping it real.
Review by Chris Comaweng
Marilyn and Sinatra
Mon, 15th – Sun, 21st August
Produced by Sandro Monetti and Jason Haigh Ellery
in association with Lexus and The Diamond Studio
Co-producer Erin Gavin.
A play written and directed by Sandro Monetti
Their Names are world famous, but their love was top secret….until now!!!
Starring Erin Gavin as Marilyn Monroe and Jeff Bratz as Frank Sinatra
The little known, exhaustively researched, story of the relationship between showbiz icons Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra who briefly lived together in the 1950s and remained close right up until her death. Already a hit in Los Angeles and New York, this hour long play with songs comes to Jermyn Street Theatre direct from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Book tickets online