It’s the early morning hours of August 5, 1962 and, with a gay pool party playing out in his backyard, Hollywood choreographer Jack Cole wakes to devastating news…
The death of Marilyn Monroe.
Norma Jeane’s suicide signalled the death of glamorous Hollywood’s innocence and the fizzling out of Cole’s own prestige. We join him – the now-unknown architect behind many of Golden Age Hollywood’s most iconic leading ladies and largely uncredited father of theatrical jazz dance – on this tragic morning.
Visited by legends of the hour Lana Turner, Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth and his former assistant Gwen Verdon, rather than grieve, Cole obsesses over memories of how hard Norma Jeane was to work with. As audiences watch him slowly accept reality and graciously say farewell, they are treated to an intimate and untold true story, and an insightful glimpse behind the glitz of showbiz, into the life of a figure who made it tick.
This two-hander show is based around the little known Jack Cole and the mark he made on the classic Hollywood films of the 30s, 40s and 50s through the famous actresses he worked with and his jazz choreography. It’s intimate, direct style allows the audience to feel an intimacy with Jack that defies his Hollywood credentials.
Jack is played by Tim English as rather understated and easily outshined by his female performers, all played fantastically by Rachel Stanley who brings a real energy to all her characters. He is clearly a charismatic man yet he appears to lack a certain power, could this be the reason we don’t remember Cold as much as the performers he helped create? It is uncertain as to whether this is a misjudged acting style or a directorial choice.
Jack Cole is clearly a man with a fascinating life and the research put into this show to make this little known star as interesting as it truly speaks volumes of the writing. Not only in the dialogue but each dance is recognisable and specific to the shows they refer to. This is clearly a passion project for the writer and his enthusiasm shows in the work. The show is littered with inside jokes and nods for those who know these starlets well without leaving audience members who aren’t as familiar feeling alienated.
Catch Goodbye Norma Jeane at Above the Stag until the 7th of April, tickets are available from the Above the Stag website and cost £22.50.