When Joanne Clifton first announced she would be starring in
a musical, I raised an eyebrow.
I'm usually first in the queue to support the Strictly
fraternity in their endeavours outside the programme. A theatre tour. Maybe a
panto. But this was something that no other dancer from the show had done - a
proper acting role.
Norma Jeane - The Musical is set in the mind of the
eponymous movie star, as she spends time in Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic in
New York. She is visited by relatives, all voices in her head, and looks back
on her troubled life.
On stage, Marilyn is represented by three actresses - Sarah
Rose Denton as the troubled and lost Norma Jeane, Joanne Clifton as the
glamourous and confident Marilyn Monroe, and the pair are later joined by Ruth Betteridge
as a young Norma Jeane.
So, what of Joanne and my raised eyebrow?
Joanne is a marvelous Marilyn. She embodies the sexy,
glamourous and confident persona of the starlet, deluded and caught-up her own
hype. She sings and dances, and delivers some of the funniest (and most
profane!) lines in the show. And this is no cameo. No token casting to get bums
on seats. Joanne pulls her weight with the rest of the cast,
only leaving the stage at brief moments to change into another one of Marilyn's
signature outfits. Not once did her character slip.
Joanne can carry a tune too, performing several songs,
although at times her voice was lost in the music. I'm sure she'll only improve
as the run goes on. The music itself tells the story, but you probably won't
leave the theatre humming any of it.
While this is far from being a dance show, those who cannot
live without for a bit of Strictly fairy dust are catered for.
Choreographer Adam Scrown has included some dancing for Joanne, so you get to
see her do what she's known for.
The rest of the cast are not to be forgotten. Denton is the
perfect juxtaposition to Joanne in her role as Norma Jeane. And Joseph Bader
keeps things moving as her uncle Marion, serving as the piece's narrator.
I thoroughly enjoyed the show, and I wish the whole cast and
crew a very successful run.
I attended the press night on 1st June 2016.