Arts & Entertainment

Marilyn Monroe coming to Walla Walla stage

Marilyn Monroe is alive and well in Sunny Thompson.

Thompson is not only one of those triple threats in the entertainment business (she sings, she dances, she acts), she also looks just like the iconic Marilyn.

So much so that her producer/writer husband, Greg Thompson, cast her in the one-woman show he wrote, Marilyn: Forever Blonde about seven years ago. The musical revue is still going strong at venues around the world.

The show comes to the Power House Theatre in Walla Walla on Oct. 15 for a two-week engagement.

Thompson relates well to the blond bombshell she portrays.

"I would have loved to be born in 1940s," Thompson said in a recent telephone interview. "We've taken this show all over the world, and everywhere we go, I am amazed how people respond to Marilyn. People visibly soften to her. I can see it on their faces. She was such a glamorous woman, an icon in her day, a kind and gentle soul with a generous heart, but there was a loneliness about her too."

Marilyn: Forever Blonde takes the audience on a trip back in time when Marilyn was at her best. There are two acts and 17 songs in the show, with music from Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. Most of the songs also are from Marilyn's movies.

The musical story takes place at a photo shoot just before Marilyn's untimely death in 1962. Thompson has done plenty of research on Marilyn and has developed a more in-depth understanding into the sex symbol's life.

"There is such kindness in her eyes," she said. "There's a softness about her that makes you think she would have been a good friend, someone fun to be with, despite all the suffering that happened in her life. That has been my whole premise since taking over this role: to give the audience a glimpse into that part of Marilyn's life as well as the glamorous side."

Thompson said she initially declined to play Marilyn when her husband first made the offer.

"When this offer came up, I was already doing stage shows in Vegas and having a ball," Thompson said. "Besides, Marilyn Monroe is an icon, one of the world's most glamorous women, a sex symbol, and I didn't think I wanted to be compared to her."

But her husband eventually convinced her to take the role, and the show has since earned dozens of awards for best actress, best theatrical event of the year and best touring show of the year.

The show has been directed by Stephanie Shine, with the Seattle Shakespeare Company, since the beginning.

Thompson was convinced to stay with the show after it first debuted in Los Angeles. She was approached after the show by Richard Blackwell, better known as Mr. Blackwell, the Hollywood fashion critic who dishes the dirt on how celebrities dress themselves in public.

"He was a good friend of Marilyn's and a very sweet man," she said. "He thanked me for giving him a couple hours with his old friend. If he could see me as Marilyn, then I figured I must be doing something right."

The Power House, at 111 N. Sixth St., shows are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15, 19, 20-22, 26-29 with 3 p.m. matinees Oct. 16, 23 and 30. Admission is from $10 to $50, depending on seat location. Tickets are available at www.phtww.com or call 509-742-0539.

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com

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