Goodbye Norma Jeane at Above The Stag Theatre: Press night review by Stephen Vowles

Liam Burke’s alluring story of famed choreographer Jack Cole is totally mesmerising – especially for film buffs and lovers of stories from Hollywood. With tour de force performances from Tim English as Cole and Rachel Stanley as the various famous ladies in his life, and precise direction from Robert McWhir, this very well crafted play is a wonderful entry into another realm told in a beautiful, accurate and well researched way. 

The play opens with Cole turning on the radio that fateful night August 4th 1962 and hearing that ‘Baby Doll’ as he refers to her has died. Then the incredible ladies that Cole has taught to dance or choreographed routines for in their various pictures come to his house, one by one. Lana Turner, Ann Miller, Gwen Verdon, Jane Russell, Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth, each to ask if he is alright. Then through informative and direct addresses to the audience, Cole explains each of their stories and how he was involved with them, dropping into the dialogue factual references, and time stamping the period when he is reminiscing – 1938, 1948 and 1952.

Burke shows great respect for the actors and actresses that formed the Cole story. He also tells us about Cole the man, who loved his life, totally open about his sexuality and was famed for the various gay pool parties where non-out actors of the time would relax and have fun; name dropping the likes of Tyrone Power which just added an authentic touch to the piece and made for some great comedy moments. Burke also details the promiscuity of the time within the gay community and the perils of fame.

This is inventive theatre performed with a heightened sense of integrity by the two actors. In the last five minutes Norma Jeane becomes Marilyn Monroe; caught in a spotlight and re-creating the scene where Monroe is singing ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, hands raised to the sky, which just added to the whimsical magic and the irrefutable and adorable charm of this homage to a bygone era. Beautifully done with panache, elegance and flare. Amazing!


Photos by PBG Studios


Goodbye Norma Jeane runs to Saturday 7th April at the Studio Theatre, Above the Stag, 72 Albert Embankment, Vauxhall, SE1 7TP. Box office:

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