Before the term choreographer was coined, there were ‘dance writers’ – and the daddy of them all was Jack Cole.
Developing what we now call ‘theatre dance’ from as early as the 1930s, Cole’s largely forgotten influence on Broadway and Hollywood is the focus of this new piece celebrating his life and work. Set on the day that he hears the news of the death of one of his most celebrated pupils – one Marilyn Monroe – the play sees Cole engaging in a series of encounters with memorable leading ladies of the time, while an unseen gay orgy is apparently taking place in his swimming pool.
This is actually a two-hander with the magnificent Rachel Stanley playing no less than seven legendary stars: Lana Turner, Norma Jeane Mortenson, Ann Miller, Gwen Verdon, Jane Russell, Betty Grable, and Rita Hayworth. It’s a profusion of vamp and camp as Stanley pouts and poses, breathing distinct life into each and every one of these divine divas. A shape-shifting tour de force.
Tim English gives a robust performance as Jack Cole, although the monologues occasionally drift into ‘lecture’ territory – very informative, but a little dry in places. However, whenever the doorbell rings and we meet another character, there’s always great chemistry between English and Stanley. A real highlight is the energetic dace-off battle between the two of them near the climax.
An excellent period set by Stewart J Charlesworth and elegant lighting by Jack Weir really evoke the era. Aficionados of this classic age of Hollywood will find much to get their teeth into here.
Gay Times gives Goodbye Norma Jeane – ★★★★☆
More information can be found here.