For four decades, Jack Cole led a high-profile career as a dancer, gifted teacher and choreographer of American dance. Considered the father of modern theatrical jazz dance, his film work included The Merry Widow, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, There’s No Business Like Show Business, Kismet, Some Like it Hot, and more. He also choreographed for the Broadway stage including Alive and Kicking, Kismet, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Foxy, and Man of La Mancha.
While a cavalcade of Hollywood stars peppered his life: Gene Kelly, Rita Hayworth, Mitzi Gaynor, Betty Grable, Jane Russell, Donald O’Connor, Ann Miller and of course Marilyn Monroe, his contribution is surprisingly unknown outside the dance world – lacking the name recognition of those he influenced including Fosse, Robbins and Verdon.
Director, Liam de Burca, a dancer himself has crafted a well structured piece that focuses on the period following the death of Monroe. More a monologue than a play, Matt Young, who has an un-canny likeness to Cole delivers a well-rounded performance, offering insights into Cole’s psyche from his childhood upbringing and his dealings with the studio system. While the subject of Cole’s homosexuality is underplayed, it does offer some insight into the entrenched homophobia that existed in that era.
Young is ably supported by Anna Burgess who plays all the leading ladies in his life including Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable, Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe. While the play is melancholy in its construct, Burgess’ Martha Graham interpretive dance moment and her take on Gwen Verdon are to die for, providing some lighter moments to the overall piece.
Burgess also wears some magnificent outfits (also designed by de Burca) recreated by Meredith Clements and Louise Deleur, including the hot-pink evening gown, worn by Monroe in Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend – it simply oozed exquisite glamour and a fitting end to the performance. A special mention must go to wig designer, Elia Massimini who recreated the many hair-styles of the era which were ably dressed by Linda Cowell throughout the production with little turnaround time.
It is a pity that Good-bye Miss Monroe had such a short season as itoffers a fascinating insight into one of America’s reasonably unknown creators of the modern dance movement. One can only hope we will see this work grace a Melbourne stage again in the not-so-distant future.
Good-bye Miss Monroe
Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Season continues to 4 May 2014
Bookings: (03) 8290 7000 or online at: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au
For more information, visit: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au for details.
Image: Matt Young and Anna Burgess – by Belinda Wright BWP Studios