What do Marilyn Monroe and Walla Walla have in common?
First, Marilyn Monroe and Walla Walla were both featured on the cover of the September 1972 issue of Life Magazine.
Second, Stephanie Shine is both artistic director of Shakespeare Walla Walla, based out of the Power House Theatre, and director of the critically acclaimed, award-winning, one-woman play, "Marilyn, Forever Blonde."
"Marilyn: Forever Blonde, the Marilyn Monroe Story in her own Words and Music," has its Pacific Northwest debut at the Power House Theatre Oct. 15 and stars Sunny Thompson, who began working with Shine in Seattle four years ago on a project initiated by Thompson's husband, producer Greg Thompson.
Shine and Thompson began working on the project as an acting exercise, and then both became fascinated by Monroe's complex, complicated combination of little girl and international sex goddess.
Shine was not intimidated by Marilyn's blatant sexuality, while Thompson, who had done extensive research on the blonde bombshell, was focused on not making Monroe a victim.
"Marilyn was one of the first really powerful women in Hollywood," said Thompson. "She did endorsements, had her own production company and she drove the establishment crazy. She just couldn't do it all by herself, but she blazed the way for women in film today."
Together, Shine and Thompson worked on the play for nearly a year before performing it on stage.
"When my husband said we were opening in Hollywood, I thought he was crazy," said Thompson, "but he said there are still people in Hollywood who knew Marilyn and we would find out very quickly if the play would be well-received."
The rest, as they say, is history.
The play opened in Hollywood in 2007 to rave reviews, and has been touring the world, from Boston to New Zealand, from Sarasota to Calgary, and from Tucson to London.
The London Times called Thompson's performance "delectable." The Boston Globe called it "breathtaking." And the San Francisco Chronicle claimed "it is one of the greatest performances of the modern stage!"
The play features 17 songs by legendary songwriters, including Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. The songs were first performed by Marilyn Monroe in her films and are used to help tell the story in Marilyn's own words. All songs are performed by Thompson throughout the show.
"Marilyn: Forever Blonde!" has won "Show Of The Year" awards, "Touring Production Of The Year," along with several "Best Actress" awards.
The show will have a limited run at the new Power House Theatre in downtown Walla Walla Oct. 15 through Oct. 30.
"We are looking forward to playing Walla Walla," said Thompson.
"Wine, women and song … it's a perfect fit!"
Claire Slattery is communications specialist for Power House Theatre.