Davenport’s, Chicago, IL, November 16, 2016
Reviewed by Carla Gordon for Cabaret Scenes
Amy Lechelt-Basta’s Marilyn Uncovered mostly offers the dark side of Marilyn Monroe. When Marilyn, playing Sugar Kane Kowalcyzk, sings “I Wanna Be Loved by You” in the iconic Some Like It Hot, she leads with feline flirtation. Marilyn is adorable and, while longing may underscore, Monroe’s performance is joyful. Choosing to lead with desperation in that same song, Lechelt-Basta takes us to a dark corner. She shares that while before this project she had little exposure to Marilyn’s films, she feels connected to the legend. While she says that she will not imitate Monroe, at times she does and it’s fine. She morphs into Monroe by changing costumes (cleverly designed by Kate McClelland), ranging from a white halter top and shorts to a hot pink cocktail dress that recalls Marilyn’s curviness. The costume changes would be smoother with accompanying dialogue to fill the silent moments. When Lechelt-Basta sings “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” it is introduced via Marilyn’s sorrowful experiences growing up without a father. She offers “Teach Me Tonight” as a reflection of her child-like trust invested in her often over-controlling acting coach, Lee Strasberg. Marilyn’s longing for a “normal life” with her third husband, the honored playwright Arthur Miller, is reflected in “The Folks Who Live on the Hill.” Lechelt-Basta does capture Monroe’s sexy charm atop the piano in a grand medley combining “Do It Again” and “You’d Be Surprised.”
At times Lechelt-Basta struggled with vocal issues. She might have fared better in lower keys with fewer challenges relative to pitch and sustained breath support. However, she overcomes this nicely in “There’ll Be Some Changes Made,” delivering in her chest voice and with determination Marilyn’s aspiration to rise in Hollywood by talent rather than via the casting couch expectations of her time. Musical Director Rick Jensen provided rich accompaniment, often with a grand touch of jazz. Closing by pairing “Make Someone Happy” and “Smile” (arranged by Bob Moreen) is an interesting choice. Is it Marilyn who needs to be made happy, or us? It’s food for thought.