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New York — Marilyn, an American Fable. Musical by Patricia Michaels (libretto), Jeanne Napoli, Doug Frank, Gary Portnoy, Beth Lawrence, Norman Thalheimer (music and lyrics). Musical supervision, direction, vocals, and orchestral arrangments by Steven Margoshes. Directed and choreographed by Kenny Ortega.
A clutch of creative collaborators and a pride of producers have come up with a sprawling mishmash of a musical commemorating the meteoric career of Marilyn Monroe. ''Marilyn, an American Fable'' recalls the tinseled public life and the much publicized private ordeals of a star whose professional accomplishments were considerably greater than this scenario indicates.
The extravaganza at the Minskoff Theatre begins in the shadow of Hollywoodland with wistful little Norma Jean (later Marilyn) dreaming dreams while a ubiquitous trio designated as Destiny sprinkles stardust.
Patricia Michaels's libretto touches sketchily on Marilyn's marriages to Jim Dougherty, Joe DiMaggio, and Arthur Miller (Gerorge Dvorsky, Scott Bakula, and Will Gerard). The libretto glimpses the addictions that dogged Marilyn's personal life and makes a fleeting reference to her association with the Actors Studio in New York. (''I long to be in Moscow,'' says Marilyn, as she tries a line from Chekhov.)
The production abounds in musical numbers, some of which are relevant and some of which are downright silly. Willy Falk makes something of ''You Are So Beyond,'' a fan's sentimental serenade. The looniest tune of all is a bubble-bath Hollywood fantasy in which a retinue of dancing, pink-overalled plumbers choruses the praises of ''Miss Bubbles.'' The aim is satire. But with ''Marilyn,'' satire is superfluous.
Casting a little-known actress in the title role presented a stiff challenge. For Alyson Reed, the challenge has been compounded by the unwieldiness of the material. Miss Reed is a good-looking actress, who sings and dances well and who gives a credible impersonation of Marilyn, particularly in the matter of the breathless speaking voice. The leading lady and her colleagues do what they can to lift the show off the floor, but the odds are against them.
''Marilyn, an American Fable'' cost $4 million, which is probably the most fabulous thing about it. The cost shows everywhere, from the rolling scenery of Tom H. John and the splashy costumes by Joseph G. Aulisi to the glitzy lighting by Marcia Madeira. One of the morals of ''Marilyn'' is that fame doesn't buy happiness. And the moral of this would-be salute is that money doesn't buy a Broadway musical. It should be reported, however, that the opening-night, black-tie audience cheered ''Marilyn'' to the rafters.