I am over the moon for the opportunity to once again interview Tegan Summer, CEO of Prospect House Entertainment, located in Burbank California. I first interviewed Tegan after he produced a star-studded gala that honored tap dance pioneers, The Nicholas Brothers.
This second interview with Tegan will shed light on a musical that he produced about Marilyn Monroe titled Marilyn. This highly successful musical premiered on July 29th, 2016 at the Alex Theater, Glendale, California.
What inspired you to write and produce a musical about Marilyn Monroe?
How does a stuttering, insecure young girl, who spent the majority of her youth shuttled between foster homes and orphanages, become the greatest star the world has ever seen? A combination of great determination, intense passion, near crippling vulnerability, and an immense amount of bravery. I have always been fascinated by Marilyn Monroe, not the wind-swept star standing over a subway grate with a flowing white dress, but who she was when the cameras were turned off.
This journey began when I stopped at Peggy Sue’s 50s diner on the way to Las Vegas. I wandered into the gift store and overheard a mom telling her ten year old daughter to pick out anything she wanted. The girl made a bee-line for the Marilyn Monroe candies and memorabilia. The mom told me that her daughter would run to the TV screen whenever Marilyn was on Turner Classic Movies. I ended up having lunch with them and left with stories of five generations of a family who were spellbound by Norma Jeane Baker.
We all have an ‘inner child’, often triggered by old friends, scents, family visits, or our insecurities. After exhaustive researching key personalities in the Monroe diaspora (Don Murray, her Bus Stop co-star James Karen, her New York Actors Studio classmate, Bill Pursel, her boyfriend between Jimmy Dougherty and Joe DiMaggio, and Greg Schreiner, the President of ‘Marilyn Remembered’), I came to the conclusion that Marilyn’s ‘inner child’ rose closer to the surface than most. Norma Jeane guided Marilyn’s path in ways that could only be explained through a combination of loss, ambition, and self-doubt.
Even though Norma Jeane desperately wanted to be a star, Marilyn Monroe was at the height of her depression when she was at the height of her career. Norma Jeane’s insecurities and Marilyn’s quest for happiness were inextricably linked; it was a a push and pull she contended with her entire life.
Marilyn! A new musical explores that dichotomy and the effect her relationships had on her incredible life. Marilyn Monroe left an indelible imprint on us all.
How long of a process is it from start to finish to create the script for a musical?
It varies… greatly. Some writers take years to craft a finished musical. Gregory Nabours (composer) and I worked very much in sync with each other and for a while, wrote a song a day. That was abnormal to say the least, but indicative of us being on the same page. Of course, we workshop the musical until the wrinkles are out as well. I would say it has taken us approximately eight months to get us where we are now and the process continues.
Can you talk about what it entails to cast for a musical?
As an independent producer, I like casting actors that I know and can rely upon as the stakes are so high. Our cast is made up of around 70% extremely talented known performers and referrals of the highest calibre. As Marilyn! is an Equity musical, I hold Equity auditions as well. There is a lot of great talent out there to add to the repertory company.
Once you have the cast and crew, how do you go about getting the proper costumes for the production?
We have an experienced costume and wardrobe mistress and existing relationship with Eastern Costumes, one of the the very best costume houses in the industry.
I understand there’s a section of the musical where the legendary Dorothy Dandridge sang and performed with Marilyn Monroe; can you explain why you included this in the musical?
I wanted to highlight elements of Marilyn’s life that aren’t widely known. She used to go downtown and feed the homeless, and had great friendships with Ella Fitzgerald and Dandridge. Marilyn was more than the red lips and hips; she had a massive heart. She helped Ella reach headline status at the Mocambo club, and she and Dandridge were a support for each other.
How difficult is it to get funding for such an elaborate production?
Very Lol. It’s all about credibility, trust, and subject matter. Marilyn is a global icon and most love a good musical so the vision is there. As a company we have made money for previous investors so they have returned, but there is a Grand Canyon divide between bringing an enthusiastic potential investor to the discussion table and them cutting a check. A flawless business model, plan, concept, and stamina are needed.
The premiere of Marilyn was hugely successful. Are you planning on having additional performances in the future, if so do you have a set location?
We are in residency and full run discussions presently with theatres in Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, London, and China. We sold out a 1400-seat house at the Alex Theatre on the Marilyn! premiere and hope to continue that trend. We are very proud of the show.
What advice would you give to an individual desiring to write and produce a musical?
Think of a great concept and find your hook – your niche. What makes your musical different? Above all, don’t be afraid of change or dramaturgical advice.
Thank you Tegan for granting me a second interview . I hope all future performances of Marilyn will be as successful as the world premiere.
To learn more about Tegan, please visit his website.