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Garbo, Greta (Mata Hari)_01Treatment

Background

“The Garbo the Musical” is an original one-woman musical on the enigmatic Swedish film star, Greta Garbo (1905-1990). Considered by many the greatest film actress of all time her image was that of androgynous glamour. A worldwide phenomenon she shunned the limelight. Dissatisfied with the scripts offered her in Hollywood and her natural beauty starting to fade she retired from the screen at the age of 36 and eventually became a recluse in Manhattan. Pursued by many during her lifetime two of her obsessed long-term lovers are also major characters in this one-woman musical: the Spanish American poet, playwright, screenwriter and adamant lesbian of her day, Mercedes de Acosta; and the acid-tongued, witty, gay British theatrical designer and photographer to the stars, Cecil Beaton. Set in the mid 1970s, this unholy menage weave Miss G’s spicy and revealing story and answers all the burning questions the world has been dying to know about “The Garbo.” Thirteen scintillating songs and humorous monologues make this one-woman musical insightful, fun, and compelling. A MUST SEE for any Garbo fan! 90 minutes plus intermission.

Cast:
Jillann Gabrielle as Greta Garbo, Mercedes de Acosta, and Cecil Beaton
Setting:
Greta Garbo’s Upper East Side apartment in Manhattan sometime in the mid 1970’s

Synopsis:
GG (a chronic insomniac now in her sixties) finds herself in the middle of one of her own nightmares…and worse yet, she is being called to account for her life by an unknown voice. She is made to face her fears and open up in front of the audience…the council. Although she is under duress her naturally humorous nature serves her well as she does her accounting. Two longterm intimates, Mercedes de Acosta and Cecil Beaton, make their appearances and tell their side of the story…both of whom ultimately betray her by publishing their memoirs which recount their intimacies with GG. They might just as well have stabbed her in the heart. But true to her Viking spirit GG pulls herself together and satisfies the unknown voice AND faces her fear of the audience and performs a Shakespearean monologue from her short-lived theater days…she really wanted to be a stage actress! She lived her life HER way…like her film character, Queen Christina, she abdicated her throne to be with the woman she loves…herself.

Story:

garbo-in-davos5Greta comes in from one of her two daily walks, notices the audience and freaks out. She figures out she is in the middle of one of her own nightmares. An ominous voice from the balcony (only she can hear) informs her she is being called to account for her life and the audience is the council. She pours a drink and explains to the audience:

“I Vant to Be Alone”


She reminisces about her impoverished early life in Stockholm, losing her father to tuberculosis when she was fourteen, her love for the theater, the excitement of being accepted into the Royal Dramatic Theatre’s Acting School, and her terror of being in front of an audience…which makes her current scenario torture! She admits that she fills her days with walking, enjoying the elements, and a good stiff drink once a day.

GarboandStiller4She explains that her domineering discoverer/creator/director, Mauritz Stiller, brought her to Hollywood where she was disappointed by the scripts. She wishes she had been a writer:

“Ode to Writers.”


She may have been made a household name overnight but Stiller went back to Europe a failure. She wanted to join him but he told her to stay…and she always did what he said. Then her beloved sister died and she felt she was held prisoner by MGM and could not return to Sweden for the funeral.

GRETA GARBO3

Her choices of scripts she was offered didn’t include what she envisioned for herself…pants roles! She opines her disdain for the motion picture making process, the Hollywood emphasis on “box office” and the lack of it on quality and art. In fact, her good friend, Mercedes, a writer, came up with an idea for a script for her on the Queen Christina of Sweden which was then stolen from her by MGM.

mercedes

Mercedes makes her first appearance and describes her beginnings in:

“I Thought I Was a Boy.”

The first time she saw Greta’s beautiful and haunting face was in Constantinople and knew she was destined to be with her. And during her first days in Hollywood as a writer she managed to wrangle an introduction to Garbo through the circle of lesbians there. They hit it off and she and Miss G became an item. Mercedes regales Garbo’s magnificent talents on the screen and her unhappiness in Hollywood. They manage to escape the grind in Silver Lake in Wallace Beery’s cabin for

“Six Weeks of Heaven.”


marleneBut Miss G eventually prefers the company of her male directors and fellow actors. Mercedes is devastated and gets Marlene Dietrich to “take her in” until Marlene too takes up with a man. Mercedes explains that in her heart she is always faithful to Greta even though

“I Can Get Any Woman from Any Man,”

also entitled

“The Starfucker Song.”


She serenades the audience table to table in this number as she brags about the celebrities she’s had and how she’s driven to love. Her legendary reputation earned her the “most valuable card” in Truman Capote’s card game on linking people’s sexcapades. She freely admits she’s obsessed with Greta and is willing to devote her life to her…but Garbo continues to push her away and denies her sapphic inclinations.

Leo (John Gilbert) kisses Felicitas (Greta Garbo) in Flesh and the Devil (1926)

Greta takes back the stage and reacts to Mercedes’ appearance with disdain, denies her sapphic inclinations, and pines over her affairs with a number of Hollywood male stars including her legendary affair with her favorite screen partner, John Gilbert. She interacts with audience members about her insomnia and fashion when the phone rings. “But this is a nightmare…do phones ring during nightmares?” In true Garbo fashion she converses with her “keeper,” George Schlee (a Russian Marlene Dietrich Greta and John Gilbert in “Flesh and the Devil” Jew), about dinner plans…and then goes into an OCD episode over what to wear.

The audience still won’t go away and leave her alone! Torture!
She admits she LOVES European men…in fact, she IS a European man! Brits are her favorite…and Cecil Beaton, “Beatie,” is top of her list.

cecilCecil takes the stage and regales us with who he is and how he got there in:

“I Put the Silver Spoon into my Wicked Mouth.”

He oozes with the details of his first meeting with “The Garbo.” But he officially goes on the hunt for her affection when he meets her again fourteen years later. Smitten, he regales her breathtaking beauty. She won’t permit him to phone her…he waits for her to call…and when she does everything is shelved for the impending miracle of her presence…a walk in the park with her beloved elements. Caught in her spell for two decades Garbo finally admits she doesn’t really want to be alone anymore. You mean “Beatie” could marry this “Queen of Queens?”

“The Charm of Love”

gretainhatCecil brags of his sexual prowess with Garbo and marvels at her mysterious screen persona…even at her advanced age and absence from the screen. After some cajoling he gets Garbo to consent to Cecil Beaton let him shoot her (with his camera)…he uses an audience member to demo his technique with a camera and his legendary art of having fun!

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He whines that he is not the only man in Garbo’s life nor are he and Mercedes Garbo’s only “menage.” George Schlee, Garbo’s domineering “keeper” whom he calls “the little man,” and his wife, Valentina, also qualify for the “menage” status. He fears he plays a surreptitious, out of tune, second fiddle. Both clinically obsessed, he and Mercedes valentinashleeregularly commiserate over Garbo and her need for permanent companionship. Cecil is delighted in the possibility of getting Garbo to the altar…he could one-up his rival, the Earl of Snowden who married Princess Margaret.

“Obsessed”

greta garbo 1951 - by huene hoynigen

INTERMISSION
Greta opens the second act complaining that the audience is still there! And she also lambastes Cecil and Mercedes for not leaving her alone! She confesses to really loving “Beatie”…but she could never live with him…“I’m impossible to get along with.”

“Love?”


 She finally reasons that if this is her nightmare she’s going to use it as her therapy session. She unloads on the audience all the reasons she quit making films in Hollywood: she didn’t enjoy it, her final picture (Two-Faced Woman) was a disaster, she was beginning to age (at 36), and World War II was impending…eliminating her main audience…Europe! So she let MGM out of her contract and just quit. She would have moved back to Sweden but by then she was too big of a star to be left alone. She takes her Oscar out of the shoebox and tells the audience about the film she really wanted to make with Billy Wilder…he thought she was crazy.

She stares at the imaginary mirror out into the audience and moans her appearance. “Even buckets of mascara can’t hide the truth!” She will never make another film.

500full-mercedes-de-acostaMercedes makes her second appearance admitting that she is a fanatic when it comes to Garbo. She sees Greta as being a powerful mystic who resists it. Her brooding soul always unsatisfied and unsatisfiable. She wishes to God Cecil would marry her.

Greta allowed Cukor, the director, to destroy her in her final film. And contrary to other legends, she DID want to go on making films. Mercedes herself being a strong Greta Mercedes mystic sees God in Greta!

Mercedes is now terminally ill and has written and sold her memoirs for some survival money. She fully realizes that Greta will be hurt by what she was written about her in her book, but she could not write her life story and leave her out of it.

“On Another Shore”

 

cecil-beaton-photo-ronald-traegerCecil takes back the stage with a vengeance as he first accuses Mercedes of lying in her memoirs, then turns right around and sings her praises for having had the two most important woman in the U.S.…Garbo and Dietrich. Then he lays into Garbo for not helping Mercedes when she was dying…and then drops the bomb that Miss G’s only true love affair was with the motion picture camera.

Finally he admits that Garbo was unattainable. He man have won the battle but he lost the war. There was no getting closer for any of them…Mercedes, “Beatie” or Schlee. Schlee dominated her completely…but he was married…so that made him perfect in the commitment department for Garbo…until his death of a heart attack in ’64. He was on holiday in Paris with Miss G…who fled the scene and failed to show at his funeral in New York.

schleeCecil has had enough. He had been writing his memoirs for years and had been vacillating on whether to publish the volume which contained his years with Garbo. Then out of nowhere he was knighted! He published the volume!

“If She Weren’t Garbo”

Greta returns beaten to a pulp and tells us how she feels

“Betrayed.”

 

There is no safe place on earth for her. “Are you satisfied?” she speaks to the “voice in the balcony” that only she can hear. She wishes she were religious. There’s got to be more to life than “going through the slush and coming home and having a whiskey.”

Everyone she loves dies. She reveals in profound sadness that her mentor, Mauritz Stiller, died of a broken heart when he went back to Sweden. He was sacrificed on the altar of her fame.

220px-Mauritz_Stiller_1927Then she comes to a realization that she is a Viking and strong! And she’s made her peace as well as it could be made despite the world’s interference. But if she had it to do all over again, she would have gone back to Europe and become a real actress. She admits to the audience that she really wanted to act on the stage despite her terror. She finds the courage to deliver the Shakespearean monologue “All the world’s a stage.” She surprises herself. She COULD have acted on the stage!

Cecil_Beaton-01

She regrets never having received a love letter. But like her character in the film Queen Christina and the Duke of Windsor… she abdicated her throne to be with the woman she loves…herself.
She looks up to the voice in the balcony. “Now are you satisfied? Thank God!”

In the final recited song Greta recounts her life as

“The Garbo Blues”


…what was, what could have been and what is. The Garbo is a bit wiser after her disturbing nightmare.

 

 

     



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