If you’re a fan of Hollywood musicals, as I am, you may well know who Marni Nixon was, but if not “Marni – The Secret Voice of Hollywood” at Greenside Infirmary Street will tell you her story in one hour of theatre and song (and a little bit of dancing!).
Marni Nixon, born Margaret Nixon McEathron in 1930 into a musical family, was a soprano whose greatest musical moments were arguably those in which she wasn’t even credited as being the singer. She was the singing voice of Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, along with many other more minor parts.
Performed here by Samantha Nixon (no relation to Marni – I asked her!) with Alasdair Carson-Sheard playing publicist George as well as a variety of other parts, we join Marni Nixon in 1963 as she relates her story up until that point, and her career as a “ghost singer”.
Accompanied by projected stills from the various films, Marni tells us about starting out as a messenger girl at MGM studios, and working as a chorus member, soloist, and actress, before her first big break dubbing for Deborah Kerr in the King and I. However, although she was paid a lump sum for this, her contract allowed her no royalties and it was a condition that her name would not appear in the film credits or on the soundtrack record. Later she would dub West Side Story, although no-one wanted to be the one to tell Natalie Wood that her singing voice wouldn’t be used, and they allowed Natalie to record all the songs. She then went on to be Audrey Hepburn’s singing voice in My Fair Lady, despite being initially rejected because they wanted an authentic English/Cockney voice.
During the show, we of course get to hear some of the great songs from these musicals, performed by Samantha as Marni, and her voice is spot-on throughout, whether speaking Marni’s American accent, singing in Deborah Kerr’s cut-glass English accent, or in Audrey Hepburn’s Eliza Doolittle Cockney.
This was a very entertaining hour, and I left the performance knowing a lot more about Marni Nixon and her life, and wanting to watch all these great musicals once again
Review by Lisa Sibbald