A CRITIC REMINISCES
If Marlene Saens had been born a couple of centuries earlier, she would have been classed as a “gentlewoman.”
She was that. Serene, gracious, elegant in her attire and her movement, she personified a heightened femininity that made her a popular choice for romantic roles – especially in musicals, where she could add her exquisite soprano voice to the mix.
In the many years that I reviewed her work, I never heard anyone say an unkind word about Marlene. Even notoriously catty co-stars withdrew their claws when when the conversation turned to the beautiful, talented brunette.
I did hear many people sing her praises, to coin a cliche. Lady Guenevere in “Camelot,” Fiona in “Brigadoon, Babe in “The Pajama Game,” Aldonza in “Man of La Mancha” – she worked for the best, with the best.
They were lucky to get her.
PHOTOGRAPHS, REVIEWS & THE KITCHEN SINK
1978 “Brigadoon,” Scottsdale Community Players. Director: Kyle Lawson. Choreographer: Lesley Collis. Music Director: Joshua Missal. Cast: Richard Fink, Marlene Saens, Paty Lombard, Jerry Hansen, Noel Irick, Larry Collis, Sheldon Simon, Hillary Hirsch, Mark Henle, Margie Ghigo, Jim Servis.
With this production, Marlene had a co-star who could match her vocals. Richard Fink, who played Tommy to her Fiona, went on to become an internationally renowned opera star.
OCTOBER 1977 “Desire Under the Elms.” Phoenix Little Theatre. Director: Ruth Willis. Marlene designed the costumes for this production.
Marlene was a woman of many talents. One of them was costume design, which she put to good use on this production.
JULY 1977 “The Man of La Mancha,” Phoenix Theatre. Cast: Marlene Saens, Steve Curry, Rick Grove.
Marlene received some of the best notices of her career for her fiery Aldonza. The rape scene with the muleteers, though toned down for PLT audiences, was still controversial.
APRIL 1977. “Hedda Gabler,” Phoenix Little Theatre. Director: Ruth Willis. Cast: Sonya Missal, Jim Servis, George Soete, Bill Roberts, Faun Tanner, Marlene Saens, Katherine Michealson.
Thanks to her beautiful soprano voice, which kept her busy, Marlene did not often get a chance to exercise her skills in drama. Director Ruth Willis, possibly the finest director working on Valley stages at this point, knew that wasn’t fair – and handed her role in this Ibsen play.
MAY 1976: “1776″. Phoenix Little Theatre. Directors: Larry Liff, Robert Davis. Musical Staging: E. Carolyn Liff. Musical Direction: John Clegg. Cast: Ron Duffy, Sheldon Simon, Dick Totman, Bob Johnson, John C. Dahl, Richard E. Wentz, Dave Thompson, Rick Grove, Marlene Saens, Virginia Lee, Cecilia Allen, John Clegg, Marc Roma, Debora Allen, Jon David, Tom Bell, Ricci Alpers.
SEPTEMBER 1976. “The Pajama Game.” Cast: Marlene Saens, Joe Mahar, Patricia Kennedy. Choreography: Suzanne LaRousch. Review: Sept. 24, 1976, by Paul Perry, Scottsdale Daily Progress.
The French Quarter’s stage was impossible. Shallow, long, with the audience sitting at tables practically under the cast’s feet, it was a challenge for everyone. One of the few to surmount this challenge was choreographer Suzanne LaRusch, who managed to get a fair number of dancers on stage and still find room for them to move.
OCTOBER, 1975. “Oklahoma,” Pence Fine Arts Center, Central Arizona College. Cast: Marlene Saens, Rusty Meyers. Article by Mary Metzger, Casa Gande Dispatch, Oct. 27, 1975. Photograph by Jim Thompson.
Although she had been a resident for only three years, Marlene had already earned a reputation as a fine soprano and a total professional when she was cast as Laury in the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. She had her hands full with this one. Curlys came. Curlys went. Finally, Rusty Meyers stuck. Through it all, Marlene kept her cool – and hit her notes with her usual, exquisite precision. Her reward? Meyers was a hunk! Altogether the right guy to share a ride in a surrey.