Photo Brigitte Dummer

Broadway World
by Gary Naylor
May. 16, 2019

“A huge thrill to see and hear Ute up close in so intimate a space, and to witness her evocation of Marlene with such skill and humanity”

Too old to pursue men – and women – (not that many needed much chasing), too reclusive to light up the town and too curious not to respond, Marlene (we don’t need the second name do we?) phones Ute Lemper and talks. Ute had written the letter that prompted the call and it is that (one-sided) conversation that prompts the show.

31 years on, Ute is no longer the ultra-talented toast of the Parisian stage, but a global star of stage and screen, the early empathy with Marlene matured into the raw material for this one-two-woman show. Sometimes Ute is Ute, but mostly she is Marlene, on the phone, telling stories, being Marlene.

We hear of the lovers of course, the pleasure of the senses and the pain of separation. We hear of her almost lifelong refusal to “love” and how that drove an unbreachable rift between her and her daughter. We hear of her longing for Heimat – a Germany that disappeared forever when the Weimar Republic was crushed. And we hear of her courage, moral and physical, in the war years, living alongside the soldiers fighting on the front lines. Maybe you didn’t need brains to be an anti-Nazi (as she asserted), but you sure needed heart.

Punctuating this life like no other, Ute sings the songs that marked such times, 30 years and more of performing vesting the words and music with a depth surely no other singer could mine. She gets super support from Vana Gierig’s excellent band, mixed to exactly the right level to balance the vocals.

What songs they are! From the seething anger of Pete Seeger’s “Where have all the flowers gone?” to the Weimarish satire of Hollaender and Spolianksy to the Hollywood numbers of Johnny Mercer. The songs may be (as the kids say these days) totally owned by Ute, but they are also totally Marlene – and, one thinks, such was the fate of everything she touched.

It’s a huge thrill to see and hear Ute up close in so intimate a space, and to witness her evocation of Marlene with such skill and humanity. Marlene and Ute are both examples of an internationalism that is in retreat, a love of Heimat balanced by an embrace of other cultures. And if we can’t listen to the warnings of where such developments lead from two Germans, then who will we listen to?

Rendezvous with Marlene is at the Arcola Theatre until 19 May.

Click here to read this review on Broadway World
See also BWW interviews Ute Lemper.


Publication: The American
Reviewed by Jarlath O’Connell
Published on May 16, 2019

Ute Lemper, who has headlined the great theatres of Berlin, Vienna and Paris amongst others has finally made it to Dalston. In a coup, this intimate theatre, located in London’s hipsterville, has wooed the great German chanteuse to present the first UK performances of this new and very personal homage to her fellow country-woman Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992).

It is based on a 3-hour phone call Lemper had with Dietrich in 1988. After receiving the French Molière award for her role in Cabaret in Paris, Lemper had sent a postcard to Marlene, essentially apologizing for all the media attention drawing comparisons between them. Ute, at 24, was just setting out whilst Marlene, then 87, was looking back on a career which defines the term legend. By then she was a recluse, holed up in the Avenue de Montaigne, with the telephone being her only connection to the world.

Lemper has form of course in performing Dietrich’s songs, has recorded the works of Weill and Hollaender, and is the pre-eminent interpreter of these great Weimar composers.

Lemper never tries mere impersonation, she’s too good for that. She is always totally herself but of course she has the look and the attitude right down. She has also gathered round her a quartet of great musicians led by Vana Gierig on piano. They add a joyous country twang to ‘The Boys in the Backroom’, and ‘One for My Baby’ while ‘When the World Was Young’ are re-invented afresh in lush, beautifully textured arrangements.

Between the songs (and they’re all there) Lemper goes into some detail about Dietrich’s politics and life story. Being rejected when she first returned to Germany in 1960 cut her deeply. After that she said she’d return only in a coffin. When this did happen, in 1992, the contemporary neo-Nazis left off stink bombs at the graveyard and other civic memorials, sadly, had to be curtailed. It wasn’t really until her centenary in 2001 that she finally was given the respect she was due in her home country.

By the late ‘60s she was touring the world with Burt Bacharach and she even rode the Flower Power boom which Lemper illustrates with salty bilingual versions of Seeger’s ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone’ and Dylan’s ‘Blowinin the Wind’. Considering her first breakthrough in The Blue Angel was in 1930 this was quite a career arc.

Lemper reminds us too what a ground breaking figure Dietrich was. She had an open marriage, was openly bisexual and had affairs with all her leading men – plus a few female co-stars – as well as practically all the leading cultural and literary figures of her era. As a style icon she smashed all conventions, devising a fantastic androgynous look supported by exquisite tailoring. She understood branding before the word was invented and Billy Wilder claimed she knew more about lighting than any cinematographer. Highly educated and intensely articulate she knew what she wanted and she got it.

Her often bohemian lifestyle had a curious counterpoint though, in that she had a streak of Prussian discipline running through her. She also loved to cook and clean and mother people, which she did with Piaf for example, but she soon came to realise that Piaf couldn’t be saved from herself.

Lemper’s slow rendition of ‘Ne me quitte pas’ is particularly heart breaking when she puts it in the context Marlene’s great lost love – the French movie star Jean Gabin. How, despite all the lovers, she held a candle for him right to her dying day is a touching reminder of her softer side.

Lemper’s show is a feast for the fans and a brilliant introduction for those who might not know her. Like a fine wine Lemper improves with age and has grown into this material. This, no doubt, will travel far and wide and should not be missed.

Let Jean Cocteau have the final word: “Ah, Marlene Dietrich, a name that starts like a kiss and ends like a whip”.

Click here for the online review

Picture: Roy Tan

Publication:  Onstage, Review
Date: Wednesday, 15 May, 2019
By: Scott Matthewman

Ute Lemper: Rendezvous with Marlene continues at the Arcola Theatre, London until 19 May 2019.

Star rating: five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

In the late 1980s, German actress Ute Lemper was playing the role of Sally Bowles in a Parisian production of Cabaret, for which the French press dubbed her “la nouvelle Marlene”.

Lemper dismisses the comparison with Marlene Dietrich lightly, suggesting it’s a journalistic shorthand due to both actresses being German. But there is more to it: there is a definite physical resemblance, and a similar sense of mischief behind the eyes.

After Lemper wrote what amounted to a fan letter to Dietrich, who at that time lived as a recluse in Paris, she was surprised one evening to receive a phone call in her hotel from the woman herself. Whatever that telephone conversation actually contained, Lemper has fictionalised it into a full-length show, examining Dietrich’s life’s and loves and performing songs from her extensive catalogue.

As Lemper illustrates, Dietrich’s career started in the Weimar Republic of the 1920s, a time when Germany was one of the most socially progressive. That era helped produce what Lemper’s Marlene describes as a “woman of the future”: unashamedly sex-positive, revelling in a series of relationships with men and women.

But the shadow of the Nazi regime fell long upon her life after that. She emigrated to Hollywood following the success of her small role in Josef Von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel. Of a move which was not popular with the German populace, she says, “they didn’t forgive me – but I didn’t forgive them” for bringing Hitler to power.

By framing the evening as the reminiscences of an 89-year-old Dietrich, Lemper allows for the selection of songs which fit the mood of the recollection rather than just the time period. Marlene’s anti-war sentiments are thus expressed through bilingual versions of Pete Seeger’s ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone’ and Dylan’s seminal ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’.

Lest that give an impression that this is an overly serious evening, Lemper brings out Dietrich’s wicked sense of humour throughout. In cabaret numbers such as Cole Porter’s ‘Laziest Gal in Town’ and ‘The Boys in the Backroom’ (written by Frank Loesser to music by Friedrich Hollaender and a huge hit for Dietrich after she sang it in the Western film Destry Rides Again) we see both Dietrich and Lemper at the top of their game, for it becomes impossible to discern where one ends and the other begins.

And while many of the reminiscences that Lemper puts in Dietrich’s mouth, from meeting director Billy Wilder and discovering his collection of priceless paintings, lying dusty and rotting in his apartment, to a series of dalliances (“JFK was boring – I did prefer his father”), these work best when they lead in to the sort of torch song that Lemper makes look so easy.

A reminiscence about Dietrich’s year-long affair with Edith Piaf forms the fulcrum of a series of French language numbers, allowing a softness to Lemper’s timbre that is not often in evidence in her performance of Weill numbers for which she is so renowned.

The music is dominated, though, by compositions by Friedrich Hollaender, from ‘Lola’ and ‘Black Market’ to perhaps Dietrich’s most famous number, ‘Falling in Love Again’.

Dating back to that debut in The Blue Angel, a role Lemper has herself played in a stage adaptation, it demonstrates how these two German actresses share more than just a German heritage. La nouvelle Marlene, indeed.

Click here to see this review online.

Publication : The Gay UK
Date: May 14, 2019
By: Sasha De Suinn

Sasha de Suinn interviews Ute Lemper, the world-famous – and hugely LGBT friendly – jazz and chanson singer on her upcoming, sold-out show – Rendezvous, with Marlene, at London’s Arcola Theatre

What makes a killer diva? Is it surviving the frenzied, hot-pout hurricanes routinely weathered by the strutting queens in Pose?
Or – arguably better – surviving every possible shift in the facile, pop-trash demographic spoon-fed by reigning low-brow Simon Cowell?

Perhaps, but rarer still is one essential ingredient; jaw-dropping talent.

Not that England’s particularly thin on the ground in that respect; for every ridiculously over-praised whiner like Celine Dion or Madonna, we have a Shirley Bassey, a Dusty Springfield, an Adele and Amy Winehouse. Still, as shockingly good as those artists are, the most revered, rarefied divas – which must, without doubt, include opera queen supreme Maria Callas and legendary French chansonnier Edith Piaf – both transcend and encapsulate their formative cultures.

In brief, they’re shockingly, almost dangerously definitive, iconically flash-freezing the cultural mountain peaks they’ve chosen to climb and conquer… […/more]

Click here to read this fabulous comprehensive Interview online.

A fantastic 16-minute London Live TV interview with the legendary Ute Lemper about the sold-out UK premiere of “Ute Lemper: Rendezvous With Marlene” at Arcola Theatre all this week

The Olivier award winning cabaret star Ute Lemper is bringing her one-woman show Rendezvous with Marlene to the capital for one week only.

The show is based on a three hour phone call that took place between Ute and Marlene Dietrich, more than 3 decades ago.

That conversation is now being shared with audiences, through an evening of music and performance.

Rendezvous with Marlene Dalston’s Arcola Theatre 14-19th of May

Click here to view the online interview.