Photo by Lucas Allen

Publication: Out News Global
Date: 23 January, 2020
By: Steven Smith

It is 9.30 in the morning in New York, and I am calling a doyenne of the theatre and music, the German-born Ute Lemper. I am a little nervous as she rarely gives interviews and is something of an enigma.

Ever since I saw her coming up through the stage as Velma Kelly in Chicago, I have been in awe of this woman. She looks like she has been plucked from a different era. Ute does not impersonate anyone – she is simply, and effortlessly, the quintessential Hollywood star.

Ute is coming to the UK as part of her one-woman show ‘Rendezvous with Marlene’. The show is based on Ute’s three-hour telephone conversation with Marlene Dietrich over thirty years ago.

When I call her, the voice that answers is very distinctive. As I introduce myself, she replies “Oh, the interview! I am not long up and have not had time to read the questions.” Ute didn’t sound enthused. I offered to call back, but she reassured me it was fine. What followed was a fascinating hour with the 56-year old Broadway actress and singer that I will not forget in a hurry.

During the period in which Marlene Dietrich telephoned you, she was considered to be a recluse; only a neighbour and a few others were privy to her life. Did her call surprise you? How did her mental wellbeing seem to you at the time, and how did you feel after a call from such a legend?

Well, shocked would be one word! Honestly, when I dropped a card to her, I really did not see her reading it, let alone calling me. How she actually found me remains a mystery as I had moved to a hotel. She actually called when I was out. On my return, the receptionist said to me, “Someone called Marlene Dietrich called, she will call back around 7.00. You are to wait for her”.

Now, to be really honest, I thought this was a joke. But sure enough, she called and stayed on the phone for three hours. To think that I was 24 at the time and she was 87! She was clearly of sound mind, but she had no censorship or filter. She spoke her mind with passion. Plus, we went back and forth in several languages! There is a lot to be said about being bilingual, as you can use sayings from each language.

It felt like a dream and, looking back, it would be easy to say, “if only I had asked this or that”, but when I put the phone down, honestly, I rang my family and everyone I knew.

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene was described as a legendary lover and was also bisexual. How does her love life compare to your own?

Yes, Marlene was bisexual, but personally, it’s not something that I would say a hundred percent is me. However, lesbian women have always been attractive to me as friends and for company. Their energy is independent, and they do not rely on men. I am happily married but still very much a free spirit. My love life has never been as promiscuous as Marlene’s was, but it’s a happy one.

I was lucky enough to see you in the revival of Chicago on opening night in London, where you played Velma Kelly. You won an Oliver Award for your performance. You have incredible stage presence, very much like Marlene, who was dictatorial about her shows and other finer details of her act. How much input do you have into the technical aspects of your performances and theatre shows?

Well, when I was playing Velma, absolutely none. It’s a format that you follow. In fact, the director said to me “Could you maybe stop playing Velma so Berlin?”. It was not my intention at all; it was just me, being me. Touring, I have a fabulous sound man that comes with me. Lighting can be tricky as I go from me to Marlene and back again. I have people working with me who I trust, so there would be no need to be dictatorial.

After being such a hit in London, you also went on to play Velma on Broadway. How do American audiences differ from London audiences?

Well, I live in New York and have since 1998. It is just where I feel comfortable. But if you asked me if I was American, the answer would be no. I am very much European. Equally, you can’t really say that New York or LA is typically American. New York opens up its doors to a rich, diverse tapestry of talent and performers and embraces them, as does London. You would not say the same for some parts of America. In fact, you would not need to venture too far from New York to find the arts embraced with less tolerance.

What music do you like to listen to at home?

The sound of silence is my favourite, to be honest. Really, my music is selective. Though my children sometimes inflict the current trend on me. My personal choice would be jazz music, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Stevie Wonder or Barbra Streisand – also some classical music.

In a world of selfies, quick fixes and often instant fame without studying the craft, does it worry you that we are losing the glamour and talent older stars used to have?

We have to move with the times. But in a world of instant fame, what worries me is that, without the craft and foundations, those people who are quickly made famous are more easily disposed of. Even performers that have the foundation of performing arts school, they have to keep learning and polishing their craft. For instance, I am not the same performer I was twenty years ago, having grown and grown. You should constantly be learning.

We all know Marlene was shocked by Madonna. Are you a fan of the “Material Girl”? What do you think Marlene would say about the Kardashians?

Well, Marlene had no filter, and she was talking about a certain period of Madonna’s career. Let’s not forget that Madonna’s image has changed. For Marlene, who was all about the glamourous style, no matter what her personal life might be, she kept the image of class and allure. Something she advised me was to stay an enigma. So, someone dressing in their underwear or showing that much flesh to attract attention must have shocked Marlene. Even Marlene’s fight scenes were choreographed to maintain her style and glamour. Personally, Madonna is not to my music taste. As for the Kardashians, well, if she felt that vocal about Madonna, can you imagine?

When you’re not looking like a Hollywood icon, what do you wear to hang out, and what do you do to relax?

At home, you can find me in PJs and relaxed wear. Out and about, even going to the supermarket, I like to look presentable. In the evening, let’s say my look is dignified and classy. You won’t see in me in obvious labels, that’s not my thing. Relaxing, well it is great to spend time with my family. Two of my children are grown up now, so it is great to catch up with them. Also, I enjoy reading, watching movies and playing tennis.

Do you prefer dinner parties or big parties? If you gave a dinner, who would you invite living or dead?

Oh, I am a one to one person, or small dinners, maybe four people at the most. You don’t really get to connect to big parties.

Well, there are so many but Marlene Dietrich for one, and Billy Wilder.

Or maybe the director, Fassbinder Volker Schlondorff, who directed the Tin Drum.

Babylon Berlin has been a massive hit worldwide but particularly in the UK. When I watched it, I thought it would be something you should be in. Do you have plans to do more television or film work?

Well if I am offered film or television work, never say never. But my priorities are my family and uprooting them is not an option. Recently I was offered a project in Canada that I had to turn down as it involved too much time away from home. Let’s see what happens in the future.


Favourite place in London?

Any of the beautiful parks. I just love walking in them.

French or German food?

Thinking! I would say, French!

Favourite film?

Yentl. It is not a perfect film, but I love Barbra Streisand.

Your biggest turn off in a person?


One thing you would change about the world?

Politics. They’re meant to create a humane life but just don’t.

Click here to read this article on the Out News Global website.

Photo by: Lucas Allen

Publication: Edinburgh News
By Liam Rudden
Thursday, 16th January 2020

IT was an unexpected call that led West End and Broadway star Ute Lemper to write Rendezvous With Marlene, her critically acclaimed one-woman show, which she tours to the Queen’s Hall on Saturday 8 February.

Awarded the Moliére Award for her performance as Sally Bowles in the musical Cabaret when it played in Paris, the young Lemper decided to write a postcard to Hollywood legend Marlene Dietrich, who was also living in the French capital, to apologise for all the media attention she was garnering, much of which compared her with the legendary icon.

It was 1988 and Lemper was just at the beginning of her career while Dietrich, then st the grand old age of 89, was looking back on a long, fulfilled life of movies, music, incredible collaborations, love stories and global stardom.

Somehow Dietrich managed to track her down and called her out of the blue. The icon stayed on the line for an “unforgettable” three hours sharing stories of her life and career with the young singer. Three decades on and direct from a sold out critically acclaimed London season, the musical theatre star recalls that conversation in Ute Lemper: Rendezvous With Marlene.

For 35 years, Lemper has been compared to Dietrich and this is her personal homage to the star. The evening is a dialogue between the two, exploring Dietrich’s career and personal life from the beginning, in a timeline that eventually meets Lemper’s timeline with a continuation of their parallel stories. Along the way, Lemper sings Dietrich’s most beautiful songs and reveals some captivating secrets of her life.

Lemper says, “Rendezvous with Marlene’ means a lot to me – it is my personal homage to that great lady. There are many portraits of Marlene out there, but this one is coming from my heart. Audiences are in for an incredible story; history, fate, courage, style, politics, glamour and sex, talent and a huge career.”

Six days before Lemper’s opening night playing the part of Lola in the 1992 production of Blue Angel in Berlin – the role that had made Dietrich a star in 1928 – Dietrich passed away in Paris.

In the show, Lemper recalls all the chapters of Dietrich’s amazing life, from the Berlin cabaret years to her fabulous Burt Bacharach collaborations.

It was those collaborations that brought Dietrich to Edinburgh in 1964, when she appeared at the Royal Lyceum as part of the International Festival programme of that year.

Lemper says, “56 Years after Marlene Dietrich last sang in Edinburgh at the Lyceum Theatre with Burt Bacharach, I am coming to your glorious city to tell her true story. I have personally waited 30 years to reach an age that is closer to her at the time when we spoke on the phone some 30 years ago and to channel her sorrow, spirit and courage.

“Marlene’s story is everything from personal and symbolic, political and glamorous, sad and entertaining and spreads through a century until the present. Marlene was a woman of the future, who broke all the rules of her time. A woman of today.”

Ute Lemper: Rendezvous With Marlene, The Queen’s Hall, Clerk Street, Saturday 8 February, 7.30pm, £12-£32,

Click here to read the article online at Edinburgh News

Photo by Paula Lobo

Publication: Operawire
Date: January 13, 2020
By Jennifer Pyron

The MetLiveArts Series Concert 2019-20 Review: Ute Lemper: Weimar Holiday
A Unique Talent Delivers A Potent Human Experience Through Music

The MetLiveArts program featured “Ute Lemper: Weimar Holiday” at The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium as part of a special Holiday series.

Lemper performed story-telling music by Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weil, Friedrich Hollaender, Mischa Spoliansky, Marcellus Schiffer, Shmerke Kaczerginski and Alexander Tamir. The evening highlighted an enlightening and progressive time in Germany’s music history which cultivated the awareness of creative works by exiled Jewish composers. German-born artist Lemper provocatively narrated throughout her performance and captivated listeners with her intoxicating voice.

With an eclectic career featuring an inventive panoply of on-stage performances, film work and multiple recordings, one might refer to Lemper as one of the most influential Berlin Kabarett artist’s of our time. Her ability to express and articulate extraordinary creativity through a history-based musical presentation was profound.

Audience members could not take their eyes off Lemper as they were immersed in her spontaneous poetic art performance and personal stories relating to all historical events. One might best understand Lemper’s affinity with Weimar’s artistic evolution as a reflection of her own internal dialogue as an outspoken expatriate.

Lemper grew up during a politically tumultuous era and discovered the power of music to be her greatest guide. She continued to develop as an artist that specialized in cabaret. However Lemper’s originality is what set her apart from others and carved out her own successful career.

Taking the Reins

In “Weimar Holiday” Lemper took the reins of an interesting series of songs that lead the audience through darkness and into the light. Opening songs included “Liar Liar” by Hollaender, “Streets of Berlin” by Philip Glass and “It’s All a Swindle” (Alles Schwindel) by Spoliansky and Schiffer.

One might have felt like they were listening to a dear friend tell a personal story when enjoying Lemper’s narrative dialogue during this opening. Her voice encapsulated freedom of expression and a fervent drive to deliver entertainment. She was connected to each phrase that she performed like a magician conjuring spirits to reveal secrets of the past.

Hollaender’s “Liar Liar” was a dramatic start to the evening as Lemper dove head first into a passionate “Le Chat Noir”-inspired atmosphere. Her beautiful red gown was hidden beneath a sheer black dress that she zipped up and down as the moody lineup transpired.

“Streets of Berlin” by Glass was a sultry and smooth transition that Lemper utilized to sink deeper into the transcending and nostalgic undertones of Berlin Kabarett. She also had a red boa that laid gently on the back of a chair she used as a prop to emphasize an especially satirical moment. Lemper was smart with her space on stage and drew in the audience’s eye with each song and story.

Spoliansky and Schiffer’s “It’s All a Swindle” was upbeat and memorable as Lemper provocatively maneuvered herself on stage in sync with the music. The three accompanying musicians looked to be having a wonderful time with Lemper and one might have felt like they were part of the party that was taking place on stage.

Biting Honesty

The heart of her performance incorporated biting honesty mixed with an array of salty satire that proved to be the perfect cocktail. Lemper unabashedly experimented with her vocals and playfully created a refreshing perspective of hope as she webbed together significant historical events with song. She infused her natural tonal clarity with smoky subdued waves of emotion that created interesting moments of color.

This was best reflected in the Yiddish lullaby “Shtiler, Shtiler” by Kaczerginski and Tamir, which marked a turning point in Lemper’s performance. She was dynamically focused and sensitive, exposing her raw emotional connection to the music. This moment was eerily somber as the audience was reminded of the horrible pain and suffering of the past’s ghetto suffering and murders. Lemper pulled at the heart strings of the audience but most importantly reminded them of how easily history can repeat itself and tragically affect generations to come.

Hollaender’s “The Ruins of Berlin” was also part of this dark shift and Lemper’s approach to this song was tender and honest. Following with an intense performance of Hollaender’s “Black Market,” she transitioned the evening towards a more introspective tone.

With a history of being compared to Marlene Dietrich, Lemper’s performance of Hollaender’s work ran the risk of coming across as tributary to Dietrich. However, Lemper’s voice remained genuinely expressive and on point. She carried a powerful confidence within herself that could be heard in her voice and felt in the music she sang.

Lemper’s “Ghosts of Berlin” continued to conjure more of her own voice and pioneering spirit. One might have been unable to classify certain aspects of Lemper’s work but one could not deny her as a leading advocate for originality in the music world.

Overall, Lemper embodied a voice of awareness and resilience: a powerful voice of hope.

Click here to see the review on the OperaWire website

September 2019, New York • Photo by: Russ Rowland

Publication: Bristol 24/7
Date: January 10, 2020
By: Shane Morgan

You know that moment an international icon and one of your own personal heroes calls you out of the blue?

Of course you don’t. Otherwise you would have written an internationally acclaimed touring production about it, which is exactly what award-winning performer Ute Lemper has done as a result of her 1987 phone call with star of stage, screen and gramophone, Marlene Dietrich.

“Dietrich broke all the rules,” Lemper explains. “She introduced a new emancipated self-confidence as a woman that was way beyond her time.”

Time is at the very heart of Lemper’s latest work for the stage, Rendezvous with Marlene.

It all started with Lemper’s breakthrough performance of Sally Bowles in the Molière Award-winning production of the musical Cabaret. Following universal praise for her performance, the media did what the media always does and proclaimed the young star as the new version of an established star.

On this occasion, Lemper was the new Dietrich. Out of respect for her idol, Lemper wrote the icon a postcard apologising for the intense media attention surrounding her performance and the comparisons that followed. What happened next is the stuff of legends and theatre.

“This one is coming from my heart,” says Lemper. “Audiences are in for an incredible story: history, fate, courage, style, politics, glamour and sex, talent and a huge career.”

Any one of those themes would be enough for one story – but it is the bond that formed between the two women that allows Rendezvous with Marlene to cover such a broad spectrum. Whilst the catalyst for this bond may have been as a result of media attention, the true connection came following a three-hour telephone conversation between the two. Marlene received Ute’s postcard and, after a bit of intrepid detective work, tracked her down and called her.

“She was a free spirit,” Lemper recalls. “She was politically and morally outspoken and courageous. She was ladylike and bossy. She had class but loved whiskey, dirty jokes and a good smoke. Billy Wilder said she was a heck of a guy to hang out with.”

The comparisons between Dietrich and Lemper go far beyond the stage and delve deeply into the political and moral framework that Lemper refers to as courageous, “We are both kind of expatriates and have a complicated relationship with our birthland.”

Born in Munster, Germany, Lemper lived for many years in Cold War Berlin. “This divided Berlin had a huge impact on my artistic and personal identity,” she explains.

Like Dietrich, Ute Lemper spent much of her life in Berlin – albeit, by her time, a Berlin under a very different political climate.

That upbringing has, it appears, left her with a heightened sense of empathy and powerful ability to cut straight to the chase. “I have four children, lots of real-life worries and responsibilities, and I am very passionate about not wasting my time in the shallow waters of small talk. I feel for people that are thrown into hardship with no rhyme or reason.”

With this, she launches into the political powder keg of 20th Century Germany and the lasting effect it has had on both women. “Marlene Dietrich lived in Berlin before the war, I lived in Berlin after the war. It was tough to deal with the German history that was put into my cradle.”

How did the weight of that history manifest itself artistically? “As an expressionistic sense of crude reality with a political awareness and a scream, in art, of pain and longing.”

It is with acute awareness that Lemper describes Marlene Dietrich’s relationship with her country of birth. “In the telephone call, she was very clear but sad and bitter about the despicable treatment the Germans gave her.”

Having, as Lemper describes, ‘no choice’, Dietrich supported the American troops of World War II on the front line in their fight against Hitler and the Nazis. She was honoured for her bravery and courage in entertaining troops for two years. “Her home country never forgave her for this brave decision.”

Germany rejected Dietrich in the 1960s when she decided to sing for them and attempt a comeback. It was Lemper, however, that picked up the baton in the 1980s, “In 1987 I started recording the cycle of Kurt Weill and Berlin cabaret albums. This defined my connection to the Weimar Republic, as a protagonist of the songs of Jewish exiled composers.”

It was in 1988 that Ute Lemper sung the songs of Frederick Hollander and Mischa Spoliansky that Dietrich had sung 60 years earlier. This made Lemper the first German to record the repertoire since the end of WWII.

Lemper is kicking off the UK leg of her 2020 tour of Rendezvous with Marlene at St. George’s here in Bristol. How do the smaller venues compare to the larger concert halls she has performed in? “It doesn’t matter how big the hall as long as I can be authentic.”

This level of authenticity and intimacy lends itself well to the confines of St. George’s. “This is a very theatrical show, so a smaller theatre is actually more suitable as it serves as a close-up into the heart and soul of the character.”

Putting politics and performance into sharp focus is critical for Lemper in the show. “We’re encountering a return to reactionary, nationalistic movements. The individual is so often ignored and neglected that it tries to grab any voice of power and rage to feel stronger. I find it terrible that people have so much room for hatred in their heart. It comes from despair, but is often uneducated and just demands war on others who are different.”

History repeating itself is a central component to Lemper’s performance and Rendezvous with Marlene sees her channeling Dietrich – not, as she asserts, in the manner of an impression, more of a theatrical conduit. “I tell her story through my eyes and sing her songs with my voice. She is using my body and voice to speak.”

This unique combination of two extraordinary women brings a message that lasts long after the lights have gone down. “This is the story I need to tell,” says Lemper. “My mission as an artist is to connect the universal understanding of love to humanity. The fact that history is being forgotten so quickly, without passing its lessons on to future generations, makes me mad.”

Ute Lemper brings Rendezvous with Marlene to St George’s on Thursday, January 30. For more

Click here to read this article on Bristol 24/7