News : Musical Marvel Ute Lemper Summons the Spirit of Marlene Dietrich

by: Aaron Hicklin

Back at Cafe Carlyle after a long absence, the iconoclastic musician revisits a youthful encounter with the legend

Photo by David Andrako

Ute Lemper is back in Weimar—psychologically, at least. The musician who came to fame playing Sally Bowles in the original Paris production of Cabaret, for which she won a Moliere Award, and then gained great acclaim with her immaculate renditions of Kurt Weill’s song catalog, is in residence at New York’s elegant Café Carlyle until March 3, where she’ll perform songs associated with Marlene Dietrich, from her early Weimar years to her experiences in exile, singing for American troops during World War Two, and her later collaborations with the great Burt Bacharach. Inspired by a three-hour phone conversation between Lemper and Dietrich some 30 years ago, the show unrolls as a series of musings on the legend’s life and philosophy, and the ways in which it has illuminated Lemper’s own journey. Although she has resisted various overtures to play Dietrich over the years, Lemper considers her 90-minute performance as an homage rather than an imitation in which that long-ago conversation between a mentor and an ingénue is center stage. The chanteuse took time out of rehearsals to talk about her relationship with the legend, and why it took Germany so long to move beyond its resentment to finally embrace one of its greatest artists…

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