By: Carole Woddis
Date: November 24, 2020
Marlene, forever the enigma, hated in her home country, Germany, later restored to favour. Wooed in Hollywood, loved by audiences round the world, pinned into frocks – I remember that sequined dress thatwodis made her shuffle to the front of the stage like a geisha when I saw her London – dying a recluse in Paris at 94.
And now Ute Lemper has produced a two hour show about Dietrich’s extraordinary life, already seen in London and toured earlier this year.
Rendezvous with Marlene, a two hour dialogue in words and music between Lemper and Marlene is based on the even more unlikely but true encounter Lemper had with Dietrich through a three hour phone call in which Dietrich poured out her life story.
The German connection would have been the bond but Lemper’s professional career often seems to have parelleled Dietrich if her personal life has been a little less racy – as Dietrich describes it, `all those beautiful leading men and the writers’. And yes women, including the oh so vulnerable Piaf.
Dietrich, says Lemper, was ‘a woman of the future’, determined, ambitious, outspoken.
So here is Lemper in full spate, in a show recorded at Alan Cummings’ club in Manhattan, heavy-lidded like Dietrich’s, flashing thighs with legs that seem to go on forever, haunting the bar for songs like `Boys in the Backroom’ and ‘One for my Baby’.
Here too are the iconic songs associated forever with Dietrich – ‘Lili Marleen’, `Laziest Gal in Town’ and ‘Falling in Love Again’.
Lemper puts her own individual stamp on all of them, inevitably, but with sensitivity thanks to her wonderfully sympathetic backing musicians.
Absolutely fascinating on the life story, Lemper’s voice, pure and clear, can go jazzy or deeply melancholic. Berlin’s Weimar cabaret, i and smokey dives where hearts get broken are conjured with the minimum of effects, sometimes augmented or overlaid by video clips. But she is at her most poignant on Dietrich’s wartime experiences and later, separating from the love of her life, the French film star, Jean Gabin.
At a time of such Little Englander island sentiment, it’s a joy to feel that connection with our European links as Lemper sings with ease in perfect French, English (after her years living in New York) and of course German.
Ute Lemper: Rendezvous With Marlene’ has already been streamed globally earlier this month but it is also streaming this Wednesday 25 November at 01.00 and Saturday, 5 December 2020at 19.00. Booking link: https://www.stellartickets.com/events/club-cumming-productions/ute-lemper-in-rendezvous-with-marlene
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Carole has been a theatre journalist and critic for over 30 years. London reviewer and feature writer for Glasgow’s The Herald for 12 years and for many other newspapers and magazines, she now review for various theatre websites as well as her own.