Publication: Stage and Screen
Date: OCTOBER 18, 2023
Ute Lemper’s Time Traveler, which plays Joe’s Pub one more time on October 22, highlights pivotal events in the German-born chanteuse’s life. These events include her move to Berlin forty years ago when she became part of a Kurt Weill show; her 1987 move to Paris to play Sally Bowles in Cabaretand her first performance at Joe’s Pub twenty-eight years ago, not long after Joseph Papp had inaugurated The Public Theater.
But the time Lemper seems to recall most lovingly was when, after being dubbed in France “La Nouvelle Marlene,” she wrote Dietrich a letter and was rewarded by a phone call from the iconic star herself. Lemper’s rendering of Deitrich, her heroic stand against the Nazis and the subsequent anger of her fellow-Germans, is both moving and funny. It gave birth to her album, Rendezvous with Marlene.
Lemper seems most comfortable with songs written and performed by the great artists in Berlin cabaret during the days of the Weimar Republic, or songs written in a similar style. Her repertoire included Bertholt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s “Pirate Jenny”; Kurt Schwabach and Mischa Spoliansky’s “The Lavender Song,” with its militant lyrics, “We’re not afraid to be queer and different”; and a medley of songs by Schiffer, Spoliansky and Hollander, all about sexual freedom and social decadence.
As Lemper put it, “We would have had the sixties in the forties if the Nazis had not destroyed it.”
Lemper likes songs with poetic lyrics written by people like Charles Bukowsky (“The Crunch”) and Jacques Prévert. With her deep, smoky voice she can deliver these songs with great feeling. She also knows how to bend a note, imitate musical instruments, and scat, all in the time-honored tradition of jazz.
Lemper performs a heartbreaking version of Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” It doesn’t hurt that she can sing in English, French and German. And there are also a few original songs from her newest album Time Traveler.
Ute Lemper travels through time with compassion, a world-weary nod and a wink.
photos by Guido Harari
Joes Pub at The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street
last show Sunday October 22, 2023, at 8:30pm
for tickets, visit Public/Joe’s Pub
for tour dates and cities, visit Ute Lemper