by guest reviewer Nicole Freialdenhoven.
In 1987, a young unknown German performer called Ute Lemper took Paris by storm when she played Sally Bowles in “Cabaret”, winning the Molière Award (the French Tony) in the process. Many comparisons were drawn between her and German megastar Marlene Dietrich, who was living as a recluse in the same city at the time. One day Lemper’s phone rang – and Marlene herself was at the other end. They spent three hours talking with the legendary Dietrich sharing stories of her life and giving valuable advice to the newcomer. While they never spoke to each other again their connection didn’t end there: In 1992 Ute Lemper starred in a stage adaption of Marlene’s first great success “The Blue Angel” in Berlin. The same month Marlene died in Paris, Ute Lemper was torn to shreds by the Berlin press so badly, that she eventually dropped out. And just like Marlene, who was denied a warm welcome in Germany after the war and spent the rest of her life abroad, Lemper also left, settling permanently in New York.
At least she does return from time to time and I was lucky enough to see her latest programme “Rendezvous with Marlene” live in Germany last year. The planned world tour fell victim to the Corona pandemic however and so a streamed version has now been recorded at Club Cumming in New York. The intimate concert, conceived as Lemper’s “personal homage” to Marlene, draws heavily on that three-hour phone call from 1987. Ute Lemper turns herself into Marlene Dietrich, capturing her facial expressions and tone perfectly, but still retaining enough of her own personality. She performs 16 songs during the two-hour-show, moving from Marlene’s early German hits like “Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt” to the later stages in her career, culminating in a trilingual version of Pete Seeger’s anti-war song “Where have all the flowers gone” against a moving backdrop of WWII images.
While the stream can’t quite capture the live experience of feeling in the same room with two musical icons at the same time, I’m very pleased that this performance has been captured and made available to fans all over the world. The mellow jazzy arrangements are a joy to listen to on a cold November evening and Ute Lemper perfectly conjures up the stylish world of yesteryear’s truly classy divas that seems all but gone in these loud and noisy times. And while it’s not easy to admit, with this flawless performance she proves once more how right she was to leave Germany behind after the Blue Angel fiasco in 1992 – the German musical theatre scene has nothing to offer to a performer of her calibre. But I do hope we’ll see her again from time to time in concerts like these.
Ute Lemper: Rendezvous With Marlene’, filmed at Club Cumming in New York with Alan Cummin and Ute Lemper as producers, will be streamed globally on three evenings this month -
Thursday, 19 November at 19.00 (UK time), Wednesday 25 November at 01.00 and Saturday, 5 December 2020 at 19.00. Booking link: https://www.stellartickets.com/events/club-cumming-productions/ute-lemper-in-rendezvous-with-marlene