Ute Lemper in Rendezvous with Marlene | Review

In 1987, Ute Lemper appeared in Paris as Sally Bowles in Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret. The critics were ecstatic about her performance for which she later won a ‘Moliere Award’, comparing her to Marlene Dietrich, who had taken up permanent residence in the city. Ute sent Marlene, whom she had long admired but never met, a postcard apologising for all the media attention.

Sometime later, out of the blue, Marlene phoned Ute for over three hours: Rendezvous with Marlene, a one-woman show devised and performed by Ute Lemper is based on this phone call.

Ms Lemper plays both herself and Marlene Dietrich, telling the story of an extraordinary life, and trying to get under the skin of this icon. The fact that this is Marlene talking to us and giving us her view of her life is almost totally believable. Ms Lemper has Marlene’s mannerisms perfectly, but her portrayal is much more than that: at times she really convinces us that she IS the great film star.

The life story is interspersed with sixteen songs, most of which are well known. Perhaps the most memorable, certainly in this performance, is Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s “One For My Baby”, which is most affecting in a beautifully understated performance, though Pete Seeger’s “Where have all the Flowers Gone” sung in three languages runs it a close second.

Ute Lemper is accompanied by a five-piece band, in which violinist Matthew Parrish plays particularly poignantly, especially some Debussy arrangements.

Six days before Ute’s opening night playing Lola in the 1992 Berlin production of The Blue Angel, the role that had made Dietrich a star in 1928, Marlene passed away. Rendezvous with Marlene is Ute Lemper’s “personal homage to that great lady”. The result is fascinating, if a little depressing, but essential viewing for fans of both artistes. The 129-minute show was recorded live but without an audience. Before Covid it was intended that this show would tour the UK – meanwhile here is an opportunity to be immersed in a powerful story.

4 stars

Review by John Groves

UTE LEMPER is gracing the virtual series with her critically acclaimed show “Rendezvous with Marlene” which is less filmed concert and more of a theatrical film, shot entirely at Club Cumming. Ute honors the teutonic Marlene with a show based on the true story a phone call Ute received by the film legend 35 years ago in France. “Rendezvous with Marlene,” which debuted in London in 2019, includes some of Marlene’s most beautiful songs and captivating secrets of her life – from her illicit love affairs to her groundbreaking political activism – shared during the three hour-plus call.

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