by: Paulanne Simmons
Those who like cabaret with an international touch couldn’t do better than get themselves to 54 Below in the next few days where Ute Lemper holds court as queen of the night. Lemper’s repertoire ranges from Leo Ferré to Brecht and Weill, from Pablo Neruda to Charles Bukowski, and from Argentinian tango to Weimar cabaret. Her voice can be sultry or delicate. She can belt and she can whisper. She sings of despair and hope. Lemper, who brings immediate visions of Marlene Dietrich to mind, was born in Münster, Germany and has made a name for herself in such roles as Sally Bowles in Cabaret and Velma Kelly in Chicago. And yes, she has played Lola in a remake of The Blue Angel. But she’s also a prolific recording artist and frequent cabaret performer.
Wearing a long, black, backless dress, Lemper has grace, charm and sex appeal to spare. She has an ironic sense of humor concerning the vicissitudes of history, life and love. Just the kind of performer one hopes to see grace a cabaret stage. Lemper sings in French, Spanish, German and English. There’s Ferré’s plaintive “Avec le Temps” and Brel’s raucous “Amsterdam.” Don’t expect to understand all the words. But with Lemper’s expressive voice and perfect phrasing, an exact knowledge of each word is hardly necessary.
With Vana Gierig on piano and Tito Castro on bandoneon, Lemper recreates the lost world of German cabaret, which became the successive victim of Nazism, Communism and Capitalism. In a corrupt world, Lemper is a breath of fresh air. Ute Lemper will be at 54 Below, 254 W 54th St, through Jan. 14
54 Below, 254 W.54 St. (Cellar) NYC