On her albums and in stage appearances in such musicals as Cabaret and Chicago, Ute Lemper comes across as a throwback to Weimar Germany, able to re-create the sound and feel of Marlene Dietrich, Lotte Lenya, and Edith Piaf (not to mention such fictional characters as Cabaret's Sally Bowles and Chicago's Velma Kelly) for modern audiences. In her cabaret act, which is captured on this video, that effect is accentuated all the more.
Lemper will switch from English to German as she goes from one verse of a song to another, that is, when she isn't singing the whole song in French. And she will mix up her influences freely, for example introducing a medley of songs from Cabaret and, in the middle of it, veering off into a rendition of "Mack the Knife." What keeps all this from seeming schizophrenic, of course, is that all of this material is similar. In particular, John Kander and Fred Ebb, the songwriters of Cabaret (and of Chicago, for that matter), write in a style distinctly reminiscent of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, authors of "Mack the Knife" and the rest of The Threepenny Opera, and Cabaret is set in the same Weimar Germany that produced Weill and Brecht. So, it's all in the family, in a sense, and Piaf's style is not far removed, either. It's only when Lemper strays from this mood of decadent interwar Europe that she seems on less firm ground, notably in an over the top reading of Stephen Sondheim's "The Ladies Who Lunch," which she is not, perhaps, ready to tackle quite yet. She is a highly visual performer, mugging furiously and interacting with the tiny audience at the tony Café Carlyle on Manhattan's Upper East Side. But she is done no favors by director Curt Faudon's questionable decision to intercut two different performances, one in color and the other in black-and-white. It's obvious that the audio track was taken from the black-and-white show, because whenever Lemper is in color, she appears to be lip-syncing, her facial movements not quite matching the vocal.
This is distinctly distracting and takes away from what is otherwise a powerful act.
|Pirate Jenny / Kurt Weill||Ute Lemper|
|Milord / Georges Moustaki||Ute Lemper|
|Blood and Feathers / Ute Lemper||Ute Lemper|
|The Ladies Who Lunch / Stephen Sondheim||Ute Lemper|
|Moon Medley: Bilbao Song/Moon Dance/Moon Over Bourbon Street/Moon ... / Harold Arlen / E.Y. "Yip" Harburg / Joni Mitchell / Van Morrison / Kurt Weill||Ute Lemper|
|Lili Marlene / Martin David / Norbert Schultze||Ute Lemper|
|Muenchhausen/The Baron of the Lies / Friedrich Hollaender||Ute Lemper|
|Accordeoniste / Michel Emer||Ute Lemper|
|Cabaret Medley / Fred Ebb / John Kander||Ute Lemper|
|Surabaya Johnny / Kurt Weill||Ute Lemper|
|September Song / Maxwell Anderson / Kurt Weill||Ute Lemper|