Falling in Love with Marlene Again

Jennifer Lealand is flawless as Marlene Dietrich in 'Falling in Love Again' IMAGE: Supplied.

There’s something magical about old Hollywood glamour, isn’t there?

The iconic war-time stars of bygone era seemed cloaked in allure and more worldly than any of the biggest celebrities today. Few are more iconic than Marlene Dietrich; singer, actress and political campaigner, whose time in the spotlight spanned more than 60 years.

Falling in Love Again, presented by Andrew McKinnon, is a tribute to Marlene and I was fortunate to be invited to this stunning show when it stopped in Townsville.

The show’s staging is simple – one songstress, one pianist, one bassist – but the spellbinding web this trio weaves is nothing short of captivating.

Jennifer Ward-Lealand disappears into Marlene Dietrich, adopting the German-American’s mannerisms, expressions and unique accent to perfection from start to finish. While I was certainly impressed by Jennifer’s transformation (she even masters Marlene in German and French) as she performed; the meticulous detail of it was lost on me until a post-show YouTube binge on Marlene’s performances made me aware of just how accurate Jennifer’s impersonation was.

Marlene Dietrich was a magnificent woman who, for all her polish, seemed to occupy a higher plain than her audience: detached from those who sat before her, deeply involved with every single lyric she brought forth.

As Marlene, Jennifer captures her majesty, intrigue and dry wit.

Performing the song Johnny in German (no English translation was ever written), Jennifer doesn’t let a single delicious detail slip through the language gap. Her coy introduction to the song and its subject matter is undeniably endearing; made only better with each sultry vocal expression and finely-tunes flutter of the eyelids.

Similarly, the heart-wrenching rendition of White Grass, about a soldier’s return from war, made my stomach leap into my throat and stay there for the duration of the song.

I’m ashamed to say I’m a newbie to the life and work of Marlene Dietrich; although I was familiar with a number of the songs that appear in Falling in Love Again, including pieces by Cole Porter, Edith Piaf, Frederic Hollander and Pete Seeger. Musical Director and Pianist Grant Winterburn has arranged these pieces sensationally and he, along with Jennifer and Bassist Aaron Coddel have done them the justice they deserve.

It was wonderful to overhear older members of the audience swooning excitedly after the show about how perfect every detail was – right down to the lighting and recreation of one of Marlene’s most famous gowns. Now that I’m a fan myself, I couldn’t agree more.

 

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