Fans of Marlene Dietrich who want an approximation of the famed European chanteuse's work can hear Sian Phillips croon "La Vie En Rose," "Lili Marlene," "Falling in Love Again," "The Boys in the Backroom" and more June 15, when the cast album of London's Marlene is released in the U.S.
After a round of negative reviews and decreasing box office grosses, the "new musical play," Marlene, by Pam Gems, closed at Broadway's Cort Theater May 2, after 15 previews and 25 regular performances.
The play earned whiskey-voiced Sian Phillips a Tony Award nomination. It was generally thought that the musical sequences were the most exciting part of the biographical play, which was previously staged in London's West End.
Sean Mathias, who directed Indiscretions on Broadway a few seasons back, staged the play, which takes place in a Paris concert hall in 1969, during Dietrich's farewell concert tour. We are first taken back stage and given peeks at the everyday Dietrich. The second act is essentially a recreation of her concert performance, in which the actress sings her hits.
The Relativity/First Night Records release (a recording from London, with New York production credits on the cover) includes the following tracks: "You Do Something to Me"
"Look Me Over"
"I Wish You Love"
"Laziest Girl in Town"
"The Boys in the Backroom"
"Where Have All the Flowers Gone"
"La Vie En Rose"
"Falling in Love Again"
Critics generally agreed that the twenty minute concert capping the show was more worthy than the two hours of anecdotes and reminiscences preceding it.
Musical direction and incidental music are by Kevin Amos, who is on piano. Violin is Julian Jackson and bass is Steve McManus.
An entertainment icon for much of the 20th century, the German actress chanteuse was discovered by director Josef von Sternberg, who cast her as Lola Lola in the 1930 international hit "Blue Angel." She then traveled to Hollywood, where she and von Sternberg made such moody classics as "Morocco," "Blonde Venus" and "Shanghai Express." In all her roles, Dietrich exhibited a cool facade, romantic melancholy and independent spirit -- an image she would retain throughout her career.
In 1939, she made a comeback in the comic role of a feisty bar waitress in the James Stewart western "Destry Rides Again." Other films include "A Foreign Affair," "Rancho Notorious," "Witness for the Prosecution" and Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil." She died in 1992 at the age of 90.
Also in Marlene in New York were Margaret Whitton as Marlene's friend, Vivian, and Mary Diveny as her long-suffering dresser Mutti. Designers include John Arnone (set), David Woolard (costumes) and Marc Jonathan (lighting).
Phillips appeared on Broadway as Mrs. Birling in An Inspector Calls. Among her numerous English credits are A Little Night Music, A Lion in Winter , Man and Superman and Night of the Iguana.
Gems' Piaf -- also a portrait of a famous songstress -- played Broadway during the 1980-81 season.
Marlene premiered at the Coliseum Theatre in Oldham, England in 1996 before transferring to the West End. The Broadway production is produced by Ric Wanetik and Frederick B. Vogel.