Sian Phillips personates Marlene Dietrich in Pam Gems' Marlene , a play with music about the legendary actress and singer which began previews March 30 and opens April 11 at the Cort Theatre (138 West 48 St.). The box office opened March 15, with ticket prices ranging from $15 $60.
Expected at the 7 PM Sunday opening night are Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Matthew Broderick & Sarah Jessica Parker, Rosie O'Donnell, Sting, Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench, Betty Buckley, Patricia Neal, Warren Beatty and Annette Benning, according to the James LL Morrison press office.
Sean Mathias, who directed Indiscretions on Broadway a few seasons back, stages the "musical play," which takes place in a Paris concert hall in 1969, during Dietrich's final 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 "Lili Marlene, " "Falling in Love Again," and "La Vie en Rose."
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 are 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 wrote the biographical play of painter Stanley Spencer, Stanley , which, though well-reviewed, had the dubious distinction of being the last play produced by the now-defunct Circle in the Square. Her 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.
Tickets are currently onsale via Tele-Charge (212) 239-6200.