Art & Artists
Art Basel 07
Art Basel 08
Art of Life
Basil Twist's Petrushka
Betty Tompkins
Diane Keaton Tribute
Edward Steichen
Gertrude Stein
Les Nubians
New Museum
Peek-A-Boo Revue
Pill Awards
Photogs to the Stars
Erotic Art Museum

A History of Violence

An Inconvenient Truth
Angels in America
Brokeback Mountain
Chris and Don
Little Children
Liza with a Z
Man on Wire
Notes on a Scandal
That Man: Peter Berlin
The History Boys
The Queen
The Savages
Woodstock Uncut
Morgan James
Joey Arias in Concert
Arias & Vine
Arias with a Twist
Brilliant Mistake
Candi Stanton
Diana Ross
Fight the People
Fish Circus
Fish Circus V2
Gavin Creel
Joe G's Winter Party
John Bucchino
Kevin Aviance
Lisa Shaw
Maximus 3000
Meow Meow
Paul Winter
Ute Lemper
A Chorus Line
ABT's Romeo & Juliet
August: Osage County
Avenue Q
Boeing Boeing
Coram Boy
Faith Healer
Getting Home
Grey Gardens
Heartbreak House
Joan Rivers
Journey's End
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Light in the Piazza
Marga Gomez
Mary Stuart
Movin’ Out
New York City Ballet
Rainy Days & Mondays
Rent 10
Some Men
Spelling Bee
Spring Awakening
Sunday in the Park
Sweeney Todd
The Little Dog Laughed
The Seagull
The Vertical Hour
Threepenny Opera
Times They Are A-Changin
Trailer Park
Wall to Wall Broadway
Photo Credit :: Artist
Arts & Entertainment
Ute Lemper: American Songbook at the Allen Room
By Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
February 21, 2007 
Share |

She’s been Velma Kelly, Sally Bowles, Grizabella and Bombalurina, as well as Peter Pan—and therein exist the tangled attractions of Ute Lemper.

Perhaps best known for her renditions of the Kurt Weill songspiel, Lemper has proven herself equally adept singing Joni Mitchell and Van Morrison— as well as Harold Arlen and Lewis Allen (the nom de plume of Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher from the Bronx, who happened to have written, in spite of what Billie Holliday contended, Ms. Holliday’s signature song, “Strange Fruit”)—which is exactly the sort of contextural historicity that Ute Lemper offers her audience about all her material.

Slender as a sylph, Lemper took the stage on Wednesday evening sheathed in a black gown with plenty of back exposure, a choice she’d made due to the number of times she imagined she’d be turning her back to the audience—to drink in the swellegant nocturnal Manhattan view afforded by the wall of glass in the Allen Room.

And then that voice… At first, smooth and crystalline clear, a bubble of honey encircling the room, before she brings it down raw with snarls and purrs. Moving from “Strange Fruit” to Frederick Hollander’s “Want to Buy Some Illusions?,” she lays bare life’s broken promises and inherent compromises. Originally sung by Marlene Dietrich in Billy Wilder’s A Foreign Affair, Lemper evokes that other Teutonic temptress—before she’s off again, with Harold Arlen’s “I’ve Got the World on a String,” a song with its own flood of delusionary associations. And when she oozes into Weill’s “Surabaya Johnny,” there’s the masochistic torment of every wrong-headed love affair gone awry.

Years ago, Bette Midler recorded Weill’s wail about a besotted woman in love with a brutal sailor—“Take that pipe out of your mouth, Johnny!”—a song which, somehow, fit perfectly into the soundtrack of adolescence in the early Seventies. The time was right for Weill then—and given humanity’s baser instincts, it’s almost always time for Weill, which is in keeping with Lemper’s stated mission to insure that Weill remains a part of the public songbook.

Similarly, Joni Mitchell’s “Last Chance Lost” served as a metaphoric rueful reflection upon the current state of the world, and to hear Lemper sing both this song and Mitchell’s “Black Crow” was to remember, again, the manner in which those songs were first introduced into one’s memory bank—when in the throes of youth with all its attendant promise and illusion. And how much has changed since then—or has it?

Dreams are still sold on the “Black Market,” another Hollander cautionary tale, as timely today as it was when it was written in 1948, and as long as there are people to buy those dreams, there will be broken hearts—and, fortunately, deliciously, Ute Lemper as their gimlet-eyed interpreter.