Monday, December 5, 2011

Applause! Applause! Review of Michel Hermon's "Dietrich Hotel" by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Michel Hermon in a show entitled "Dietrich Hotel" at Don't Tell Mama was written and published by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and appeared in Volume I, Issue 2 (December, 1997) of Applause! Applause!

"Dietrich Hotel" - Michel Hermon
Don't Tell Mama (343 West 46th Street, NYC)

Parisian born Michel Hermon successfully evokes the spirit of a dark, decadent, sexually ambivalent Berlin Cabaret in the pre-Nazi era. Appearing as "l'homme Dietrich," Hermon uses a bar stool, a wall, a chair, a piano top, a single high heel shoe and many other props and movements to re-create the image of Marlene Dietrich, vamp. Quentin Crisp defines a "vamp" as "a woman who offers men various degrees of frustration." While modern cabaret applauds shared intimacy, the Berlin Cabaret, as represented by Hermon, offers aloofness and a dark forbidding atmosphere that leaves you always just beyond a glimpse of the performer's true nature. All that is missing is the cigarette smoke!

Michel Hermon sings portions of 23 songs in this well-crafted, well-timed and well-structured show. Hermon has a commanding stage presence and shows feelings, emotions and passion in every muscle twitch, hand movement and verbal inflection. My favorite numbers were "Berlin", written by Lou Reed; "I Get A Kick Out Of You", "The Laziest Gal In Town", and "It's De-Lovely", all written by Porter; "Falling In Love Again" and "The Boys In The Backroom", both written by Hollander; and "Just A Gigolo", written by Caesar and Casucci.

A good number of the songs were sung in French and German. In fact, at one point, four numbers in a row were sung in German. While this helped to evoke the proper atmosphere, Hermon made little effort to set the songs up so that an English speaking audience could better appreciate the history and the story behind each of these numbers. By failing to do so, he left me wishing that I had made more of an effort to study French and German, which made this American momentarily feel culturally inferior; a small elusive victory for the French citizens who champion the superiority of French "civilization" throughout the world. My only other criticism of the show is that it could have done without three encores. Two solid encores would have been quite enough and the show should have ended with "The Boys In The Backroom", a real crowd pleaser, instead of "Miss Otis Regrets".

Michel Hermon is a true international cabaret performer of the highest caliber. The next time you learn that he will be performing in New York City, I urge you to catch the experience. It is quite different from the "run of the mill" cabaret shows that you are used to seeing. You will not be disappointed!

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