Saturday, January 7, 2012

Applause! Applause! Review of Sigrid Sunstedt's "Illusions: The Songs Of Marlene Dietrich" by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Sigrid Sunstedt in a show entitled "Illusions: The Songs Of Marlene Dietrich" at Don't Tell Mama was written and published by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and appeared in Volume II, Issue 1 (March, 1998) of Applause! Applause!

Illusions: The Songs Of Marlene Dietrich - Sigrid Sunstedt
Don't Tell Mama (343 West 46th Street, NYC)
Reviewed 3/15/98 at 7:00 p.m.

Sigrid Sunstedt is a class act - from the large white boa she wears on stage, to the two dozen roses she tosses into the audience at the end of her show, to the absolutely perfect musical arrangements that have been written for every song she sings. During "Illusions", she successfully evokes the spirit of Marlene Dietrich in a more successful way than any mere impersonator could ever accomplish. Through the use of intelligent well-placed patter and historical notes both on the life of Marlene Dietrich as well as the history of many of the songs she sang, Sigrid Sunstedt uses her own grace, elegance and charm to pay high tribute to the lady she once had the privilege of meeting in Wiesbaden.

As Sigrid tells the story, Marlene Dietrich was doing a concert in Wiesbaden, when, in the middle of singing "One For My Baby" (Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer), Marlene walked toward the edge of the stage near the audience, tripped and fell into the footlights. Although this was obviously an accident which required the calling of an intermission, Sigrid likes to think that Marlene tripped because she was so in character with the woman in the song who is taking one drink "for my baby and one more for the road." After it was determined that Marlene Dietrich was not seriously injured, she returned to the stage and finished the song. "That night," Sigrid said, "she fell in love with her and went backstage to meet her idol." After greeting her, Sigrid asked Marlene Dietrich "When shall we meet again?" to which Ms. Dietrich responded, "Darling, one always meets again."

"Illusions" is more like a one-woman show than it is a cabaret act. Her very talented musical director, Paul Greenwood, backed up by Peter Compo on violin and Bill Conway on bass, actually offer up an overture at the beginning of the show. A black and white enlarged picture of Marlene Dietrich graces the stage, and while with an average performer or impersonator, such a prop would invite unwelcomed and uncomplimentary comparisons, in Sigrid's case it enhances the illusion she aims to create both because Sigrid and Marlene look very much alike and because they both present themselves as strong, independent, mysterious, sexual women that remain aloof and just beyond reach. In a very true sense, both Marlene Dietrich and Sigrid Sunstedt are vamps who offer men varying degrees of frustration.

While all the numbers you'd expect are here such as "Falling In Love Again", "Jonny", "Peter", "Illusions" (Friedrich Hollander); "The Boys In The Backroom" (Friedrich Hollander & Frank Loesser); "The Laziest Girl In Town" (Cole Porter); "Marie, Marie" (Gilbert Becaud); "Makin' Whoopee" (Gus Kahn & Walter Donaldson); and "One For My Baby" (Harold Arlen &  Johnny Mercer), Sigrid delights her audience by singing English lyrics she wrote herself to the songs "Alone In A Bigh City" and "Mein Blondes Baby" (Friedrich Hollander). My favorite song of the evening, however, was Sigrid's rendition of "Lili Marleen" (Norbert Schultze & Hans Leip) which she states was the song of Marlene Dietrich played by Radio Belgrade during the war at exactly 9:55 p.m. every evening just before they signed off the air. What an appropriate choice for Sigrid to make as her last selection of the evening!!

Marlene Dietrich died on May 6, 1992. Were she alive and able to see Sigrid Sunstedt's affectionate tribute to her at Don't Tell Mama, I think she would have been honored. I encourage you to get yourself down to see Sigrid's last show which will be held on Sunday, March 29, 1998 at 7:00 p.m.. You will not be disappointed!!

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