Reimagine a 1930s Speakeasy cabaret club in the Weimer Republic of Berlin. Nikki Nouveau embodies the immortal memory of Marlene Dietrich in her timeless cabaret Kabaret Dietrich at Chapel Off Chapel theatre. Nouveau reprises Dietrich’s role as Lola Lola from the classic movie ‘The Blue Angel’ to narrate Dietrich’s rise from musician to silver screen icon.
Dietrich’s tales of truth spill out in sumptuous songs onto the club patrons (audience) seated at candlelit tables surrounding the stage set with a grand piano, a menacing steel saw and backlit by eternal stars. Nouveau’s black-gloved fingertips tease and tickle the edge of the curtain before she throws it back to reveal her petite frame adorned in Dietrich’s trademark top hat, exquisite burlesque couture and a feather boa.
Nouveau recaptures the woes of World War II in a husky authentic German accent and reminds the ‘club patrons’ of Dietrich’s humanitarian efforts with regards to harbouring numerous German and French exiles. Nouveau’s insightful interpretation of Dietrich’s androgynous branding begins with her reprisal of ‘Naughty Lola’.
Brilliant pianist Andrew Scott accompanies Nouveau’s exceptional voice and their effortless collaboration is evident throughout their repertoire of songs. Nouveau adds Dietrich’s famous exotic German prowess to accentuate American tunes and equally astounds in fluent French and German, in particular, the popular wartime German song ‘Lili Marlene’.
Playful banter between Scott and Nouveau punctuates Dietrich’s lifestyle choices and romantic liaisons and she casts an alluring seductive shadow behind a screen during a costume change. Nouveau emerges in a stunning white gown with matching faux fur to treat ‘club patrons’ to one of her many accomplishments’, the Musical saw.
The svelte Nouveau sings ‘Falling in Love Again’ and compliments her ethereal vocal range with the high virtuosity of the Musical saw. She demurely sits down to part her skirt and discreetly places the saw between her knees, holds the handle high and proceeds to draw the bow back and forth across the blunt end of the flexed blade into an S-curve, then finds the “sweet spot” to produce the perfect harmonic pitch and the ‘singing saw’ continues the lyrics of the song.
Nouveau in full voice is mesmerising and her phrasing between singing and narrating is flawless. Nikki Nouveau incarnates Dietrich and pays homage to ‘one of her close personal friends’ Edith Piaf and gives a stunning rendition of ‘La Vie En Rose’.
Kabaret Dietrich is rich in satire and sophisticated sexuality. The sixty-minute cabaret finished too soon and opening night patrons found themselves crying out for more. Nikki Nouveau is the epitome of class and reinvention.