The Melbourne Cabaret Festival is one of Melbourne’s major winter events and is home to some of the best cabaret acts in the land. One of those talents is Nikki Nouveau who brings to the stage her tribute to the great Marlene Dietrich in the form of Kabaret Dietrich – a beautifully rendered biography through song, dance and music.
The show is set in Weimar Republic Berlin and travels through the life and times of Dietrich from rising musician to aging film star. Dietrich’s career spanned almost 70 years and she would see two major wars in her native Germany. Her reputation as a humanitarian was widely acknowledged as she gave her time to tour for allied troops as well as setting up funds (along with other Hollywood actors) that would assist some Jews in escaping Nazi Germany. While in the US, she housed exiles, offered financial support and sponsored many for their US citizenship.
Much to admire, as Nouveau has discovered through her extensive research on Dietrich. In fact, Nouveau reveals, the show took almost two years to write as she did not know exactly what she wanted to say about this great woman. “I read her intriguing biography written by Steven Bach and took nine months of German tutoring to learn to pronounce and sing German lyrics as well as to perfect my character’s accent,” explains Nouveau.” I was surprised to learn that Marlene played the musical saw after a wrist injury forced her to give up her first passion of becoming a concert violinist. I learned to play the musical saw myself and was lucky enough to be taught by world famous musical saw player Natalia Paruz in New York City!”
Dietrich went to Hollywood after her success in the film The Blue Angel and it was the role of Lola-Lola that first drew Nouveau’s attention. “She seemed enigmatic and goddess-like. I wanted to understand her and to connect with her,” says Nouveau on what inspired her show, Kabaret Dietrich. “I have always admired her beauty, determination, fearlessness and confidence but also her fragility. She was magnetic.” I love her journey, in particular her early beginnings where she did not fit in and was often overlooked by her peers. It was a pleasant surprise to be able relate to aspects of her story. There are elements within her that I feel within myself. I feel very connected with her now.”
Nouveau believes Dietrich created an illusion of herself and made great sacrifices to become a great star. Her incredible drive, determination and misfit persona are some of the elements that Nouveau would like people to know about Dietrich. “My show takes the audience on a journey from 1920s Berlin to the Golden Age of Hollywood through the mind of an ambitious young woman who prided herself on not fitting in,” she says. “The audience will witness the transformation of a creative individual who would do most anything to be noticed, to express herself through various mediums such as kabarett, vaudeville, theatre, music and film – to reach the ultimate position as a woman seemingly in control who has complete possession of herself, so much so that it becomes an illusion that she could never escape from.”
As well as a legendary performer, actor, fashion icon, lover and benefactor, Dietrich was, above all else, an individual. “She did not conform to what was expected by society and stood up for her beliefs even when it created controversy to side with the allies against her native Germany during the war,” explains Nouveau. ” She had great courage, kindness and intelligence as can be seen from her humanitarian efforts during World War II where she was awarded the Medal of Freedom. I think Marlene saw herself as a lover. A lover of life, people and freedom.”
At one time, Dietrich was Hollywood’s highest paid actor but she died penniless. Nevertheless, Dietrich was daring and ahead of her time. “She is mostly remembered for her timeless style, humanitarian efforts, bold attitude and bisexuality,” says Nouveau.
Kabaret Dietrich is billed as a delicious theatrical affair unveiling the alluring enigma of Marlene Dietrich through song and story. And while Dietrich inspired, and continues to inspire, many of today’s great performers and fashion stylists, Kabaret Dietrich remains a must see for lovers of glamour and Dietrich!
Melbourne Cabaret Festival 2018 from Tuesday 19 June to Sunday 1 July 2018., Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran. Bookings: http://melbournecabaret.com