Article Title:Jennifer Ward-Lealand at AK07
Author or Credit:Larry Jenkins
Published on:2nd March 2007 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:1613
Text:Falling In Love Again Jennifer Ward-Lealand as Marlene Dietrich The Famous Spiegeltent AK07 Festival The only thing that is better than hearing Jennifer Ward-Lealand's compact disc of the songs in this show is actually seeing the show itself, which I did, thanks to popular demand which encouraged the Auckland Festival into a repeat of the March 14 airing. From the moment of her regal entry, swathed in a fake fur (pc or just plain affordable, doesn't matter, good choice) full-length white mink coat fit for an empress and a copy of a beige sequined gown that the great singer/actress wore in public concerts, Jennifer Ward-Lealand is in charge. The audience is hers, the music is hers, and the night is hers. Nothing is left to chance. Every eye movement, gesture, posture, is timed to perfection, just as Dietrich herself did so instinctively. It's clear that a lot of research has been done, but in the hands of anyone less formidably gifted, all the research in the world wouldn't have been enough, for genius, too, is required to produce a performance of this standard. And the Voice – a far better instrument than that of the original owner and used to the fullest nuance, its rich timbre almost more seductive and certainly less sprecht and more gesang. Dietrich, as she got older, was more prone to speak the songs than sing them. And the material - some surprises like Pete Seegar's “Where have all the Flowers Gone?” in Deutsch and a smokey version of “One More for the Road” significantly without changing the gender of the character in the song, alluding to the alleged sexuality confusion always associated with Dietrich. “Lily Marlene” brought tears not only to the audience but to the singer as well; “La Vie en Rose” and “Falling in Love Again” proved the heartstring tuggers of the evening; and the patter linking the songs - urbane, witty and sardonic. Does J W-L look like Marlene? Vaguely, but it's more a conjurer's trick, an illusion. It's what a great actress can do-make you forget the original by the ability to recreate the character using what's there: bone structure, eye colour, hair, inflection. One cannot ignore the contribution of Grant Winterburn and Aaron Coddel, respectively piano and plucked bass. Musicianship of the highest order marked the support of these fine accompanists. The Famous Spiegeltent, the very one in which this show was played twice, actually hosted Marlene Dietrich in 1938, I was told. What an amazing coincidence and what a frisson was felt upon experiencing her reincarnation whilst the ghost of her presence presumably hung around watching, probably nodding approval. Larry Jenkins - 2nd March 2007    
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