Dietrich & Chevalier
When Marlene Dietrich and Maurice Chevalier met on the Paramount lot in the 1932, they were already stars throughout the Western world. Both were married, but fell in love and began an affair and friendship that lasted their entire lives. The details of their incredible story, along with their signature songs and stage business, are now lovingly and dramatically brought to fruition at Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden.
It's no easy task to take biographical facts and turn them into art. Life does not generally provide the compact and cathartic arc that distinguishes great drama, but in this case playwright Jerry Mayer was blessed with a story in which life imitates art. Mayer judiciously chooses the key details and masterly connects the dots, aided by key additions and emphasis from director El Armstrong that distinguishes this production from the Santa Monica Playhouse version, in March of 2008.
as Maurice Chevalier
and Mari Carlin Dart
as Marlene Dietrich
We hope the New York production, now in pre-production, will similarly emphasize the relationship and historical backdrop, rather than the musical review (which best serves to enrich the love story).
Returning to the stage after a long absence, Mari Carlin Dart hits all the right notes as the iconic Dietrich, from her famous eyebrows, droll German-accented delivery, inimitable pacing, sultry contralto, and sexual confidence. Swathed in Erin Leonard's stunning costumes and a stylish wig, Dart delivers a shockingly real and heartwarming send-up.
|Mari Carlin Dart|
as Marlene Dietrich
Whether delivering Dietrich's first mega-hit, "Falling in Love Again," from the breakthrough role as Lola-Lola in Josef von Sternberg's "The Blue Angel" (1930), or a host of other famous numbers—including "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "You're the Cream In My Coffee"—Dart exudes charisma.
Long-time local dramatic and musical standout Paul Page effortlessly captures the joie de vivre, romantic flair, and signature style of the stellar French song and dance man. Replete with his cocked, straw boater hat and simple cane, in a black tuxedo, Page gives us a tantalizing and refined taste of the Casino de Paris from that era and the personal magnetism behind it.
|Paul Page as Maurice Chevalier|
From his straight-forward proposition of Dietrich to his smooth and elegant renditions of "Mimi," "Isn't It Romantic," "Valentene," "Sweeping the Clouds Away" and others, Page's Chevalier commands the spotlight in a mesmerizing performance that takes us back to a glittering era.
Though Chevalier was 13 years older than Dietrich, Dart and Page show us the sexual voltage, as well as the love and deep respect, these idols had for one another. The well-flavored combination of German and French accents work as a seductive mask for the underlying desire and dalliance that the couple so enjoyed with each other (and others).
Dietrich's trend-setting fashion sense is beautifully rendered in 14 glamorous and distinctive costumes by Leonard, including a black, silver, red sequin strapless evening gown, a gold backless evening gown with salmon colored boa, a black velvet dressing gown with black feathers, a white cut-away tux with rhinestones and white top hat, an army uniform, and a tomato red evening gown in the final number, a reprise of "Falling in Love Again," sung with Chevalier.
Eric Mather's strong work in 8 different roles, including Dietrich's husband and Chevalier's agent, adds essential depth to the action. Armstrong's video design, which includes newsreel footage and Hollywood landmarks with portraits of the actors edited seamlessly into the narrative, underscores the historical forces at work during this period. Donna Koplan Debreceni's musical direction and piano beg for an eventual soundtrack recording.
Anyone who had the fortune of seeing Dietrich and/or Chevalier perform, and anyone who did not, but appreciates their talent, will be fascinated by the public and private dynamics of this profound relationship, deliciously served in this staging.
Miners Alley Playhouse's production of Dietrich & Chevalier runs through June 20th. 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com.