Dietrich & Chevalier: The Musical

Playwright Jerry Mayer’s opus about the passionate friendship between movie stars Marlene Dietrich and Maurice Chevalier is an impeccably researched effort that nevertheless makes the error of mistaking its subjects’ iconic onscreen personas for their real ones. The Blue Angel herself, Marlene (Cissy Conner), meets Monsieur Chevalier (Ray Baker) when they’re both assigned adjacent movie-studio dressing rooms. They become friends and then lovers, even though they’re both happily married to other people. However, as Hitler starts slurping up chunks of Europe, Marlene, under pressure to return to her native Germany, instead takes U.S. citizenship and tours with the USO. By contrast, Maurice, trapped in Paris during the Occupation, is forced to sing and dance before audiences of Nazis. After the war, Marlene comes to her ex-lover’s aid when he’s accused of collaboration. Mayer tells his story as straightforward history, but his stilted dialogue and director Chris DeCarlo’s lackadaisically paced staging are unable to muster the excitement needed to sustain our interest. The performances consist mostly of flat imitations, rather than in-depth renderings of the stars’ personalities. Conner’s Dietrich lacks the throaty, smoky sexuality of the original, instead opting for unconvincing perkiness, while Baker’s Chevalier never rises above his hammy French accent. The show’s musical numbers occasionally mitigate the fustiness, but the songs are not well-integrated within the dramatic actions. Sundays, 3 & 7 p.m. Starts: March 9. Continues through June 1, 2008


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