Responses to "Reflecting on Marlene"

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Aufbau - February 16, 2001

"Reflecting on Marlene," An Homage to Dietrich Sung by Elizabeth Hodes

The cabaret space at Judy's Chelsea is small and intimate -- there is little separation between the audience seated at the tables and the performers up front. And when that performer is the tall, glamorous and commanding singer Elizabeth Hodes, in her new homage to Marlene Dietrich titled Reflecting on Marlene, the viewer becomes part of her evocation of another, more elegant time. On stage or moving between the tables, the singer, clad in a clinging, black, sequined gown designed by Diane Specioso for occasional glimpses of a shapely leg, takes the audience back to the sophisticated ambiance of the supper clubs of the forties and fifties.

Hodes, a first-generation German-American, sees her performance not as an impersonation but, rather, as an appreciation of the star as both artist and woman. In the narrative of Marlene's life, which Hodes intersperses between the more than twenty signature songs such as "Jonny, " "You're the Cream in My Coffee, " "Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuss and "Just a Gigolo., " there is an emphasis on Dietrich's independent attitudes to men, Hollywood, and above all, her homeland during World War 11 when she registered her disgust with Nazism by entertaining the American troops. A rousing salute to Dietrich's inclusive and liberal politics is Hodes rendering of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone,. in English, German, and Hebrew, the latter a reprise from Dietrich's successful performance in Israel.

Directed and scripted by Carter Inskeep, with musical arrangements by John Bowen, and lighting by Michael Barbieri, Reflecting on Marlene transcends nostalgia, to become memorable theater.


"This new work fulfills the promise of one-woman shows by the intriguing singer/actress, Elizabeth Hodes. "Reflecting on Marlene" is an exquisite evening of entertainment. Last seen at Judy's Chelsea to critical acclaim in her evening of Kurt Weill on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth, her show was far and away the best of the plethora of Kurt Weill Cabarets that we saw last year. Now, a year with another centennial, this one, the international star, Marlene Dietrich. Since Elizabeth Hodes, née Ingeborg Lotte Wullen's, started as a child of German immigrants, Elizabeth identified with Marlene's glamorous example. While she bears an uncanny resemblance to the beloved star, Ms. Hodes has chosen not to impersonate her idol but to present an homage to Dietrich in a program of songs she made famous.

The show began with the performer strolling into the room enveloped in a red and black feather boa, singing one of Dietrich's best-known songs "The Boys in the Backroom. " Later, when she had gained the stage, the boa came off to reveal a most beautiful gown, which could only be worn by a figure like Ms. Hodes or Miss Dietrich, absolutely slim but all woman. It had a decolte cut down to here and a skirt slit up to here and was designed by Diane Specioso.

At least half of the songs in the act, all popularized by Marlene Dietrich, were written by Frederick Hollander. Carter lnskeep, who also directed the Kurt Weill cabaret, cleverly wrote recitatives to the music of Hollander's 'One Wish"and used them as a device to turn the songs into a cohesive story. While Ms. Hodes was the shining star of this tribute, her collaborators, Carter Inskeep and John Bowen were her partners in the fullest sense. Michael Barbieri's lighting contributed to the theatricality of the production, from it's opening to it's closing "Just a Gigolo".

Marlene Dietrich stopped making films in 1978 and retired from concert and nightclub stages, so only a few of us in Ms. Hodes's audience had concrete memories of her. In recreating these moments she thrilled the younger audience members to whom Marlene Dietrich is only a name. When I was able to take my eyes off Ms. Hodes's mesmerizing performance and look at the rapt faces of the audience I thought, "This is star quality". I see this show playing in many different venues. It is perfect i the intimate setting of Judy's Chelsea but it could easily go to a larger club or concert hall or off-Broadway theater. Elizabeth Hodes is such a rave and her show is so captivating that I'd like to show her gifts to the world.