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"Dietrich & Chevalier" at St. Luke’s Theatre

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Edmund Gaynes
In Association with Emily Bettman
Dietrich & Chevalier
(Dietrich & Chevalier Show Website)
(Marlene Dietrich Bio)
(Maurice Chevalier Bio)

St. Luke’s Theatre
(St. Luke’s Theatre Website)
Operated by Edmund Gaynes
And West End Artists Company
308 West 46th Street

By Jerry Mayer
Directed by Pamela Hall

Robert Cuccioli, Jodi Stevens
Donald Corren

Musical Direction: Ken Lundie
Musical Staging: Gene Castle
Set Design: Scott Heineman
and Josh Iacovelli
Costume Design: Karen Flood
Lighting Design: Graham Kindred
Multi-Media Design: Chris Jensen
Production Stage Manager: Josh Iacovelli
Casting: Moss Kale Anastasti
General Press: David Gersten & Associates
David J. Gersten/Jim Randolph
General Management: Jessimeg Productions
Edmund Gaynes/Julia Beardsley

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 19, 2010

See Book Signing Event:
A WOMAN AT WAR: Marlene Dietrich Remembered

On this unusually hot September Sunday, with the lobby of St. Luke’s Theatre just as hot, I eagerly anticipated some glorious music, l Chevalier & Dietrich. Woe were me and my guest, as Robert Cuccioli and Jodi Stevens had two of the worst French and German accents I’d ever heard, and their vocal talent wasn’t far behind. With so many shows intermission-less these days, this was one event whose intermission was less than welcome. Ken Lundie on piano played with less than inspiring gusto, almost always adding trite French musical phrases, like “I Love Paris”, et al. The sound projection backdrop was trite, as well, with Nazis coming and going, as Berlin and Paris were immersed in War.

The dates of the show’s romantic interlude were 1932-1945, and the scenes included a Paris Casino, a Hollywood Hotel, and a Parisian Courtroom. We follow the already married Ms. Dietrich and Mr. Chevalier through brief flings, coy repartee, bonded friendship, political crises, Ms. Dietrich’s renunciation of German citizenship and entertainment of US troops, Mr. Chevalier’s French trial for entertaining in Berlin, and extortion attempts upon both. And, all the while, songs like “Isn’t It Romantic”, “Falling In Love Again”, “Louise”, “Valentine”, “Lili Marlene”, and “Hello Beautiful” break out off-key and off-accent. In fact, hearing them sung in such a fragmented, disrespectful way made me want to rush home and hear a couple of authentic versions on You Tube.

As actors, Mr. Cuccioli and Ms. Stevens were passable but not persuasive. At the height of romance or terror, their facial expressions were notably similar, an unsettling perception, but they did exude some energetic theatrics, and there were some witty moments. Mr. Cuccioli tried mercilessly to affect the wide-eyed expressions of the dashing French crooner, and Ms. Stevens tried just as mercilessly to be the swanky German diva. But, again, I obsessed on hearing the “real thing” as soon as time would allow. Yet, there was one wonderful surprise in this maelstrom, and that was Donald Corren, an actor of eight roles, eight accents, and eight moods, at times German, French, Nazi, or Jew. Mr. Corren was the silver lining in this production and should be showcased elsewhere soon. The sets were spartan but suited to the stage, and lighting and costumes worked as well as expected. The media design was disjointed and historically confusing, and Pamela Hall’s direction more of the same.

Jerry Mayer’s book tried to fit what may have been a poignant, riveting relationship into the context of historical sequences, in various chronologies. It did not work. Most disturbing was the sound design, and that credit was noticeably unlisted. When the two lead characters turned their heads, words and notes disappeared, sometimes for the best.

Robert Cuccioli and Jodi Stevens
in "Dietrich & Chevalier: The Musical"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

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