Ute Lemper blazes in
From Berlin to Broadway

The singer was accompanied by the 40-piece Orchestre FILMharmonique

By Byron Toben

February 15, 2024

Ute Lemper, cabaret and musical singer extraordinaire was featured live in a one-night stand at the Maison Symphonique at the Place des Art on January 28, backed by the lush accompaniment of the 40-person Orchestre FILMharmonique, directed by Francis Choinière. The show, entitled From Berlin to Broadway, included many of her numbers from her native Germany to her present New York residence. Along the way, she started as a dancer but soon specialized in singing, often favouring songs from composers that I am predisposed toward as well.

The evening also included a slim but handy printed program which should warm the heart of Toronto-based super reviewer Lynn Slotkin in her campaign for, expenses be damned, bring back printed programs (which I fully support).

The show opened with George Gershwin’s I’ve Got Rhythm and switched to French with Marguerite Monnot and Georges Moustaki’s M’Lord, originally recorded by Edith Piaf. The multilingual Ms. Lemper then belted out Cabaret from the Kander and Ebb hit musical of that name before delving into a Weimar Suite featuring Kurt Weill and Berthold Brecht’s landmark stuff from The Three Penny Opera, such as, of course, Mack the Knife.

Ute Lemper

M. Lemper was dressed in a burgundy gown and, while improvising with leg and hip gyrations, was inventive with her shoulder and arm movements.

Some recognition was also given to Marlene Dietrich, who courageously left Germany for the USA to protest the rise of Hitler with the WW I song Lily Marlene, sung by soldiers on both sides in the trenches. It brought to my mind the wonderful 2018 musical The Angel and the Sparrow about the friendship between Ms. Dietrich and Edith Piaf at the Segal Centre.

Post-intermission brought a switch to a black skirt with a red sash and sometimes a black hat, and some great Jacques Brel songs like Amsterdam and Ne me quitte pas as well as Henry Mancini’s Moon River, as well as some Spanish input like Che Tango Che, a return to Gershwin with Summertime and concluding with Kander and Ebb’s All That Jazz.

Four encores followed, leaving the audience in a friendly mood. Just as the evening had begun with Welcome to the Cabaret, the fourth encore ended with Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind.

In the lobby, post-show, Ms. Lemper stayed late to autograph sales of her albums.

Viewers may enjoy Ute Lemper’s official video to get a feel for this unique performer.

A quick word about the makeup of the FILMharmonic Orchestra. To achieve its power and subtlety, it includes ten violins, four alto violins, four violoncellos, two bass, four saxophones, three trumpets, three trombones, two flutes and one each – tuba, oboe, piano, percussion and drums.

Images: TAM Photography

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Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated websites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner, and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.

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