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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Dietrich & Chevalier, the Musical
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Mayer, who had a top-of-the-line career in television, including six years as executive producer/writer of The Facts of Life, slyly employs his flair for humor here. When Dietrich meets Chevalier in Hollywood in 1932 where both have been imported by Paramount Pictures, he is struggling desperately and hilariously with the English language. Whenever he tries to say "thanks", it comes out "tanks".
However, there are no linguistic barriers to the Language of Love. Oh, maybe a spouse or two, but Continental Charm overcomes all that. Eventually passion segues into friendship when Chevalier is smitten by the 19-year-old chorine Nina Ryan.
During World War II Dietrich made anti-Nazi broadcasts while entertaining Allied troops and war prisoners, for which she was awarded the Medal of Freedom by the US Government and named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French Government. Chevalier, who had returned to France, found himself at the mercy of the German occupation forces. When the Gestapo learned of Nina’s Jewish ancestry, Chevalier declares he was blackmailed into singing in Paris. He also states his only appearance in Germany was at a French POW camp where he sang in exchange for the release of ten boys from his old Parisian neighborhood. After the war, he was tried on charges of collaboration and the play’s climax is Dietrich’s appearance on the witness stand.
Ray Baker does Chevalier to a turn. Not only the boulevardier dances with straw hat and cane, which we know so well, but the gleeful smile and the ability to slip out of any tight space with the easy grace of a professional charmer. Cissy Connor has the more difficult task of playing the familiar Dietrich. Her pretty face and dazzling smile don’t summon up Dietrich but she’s caught the accent and the gritty voice. When she sings Lili Marlene, ruefully without moving a muscle of face or body, Dietrich is there.
Zack Medway plays everybody else from Dietrich’s husband, Rudi, to Von Ribbentrop, a wonderful opportunity for a young actor to stretch and he does. Chris DeCarlo directs with a flair for pace and an ear for the musical moment.
Dietrich & Chevalier plays in repertory with Black & Bluestein , another Mayer play based on the true experience in 1963 of a black lawyer who wants to buy the home of a Jewish family in a conservative white neighborhood.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide