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A CurtainUp Review
The action shifts back and forth between the three women, each in her own playing area defined by a table, chair and the necessary props. Daphne’s writing desk displays the framed photos of her family. Rose’s dressing table is set with makeup, hairbrush and mirror. Lilli’s table at an opera house canteen is littered with German propaganda.
Ryan meticulously interweaves the three women’s stories with the popular songs of the era – "Mad About the Boy,"" It Had to Be You,""White Cliffs of Dover" and, of course, the song Dietrich made famous, "Lilli Marlene." Most often the songs each woman sings are related to her life and nationality. Rose sings "White Cliffs of Dover." Lilly sings "Ruins of Berlin" and Wagner’s "Weiche Wotan." Daphne sings "As Time Goes By."
Each woman grows and changes thanks to her experiences during the war. Daphne, who gave up her career after she married and started a family, rekindles her passion for singing when she starts performing at the USO. By the end of the war, she is not quite sure how she will return to her quiet life as a homemaker.
Rose, who has attracted many men but believes they are all like infants and will take up too much of her time, finally falls in love. But these are the war years, when romance does not always end happily.
Lilli, like many Germans, at first believes Hitler will make improvements that will benefit not only Germany but "the entire world." In the end, she is disillusioned and perhaps to some degree in denial.
Throughout the play recordings of Hitler, Churchill, Eisenhower and a video accompanied by Marlene Dietrich singing "Lilli Marlene" reinforce the WWII theme.
Maxwell certainly has a beautiful and highly trained voice. She executes her transitions seamlessly. Her accent and bearing never falter. But there was a certain stiffness in her opening night performance that indicates either too much of Erv Raible’s directorial influence or perhaps some discomfort with the intimate setting that is not quite cabaret, concert or drama, but a combination of all three. Perhaps this will be worked out as the run continues.
Seeing Lilli Marlene should and could be more than an intellectual exercise in which the lives of three women are explored within the context of World War II. These women’s stories should touch the viewer as the sometimes tragic, always human, experiences of three women trapped in a war that plays havoc with their lives. Although this is definitely hinted at, Maxwell never manages to fulfill the script’s potential. Thus, Lilli Marlene is certainly an entertaining and memorable show that's well worth seeing, but it could be even more.