Superb international chanteuse Adrienne Haan can always surprise me. Last night (May 22), when she made her appearance on stage at the Triad, she wore a black top hat and a wine-colored tux with tails, striking a dramatic pose that signaled her new show, “Berlin, Mon Amour” would be fun. Indeed it is, sometimes in provocatively unexpected ways, and it emerges as the most unusual cabaret show in New York at the moment.
The theme is celebrating the centennial of the democratic Weimar Republic, which flourished in the 1920s and early 1930s. When Hitler took over Germany many of the songs were banned because of their rebellious content of feminism, sexual liberation and trans-gender portrayal, or because of being written by Jewish composers. In the Weimar period the cabaret scene flourished in Berlin with an anything-goes aura, and great songs emerged from composers of the day, many of the numbers penetrating and sassy in satirizing life and prejudices of the time.
The big surprise in Haan’s latest clever and entertaining Weimar tribute, performed as if in Berlin’s Wintergarten Theatre, is the addition of a special guest--beautiful, dark-haired French cabaret artist Magali Dahan. The two are sensational in their duets, and voilá, at one point they illustrate what might have occurred in the free-spirited Weimar cabaret world when Haan and Dahan sing as lesbian lovers, sexily tongue-kissing and also with a hand gently passing over a private area. It’s surprising to behold, and the two performers make the most of the love-charged moments.
The show is packed with superb numbers, some sung in German, some in English and some in both. Haan opens with the feminist “Chuck Out the Men” (“Raus Mit Den Männern”), written by Friedrich Hollaender.
There is the sexy “I Am a Vamp” (“Ich Bin Ein Vamp”), a number by Mischa Spoliansky and Marcellus Schiffer. Another song with sex appeal is “Naughty Lola,” (“Fesche Lola”), by Hollaender, who also composed the dreamy “Falling in Love Again,” with the mouthful German title, “Ich Bin Von Kopf Bis FuB Auf Liebe Eigestellt.” That number gives Haan the opportunity to convincingly slide into her Marlene Dietrich mode, a perfect blend with the period being portrayed.
Other songs with a bite include taking apart the sexual divide in “Masculin/Feminin” (Maskulinum/Femininum”), by Spoliansky, and also “Abortion Is Illegal,” by two of the era’s greats, Hanns Eisler and Bertolt Brecht. There are many more appealing renditions, and, of course, no program like this could not feature “Lili Marleen.”
Haan indulges amusingly in her trademark sauntering among audience members, and, of course, picking out a few men on whom to shower affection. Dahan also does the same—I was one of her targets on opening night. The gambit extends the fun in a tasteful but not intrusive way.
It is a smart move on Haan’s part to introduce Dahan to New York audiences. Dahan sings excitingly and flashes sexy stage movement that blends well with Haan’s mischievous acting style. Haan in her musical number not only honors the Weimar era but makes you accept the illusion that she has become part of it.
“Berlin, Mon Amour” features the invaluable, skillful work at the piano by Haan’s long-time musical director, Richard Danley, and the show has been directed by Barry Kleinbort and produced by Peter Martin and Joseph Barry.
The result is a solid treat, and happily, you will still have the chance to see it. “Berlin, Mon Amour” is being repeated on May 29 and June 5. At the Triad, 158 West 72nd Street. Phone: 212-279-4200. Reviewed May 23, 2019.