With her customary flair and style, Adrienne Haan created a Weimar Republic atmosphere at Feinstein’s/54 Below last night (February 22) in a new show telegraphing warnings from the past about similarities of what has begun to happen in the age of President Trump. With sardonic comment embracing her repertoire, Adrienne flashed a wicked smile in denying any comparisons. The songs spoke for themselves in her program titled “Between Fire and Ice: A Diabolical Weimar Berlin Cabaret.”
Haan appeared strikingly in a smartly tailored, claret-colored suit minus blouse or bra, the outfit accenting her tall, slim figure. As well as having a dynamic, well-trained voice, Haan is also an effervescent entertainer and actress who can mesmerize an audience. Whether on stage or wandering around the room fluffing a man’s hair and demanding a kiss, she flashes personality plus. I find her one of the best cabaret artists working today.
Talking about songs that captivated her as a youngster, she calls upon her German background to delve into musical history and what was going on in the cabaret world during the Weimer years before the rise of Hitler and Nazism destroyed the post-World War I democracy. She has the advantage of singing both in English and German.
Leading with the sarcastic “It’s All a Swindle,” she followed with a “German Cabaret Medley,” and also included a feisty “Medley of Women’s Emancipation.” In a particularly pertinent song on the same day when the Trump Administration backed off from protection of transgender students, Haan sang the sprightly “Masculine-Feminine,” an amusing celebration of gender-bending.
In singing “Pirate Jenny” from “The Threepenny Opera,” Haan emphasized the women’s revolt inherent in the lyrics. She pointed out that “Tonight or Never,” which concluded her regular program, was written just before the Weimar Republic ended.
Not all of Haan’s song list was political, as exemplified by her singing “Falling in Love Again,” her passionate and sensitive rendition of “Alone in a Big City,” “Naughty Lola,” “Nanna’s Song” and “Johnny.” For an encore she sang “Lili Marlene,” which she noted was an anthem among troops in World War II.
A highlight of the evening was the piano accompaniment by Music Director Howard Breitbart, who stepped in on emergency notice after Haan’s scheduled musical director had surgery. The result was an ultra-smooth pairing, with Breitbart impressively mastering the complex, extensive repertoire. At Feinstein’s/54 Below, 254 West 54th Street, Phone: 646-476-3551. Reviewed February 23, 2017.