Ute Lemper is a vocal chameleon in search of a personality of her own. So far, the concert career of the German-born chanteuse has thrived on artful, uncanny revivals of repertoires made famous by the likes of Lotte Lenya, Marlene Dietrich, and Edith Piaf. Her voice, to be sure, is more pure and supple than her idols’, but at age 30 she hasn’t quite mastered their world-weariness and insinuating styles. Even her performing persona seems a work in progress; the look she’ll sport in her new show “Paris/Berlin/New York” is that of Garbo by way of Annie Lennox. In her latest CD, Illusions, a compilation of Dietrich and Piaf signature numbers, Lemper has come up with her own jazzy, bluesy variations–in much the same perversely assertive way Liza Minnelli pays tribute to her mother Judy Garland. The contemporary twist turns her version of “Falling in Love Again” into a commentary on Dietrich’s sultry contralto and taunting sexuality; similarly, her rendition of “Non, je ne regrette rien” evokes Piaf’s quivering vulnerability without totally embracing it. It’s a pity that no composers nowadays can write songs that would do justice to Lemper’s formidable talents. (Her first theatrical stint was with the Viennese production of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Cats but she quickly moved on to Kurt Weill.) For the time being we’ll have to be content with her clever, thoroughly entertaining impersonations of the cabaret legends of yore. Friday, 8 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield; 242-6237, 663-1628, or 472-0449.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jean Claude Marouze.