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On Broadway: Old Gal in Town

2 minute read


Legend has it that Marlene Dietrich once had a record made consisting of nothing but snippets of applause from her triumphal concerts in Europe. Opening a six-week run of her one-woman show in Manhattan last week, Marlene garnered enough adoring acclaim to make an album. The bravos began before the curtain rose, and there were screams of joy after every encore as ecstatic young men in tight trousers pranced down the aisles to toss bouquets of roses upon the stage.

In truth, Dietrich doesn’t do badly for a 65-year-old grandmother—even though she stands on stage as rigidly expressionless as Ed Sullivan, and the famed husky voice is now both thin and strident. Molded into a $30,000 skintight, flesh-colored gown, however, she can still give the illusion of youth, at least across the footlights. And there is the illusion of sex as she glances at the balcony while chanting a self-mocking version of The Laziest Gal in Town:

It’s not ’cause 1 wouldn’t,

Not ’cause I shouldn’t,

And, Lord knows, it’s not ’cause I couldn’t.

Accompanied by a 26-piece orchestra, Dietrich works her way through a four-language repertory that ranges from Australian rock to the antiwar ballad Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

For the nostalgic, there is a large sampling of dusky, sentimental ballads. “I give the people what I know they like and what they expect,” she says.

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