The history of cabaret is a fantastic mixed bag said to have gotten its start in the Montmartre district of late-nineteenth-century Paris, specifically when the famous bohemian hangout Le Chat Noir opened its doors to a motley crew of artist types eager to share their talents in a casual environment. Salon discussions, early comedians and cancan dancers rubbed elbows there, as did the likes of Claude Debussy, Erik Satie, Paul Verlaine and August Strindberg; later, the genre underwent a decadent facelift in Weimar-era Germany, morphing into an uncensored style made famous first by Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel and later by Bob Fosse's Cabaret. From there, vaudeville's grown-up cousin caught on in sophisticated New York City and gave countless singers and comedians their starts.
Ute Lemper, with her high cheekbones and arched Dietrich brows, seems to have been born the perfect torch-bearer for the form, but the German cabaret artist possesses far more than the correct features: Lemper's quite simply a walking encyclopedia of the style, and the volumes keep coming. Drawing inspiration not only from the classic mold she's portrayed The Blue Angel's Lola, Cabaret's Sally Bowles and Chicago's Velma Kelly on stage, as well as recorded the music of Edith Piaf and Kurt Weill she has also reinterpreted contemporary songs by Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell and Nick Cave.
The modern-day Queen of Cabaret performs tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts, 2344 East Iliff Avenue; for tickets, $25 to $65, call 303-871-7720 or go to www.du.edu/newmancenter.
Thu., Jan. 18, 7:30 p.m.