October 22, 2018

Le Chalet, French tv suspense series on Netflix

The French are noted for their romantic comedy movies, but a six-episode series on Netflix called Le Chalet highlights the Gallic penchant for murder mysteries.

An accident occurs which destroys the bridge to civilization, setting up a Ten Little Indians scenario as bodies begin to pile up. The screen play does not rival vintage Hitchcock, but plot lines concerning greed, rape, revenge, hidden identities and murder keep the viewer engaged.

The acting is generally excellent, but I was delighted to see three actors from the French Village series in this production as well. Nicolas Gob who was collaborating cop Jean Marchetti on FV is the bully/villain of The Chalet, while Thierry Godard and Nade Dieu play smaller but key roles in this 2017 tv program.

The cinematography is eye-popping, having been filmed in a picturesque village in the French Alps.

My only quibble is the alternation of scenes from present day and those of twenty years ago. Most of the time, it’s clear what time period we are seeing but every so often, one has to puzzle out the past from the present.

Kudos go to Netflix for carrying foreign tv material, especially shows with suspense and high production values like Le Chalet. As the tagline says in French, “When Stephen King meets Agatha Christie” which is quite apt.

Divas Lynne Jordan, Ty Cooper, Claudia Hommel and Elizabeth Doyle at Open Door Theater this Saturday night! Joined by bassist Jim Cox.

Our theme is April In Paris, but our show will be packed with variety. We have blues, jazz standards, originals, spoken-sung story songs and French/English classics all done by the amazing Lynne Jordan, Ty Cooper, Claudia Hommel and yours truly, Elizabeth Doyle. Bass player, Jim Cox adds a little musical testosterone.

For tickets to April In Paris at the Open Door Theater:

http://www.opendoortheater.net/tickets-calendar

If you have not experienced the Open Door Theater, you are in for a treat. People have said it’s an intimate jewel of a theater with good acoustics and close-up sight lines for all audience members. The Theater sponsors comedy troupes, theatrical productions and music events so come check it out. Saturday night would be the perfect time!
April In Paris? No, April in Oak Park!

To find out more about the Open Door Theatre in Oak Park, please visit: http://www.opendoortheater.net/

Blossom Dearie and Bob Dorough

At the passing of singer-songwriter Bob Dorough, known for writing jazz standards and music for Schoolhouse Rock, it is worth noting his connection to Blossom Dearie who would have been 94 this week, the same age of Dorough who died this past week.

Dearie moved to Paris in 1952 and sang in a jazz vocal group called the Blue Flames with Michel Legrand’s sister, Christiane and none other than Bob Dorough. They had a hit with a French version of Lullaby of Birdland arranged by Michel Legrand.

Rocket ahead a couple of decades, and you find Dorough and Dearie working together again on Schoolhouse Rock which was initially broadcast on tv from 1973 to 1985. Blossom sang songs written for the educational show by Dorough: Mother Necessity, Figure Eight and Unpack Your Adjectives.

I recently heard her a handful of Dearie recordings on the Amazon show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. That ethereal voice of Dearie lives on!

And if you were wondering where she got that distinctive name, someone delivered peach blossoms to their home on the day of her birth 94 years ago. Blossom was her middle name but it became part of her stage name. Dearie passed in 2009 at age 85.

Several years back, I took a songwriting seminar with Bob Dorough at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Dearie came in to see me perform at the Pump Room when she was in Chicago for a gig. Dorough and Dearie were both consummate performers and songwriters. I was blessed to have met and admired both of them.

The German Cabaret Legacy in American Popular Music by William Farina

Evanston resident, author William Farina has written an excellent book about how Germany’s Weimar cabaret culture has impacted much of Western music and culture in the past several decades.

The Weimar Republic is loosely defined from 1919 to 1933 which is the time after World War I in Germany until the run-up to World War II. The 1930s saw the rise of Nationalism and the Nazi Party leading up to the global maelstrom between the Allies and the Axis. As one has watched the rise of nationalism in our own country, one could draw some unsettling parallels between our present day and that of this storied era of German history.

Troubled times frequently result in artistic ferment and the Weimar Republic is a particularly good example. Kurt Weill and Frederick Hollander were writing music, Lotte Lenya (Weill’s wife) was setting new standards in performance and a young Marlene Dietrich was creating a persona that would find world-wide popularity.

Josef von Sternberg (The Blue Angel), G. W. Pabst (Pandora’s Box with Louise Brooks), F. W. Murnau (Nosferatu) and Fritz Lang (Metropolis) were but a few of the filmmakers working in Germany at the time. Leni Riefenstahl was also writing and directing films throughout the 20s and 30s before signing on as the official visual recorder of the Nazi regime.

German performers, writers, directors, composers and authors, many of them Jewish fled and created new lives for themselves in Hollywood, in New York and in countless cities in the U. S. and other European locales. Little wonder that all of the arts would be impacted by this diaspora.

Lotte Lenya & Louis Armstrong

Interesting connections are made throughout Farina’s book. Jim Morrison of the Doors was a film student of Josef von Sternberg which may explain why he recorded Weill’s Alabama Song. The Beatles got their true start playing cabaret venues in Hamburg, Germany, even recording German versions of some of their songs. Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan wrote that he became semi-obsessed with the song Mack the Knife. Lotte Lenya also recorded a version of Mack with the legnedary Louis Armstrong.

Marlene Dietrich, who performed live cabaret shows from the early 1950s to the mid-1970s, was instrumental in creating the “big name” tradition on the Las Vegas Strip. No less than Burt Bacharach was her music director/pianist before his run of song hits. In her final film appearance, Dietrich shared a scene with David Bowie singing the song Just a Gigolo.

Marlene Dietrich

Broadway writers Kander and Ebb renewed interest in the Weimar Republic with their groundbreaking musical Cabaret which cast Lotte Lenya in a supporting role on Broadway. Many of the songs from their other musicals, most notably Chicago, have a Berlin cabaret feel.

Weill songs can be found on recordings by the likes of Bette Midler, Marianne Faithful, Teresa Stratas and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Mack the Knife alone has been sung by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Buble, Bobby Darin, Sting and Lyle Lovett, to name a few.

Ute Lemper

Current German cabaret artists like Ute Lemper and Max Raabe continue to play to sold-out houses across the globe.

My show at Dank Haus on Friday, April 6 will include a short presentation by William Farina and my interpretation of songs by Kurt Weill, Kander & Ebb, the Beatles, Burt Bacharach, Bob Dylan, selected song hits of Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf along with some of my own creations.

Show details below. Tickets must be ordered in advance.

A French Village/Un Village Francais Season 7 on MHZ

I wrote a blog post on Un Village Francais/A French Village a while back, but an update was definitely needed since MHZ recently made the seventh and final season available on its streaming service.

The wrap-up season has been somewhat of a let-down after six previous engrossing seasons, but most fans of the show will want to see the characters through to their respective ends.

The creators of the program use flash-forwards to future decades including the 21st century. Make-up artists were tasked with aging people in some cases into their 90s with mostly believable results.

Just a word of warning, if you expect the aftermath of the French Occupation to be a “feel good” affair, you will be greatly disappointed. Many of the characters are forever damaged by their experiences. The final episodes have intricate and confusing plot points that may need some further clarification.

If you complete all seven seasons, here is the MHZ page with 41 comments about the final season and possible interpretations:

https://mhzchoice.vhx.tv/a-french-village/season:7/videos/afrvil-c-07006?anon=17dcf608-2acd-428d-9a3e-1784dbc70976

Who is Karen Akers you ask?

She was in the original Broadway production of Nine and had a juicy role in another Maury Yeston musical called Grand Hotel.

Akers has also appeared in films; Woody Allen’s Purple Rose of Cairo and Heartburn, but she has devoted fans for her cabaret career.

Her first two albums were continually on my stereo turn-table, Presenting Karen Akers and In a Very Unusual Way. Adept in French and German as well as English, she has been known for her impeccable repertoire of theater and cabaret songs.

All Music lists ten Karen Akers solo albums: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/karen-akers-mn0000356422/discography