Jennifer Ward-Lealand – FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN

The Famous Spiegeltent, Havelock North Domain, Havelock North

04/11/2015 - 04/11/2015

Downstage Theatre, Wellington

27/07/2006 - 04/08/2007


Production Details

Created by Jennifer Ward-Lealand

Music Director Grant Winterburn
Designer Andrew Malmo

Star of stage and screen, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, brings us a dazzling evening of cabaret and glamour from a time gone by.

Jennifer brings to life the sultry performances of screen goddess, Marlene Dietrich, with sizzling physicality. Wearing recreations of Dietrich’s exquisite gowns, she invites you to relive the glamour and seductive charm of this legendary icon.

Accompanied by pianist Grant Winterburn and bassist Aaron Coddel, Jennifer performs songs from Dietrich’s films and recordings in Marlene’s distinctive style, including the immortal favourites You’re the Cream in My Coffee, Falling in Love Again and Makin’ Whoopee.

‘Ward-Lealand is Marlene in gesture, mood and movement – masterfully capturing
her alluring and seductive personality from stage and screen.’ Capital Times

‘Ward-Lealand is glorious as Marlene.’ NZ Herald

‘When a luminary pays tribute to a legend, there’s an extra dusting of starlight. This glamorous cabaret salute is, above all, a night of wonderful music making.’  Waikato Times

as part of the

The Concert Chamber transforms into a hotbed of decadence as THE EDGE presents a sumptuous five-night engagement of the Cabaret world’s hottest talents, as the inaugural Auckland International Cabaret Season takes place 4th – 8th June 2014, Live at the Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall.

Jennifer Ward-Lealand (NZ) returns to Auckland with Falling In Love Again as the celebrated actress sings highlights from Marlene Dietrich’s films, concerts and recordings.

Jennifer Ward-Lealand – Falling In Love Again:
June 5th, 6:30pm
(Premium – $35, Gallery – $20, Table of 6  -$192) 

Bookings through Ticketmaster – or 09 970 9700 (booking fees apply)

The Famous Spiegeltent, Havelock North
Wednesday 4 November 2015, 8:15pm 

Jennifer Ward-Lealand
Grant Winterburn on piano
Aaron Coddel on bass

Theatre , Cabaret , Music , Solo ,

1 hr 15 min, plus interval

In love again with the era, Dietrich and her voice

Review by Karen Beaumont 05th Nov 2015

The foot-stomping demand for an encore and standing ovation before the final notes had faded say it all. For many in tonight’s audience this has been a trip down memory lane: a nostalgic recollection of Marlene Dietrich and all that she meant to those who had seen her and held her dear.  

That this evening’s performance takes place in the very spiegeltent Dietrich performed in during the 1930s makes this an even more auspicious occasion. With its sumptuous velvet furnishings, lead glass windows, and mirrored panels this ninety-five year old tent takes on all the warmth that Hawke’s Bay could offer, given the wind and pouring rain.

From the opening notes to the last all of this is forgotten as Jennifer Ward-Lealand’s audience is spell-bound. Murmurs of appreciation and gentle toe tapping accompany some of the more sultry songs; others provoke laughter as her cheeky facial expressions and carefully timed gestures tell their story.

Covering a range of songs – highlights from Dietrich’s films, shows and recordings – Lealand is sensitively supported by Grant Winterburn on piano and Aaron Coddell on bass. The timing and changes are cohesive and their understated performances tightly controlled. Andrew Malmo’s lighting design is particularly effective under canvas, the mirrors casting subtle reflections and shifting colours across Lealand’s infamous replica dress.

Highlights are ‘Cream in my Coffee’, ‘La Vie en Rose’ and ‘Lilli Marlene’. More unusual among the choices is Marawood’s ‘White Grass’, a poignant reminder of the reality of war no matter who the winner or loser.

Saving Dietrich’s signature song to last has Lealand leaving her audience with that sense of having ‘[Fallen] in Love Again’with the era, Dietrich and her voice. 


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Transported with sensitivity and humour

Review by Cherie Moore 06th Jun 2014

Jennifer Ward-Lealand brings Marlene Dietrich back to life in Falling in Love Again for the Auckland International Cabaret Festival this week. The elegance of Ward-Lealand transcends time and space to bring Marlene Dietrich to the stage of the Concert Chamber, on a journey through time, filmography and career highlights. 

Wearing a replica of a dress Marlene Dietrich wore, Jennifer Ward-Lealand looks absolutely stunning as she takes the stage. She is a transformational actor, and the person in front of us tonight is not the same woman I have seen in other roles or in public. Ward-Lealand’s characterisation of Marlene Dietrich is fabulously precise – from the accent, to the dropped Rs and her cheeky sense of humour, I really feel I am in the presence of a starl.

Vocally, Ward-Lealand sings through the show with ease and prowess. Story-telling through song is a great strength of hers, and this performance really shows that off. Each audience member is invited into the world Ward-Lealand is creating as she acts as conduit for Marlene Dietrich, and she manages to guide the audience seamlessly through each moment without ever rushing or it feeling contrived.  

Lights and sound are beautifully executed in the show. There is an elegance that is created, and the transitions between songs transport us and manage to created and dissipate a world in a moment. Grant Winterburn plays the piano with expert precision throughout the show, and the very talented Aaron Coddel on the double bass never misses a beat. The relationship between lyrics and music in ‘One For My Baby’ is a highlight, as voice, instruments and arrangement come together to paint clear images of the song. ‘White Grass’ is absolutely haunting as Ward-Lealand’s voice surges and the melodic line coupled with her delivery breaks my heart.   

Like her performance in Brel, Ward-Lealand proves again she is a powerhouse performer, bringing her many talents together to bring a specificity to the story of songs even when they are in another language. The ease with which she does this is remarkable.

There is an awkwardness to the middle section of the show when the audience thinks there is a half time, but it is actually just a costume change. This could have been remedied with the venue staff knowing the format of the show in order to clarify the break for audience members exiting for an assumed intermission. The other odd thing is that the bar isn’t open during the performance, as it traditionally is in cabaret and has been for other shows in the festival. This show is unique in its characterisation however, and I think the bar being closed is a conscious choice to avoid interruption and breaking the world.

It is delightful to watch the older members of the audience really enjoying this show with a sense of reflection and real fondness. Ward-Lealand is mesmerising and she expertly guides us through the show, shifting the atmosphere and point in the journey with a simple turn of her head or hand gesture.

At times I feel the instrumental arrangements of the songs could do with some creative license. Ward-Lealand is so commanding as Dietrich that the band feel quite separate from her anyway – it would be interesting to explore her being of Dietrich’s time with everyone else looking in, including the band. There are a few moments where the music feels a little like vanilla lounge piano and becomes slightly boring alongside Ward-Lealand’s vivacity. I would be interested to see some more modern musical influences juxtaposing Dietrich as she is.

As it is however, Falling In Love Again is a beautiful cabaret show that transports the audience to another time and place. Jennifer Ward-Lealand is stunning in this role, moving easily from sensitive ballads to songs full of humour. She proves that our Kiwi performers can stand up alongside the international acts here for the festival, and absolutely hold their own.


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Perfect light entertainment

Review by Helen Sims 22nd Aug 2007

I have to admit that despite the general praise that has been heaped in its direction (and I have to wonder now how much of this is publicity generated) I came away from Falling In Love Again feeling underwhelmed and unmoved – sort of like I had seen a really upmarket Elvis impersonator. Blame it on my age if you will – all my prior experience with Marlene Dietrich is via still or motion pictures, but I always thought her to be incredibly glamorous, sexy and mysterious. I was really looking forward to learning a bit more. While she hits the glamour on the head, and goes a far way toward being a sex symbol, Jennifer Ward-Lealand just didn’t seem to capture or unravel any of that mystery for me.

Perhaps I went along with the wrong expectations – I wasn’t expecting an hour and a half of pretty much pure imitative singing of songs that Dietrich performed on stage or on film. I thought there would far more of a show, in terms of fleshing out the life of the German diva. Instead we are given brief, oblique or tokenistic references to the point of Dietrich’s life that the song relates to as they are introduced. So it definitely wasn’t a play, despite the seating block being set up to face the stage en masse, which would lead one to expect a bit more of a performance. A procession of songs just seemed a bit hollow to convey the facets of (as the programme describes her) the “Film Goddess. Cabaret Chanteuse. Tireless Soldier. Immortal Icon.”

If it was supposed to be pure cabaret, then I felt the show falls short on this mark too- firstly because of the afore-mentioned seating arrangements – I would have expected to be seated a small tables or the like. Secondly, I would have expected far more audience interaction. Thirdly a costume change or two might have made it a little livelier. This is not to deny the beauty of the costume that Ward-Lealand came out in – she shimmers in a revealing and close-fitting gold gown that I understand is a replica of a dress that caused some scandal. However, as visually appealing as this was, I was disappointed when she returned in the same attire for the second half.

As for the songs themselves, some stood out, some were comical, aping the empty roles she played in Hollywood films, some were seductive and some were a little bit of a let down. Her entrance was strong and teasing with a powerfully sung rendition of “Look Me Over Closely”. I particularly enjoyed the ‘war’ songs in the second half, especially “White Grass”- a bitter song about the end of the war. I thought the rendition of “Lilli Marlene”, arguably one of the most famous (and anticipated) songs however, was disappointing.

The two musicians that accompany Ward-Lealand, Grant Winterburn on piano and Aaron Coddel on bass, are excellent and remain in character throughout the show, but always according deference on the stage to Marlene. All three are ably lit by Andrew Malmo.

What really fascinated the public about Dietrich – her aloofness, the rumours about her personal life and her seeming knowingness is not really investigated by this show. Perhaps the stage show that inspired this collection of songs, Marlene, would have given me more of the story I desired. This show seems well planned out, just not well fleshed out. Falling In Love Again is perfect light entertainment that you do not have to concentrate too hard on. Suitable for those who are fans of the music and want an enjoyable, if unchallenging night out.

Originally published in The Lumière Reader.


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Better than the real one

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 30th Jul 2007

Marlene Dietrich wasn’t much of a singer and her acting was limited to variations on her glamorous self, but she was indubitably a great beauty and a star. Noel Coward acknowledged this when he introduced her in her cabaret act with ‘Though we all might enjoy/Seeing Helen of Troy /As a gay cabaret entertainer/I doubt that she could/Be one quarter as good/As our lovely, legendary Marlene.’

When Jennifer Ward-Lealand first appears on stage wrapped in a long white fur coat and wearing a reproduction of the famous dress that caused a sensation in the 1950s, reincarnation for a moment seems a possibility. She looks amazing, instantly creating an image of the pampered luxury and glamour of a long-lost Hollywood when female stars were goddesses.

These screen idols have long since been defiled by drag queens but Jennifer Ward-Lealand neither sends up her subject by camp exaggeration nor does she attempt an exact replica of Marlene in voice and mannerisms. She pays tribute by suggestion, by singing 23 of Marlene’s songs, and by singing them with an energy and style that, if my memory of recordings and films is correct, are an improvement on the originals.

Jennifer Ward-Lealand’s German/English accent is never as pronounced as Marlene’s (once unkindly transcribed by Clive James as "follink in luff again") but she restricts her movements to a minimum (mainly flicks of the hand) as did Marlene. However, it is her roguish glances and her sexual suggestiveness in songs such as Cream in My Coffee, Laziest Girl in Town, and Look Me over Closely that invite both laughter and an awareness of being seduced.

While she throws herself into the boisterous Boys in the Backroom, I Get a Kick Out of You, and Makin’ Whoopee with a vocal energy at odds with her statuesque stance, she sends all the pathos and anger in the anti-war songs such as Where Have all the Flowers Gone? (sung in German) and White Grass across the footlights with a stinging emotional force.

The songs are meticulously presented, arranged and played by Grant Winterburn (piano) and Aaron Coddel (bass), while Andrew Malmo’s lighting keeps the glittering star, backed by simple black drapes and an elegant vase of peonies, bathed in a golden light throughout; a suitable altar for a dead goddess. My admiration, however, is reserved for the living actress.


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Contained yet vibrant tribute

Review by John Smythe 28th Jul 2007

I’m old enough to have seen Marlene Dietrich live on stage in September 1975, at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne. A couple of weeks later she fell off the stage in Sydney and broke her leg, never to tread the boards again. Her performance was dry, minimalist to the max, and mechanical. I recall an unkind cartoon – or was it a touched up photo? – that revealed a clock-winding key in her back.

To compare Jennifer Ward-Lealand’s contained yet vibrant tribute show, Falling in Love Again, with that sad spectacle would be unfair. Dietrich was, after all, about to turn 74 that year. Even so, I can’t help feeling Ward-Lealand achieves the potential that Dietrich never really reached in live performance.

Having perfected the statuesque stance in sheer beaded sheath frock and swans down coat, the sexy accent, the dry tone of wry humour, the angular gestures and conspiratorial ‘you know what I mean’ look, Ward-Lealand interprets each of the 23 songs – empathetically accompanied by pianist/ musical director Grant Winterburn and bass player Aaron Coddel – with an emotional intelligence and subtle richness of musicality that transcends Dietrich’s relatively limited range.

Beyond the exquisite presentation – Andrew Malmo bathes ‘Marlene’ in flattering light while picking the musicians and a bowl of flowers out of the deep black space – it is the content and tone of the songs, sung in English, French and German, that tell the story of a rich and sometimes extravagant life, led with great courage and independence of spirit, both during the war and in its aftermath.  

Romantic love looms large in soulful, playful and poignant moods. The true meaning of ‘The Laziest Girl in Town’ has never been more clear to me. Then, having established she is not one to be trifled with, ‘One For My Baby (and one for the road)’, mourning the passing of "a brief episode", offers a moving counterpoint. The thought and care put into compiling the play list, so that the songs play off each other, adds value to each of them.

The much anticipated wartime favourite ‘Lilli Marlene’, for example, is preceded by an emphatically sardonic rendition of ‘White Grass’* (by Australian composer Charles Marawood), depicting a soldier back from the war to find his wife is dead and the cradle is empty: "The war is over. Seems we won. Hooray." Then, lest Lilli has allowed us to romanticise the war once more, she sings Pete Seeger’s ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone’ in German.

Amid the expected and welcome hits – ‘Cream in my Coffee’, ‘Boys in the Backroom’, ‘Makin’ Whoopee’, ‘Honeysuckle Rose’ – there is the odd surprise, like Lerner and Loewe’s ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed to her Face’ (from My Fair Lady). Sung with more melody than Rex Harrison ever managed, it remains "her" face, thus noting Dietrich’s bisexuality as a simple matter of fact.

Because it is a tribute show and not about mimicry, Jennifer Ward-Lealand makes the role her own, allowing her own inherent warmth, generous spirit and delight in her craft to imbue her performance as she explores a full palette of moods and emotions.

‘Falling In Love Again’ is held back for the inevitable encore and after just 75 minutes, bisected with an interval, the show that takes its name has manifested the iconic persona of Marlene Dietrich, her life’s journey and the social history it occupied to profound effect.
*Dietrich only ever performed ‘White Grass’ live. Ward-Lealand is the first to record it (the CD of the show is available at the Downstage bar) and it is a mark of her commitment that she tracked down Marawood’s widow for the rights in order to include it.


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