On Thursday, August 31, Oliver Conant (co-writer/director) and Justyna Kostek (co-writer/star) will host the world premiere of the one-woman tour-de-force musical, Dietrich Rides Again, about the life and times of Marlene Dietrich. Playing for three weeks through Sunday, September 17 at The Medicine Show Theatre (549 West 52 Street – between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues), the show is choreographed by Madeline Jaye. Musical direction and arrangements are by Jono Mainelli. Miss Kostek’s costumes are by Derek Nye Lockwood.
The show includes songs performed by the film and concert legend, with such familiar numbers as such as “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” “The Laziest Gal in Town,” “You’re the Cream in My Coffee,” “Falling in Love Again,” “Look Me Over Closely,” “Lili Marlene,” “Hot Voodoo,” “The Boys in the Backroom” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.”
Marlene Dietrich was a European film sensation, Hollywood’s highest paid actress, a lifelong fashion icon, an unceasing USO entertainer, an awarded humanitarian, an international philanthropist, a Medal of Freedom recipient, a Légion d’Honneur honoree, an Academy Award nominee, a Tony Award winner, “the Patron Saint of cabaret,” a bewitching singer, a natural dancer and an international diva.
Born and raised in Poland, where she began her work in experimental theatre at a very young age, Justyna Kostek then established the successful and award-winning theatre company, Atelier Teatral, in Denmark. As the company’s Artistic Director she also starred in and/or directed many of its highly acclaimed European productions. Her New York credits include the musicals Helen of Troy, NY; Women of History Fashion Show and Bound to Rise. She is already making her mark in the New York theatre scene while preparing, with Mr. Conant, this show for an Off-Broadway move as well as sifting through the mounting interest in a national tour. Divas are born to achieve.
Marlene Dietrich began acting shortly after her promising career as a concert violinist was cut short by (as she told the story) an injury to her wrist while performing a complicated piece by Bach. Needing to support her family in inflation-ridden post-World War I Berlin, she took to the stage, first as the private pupil of the great avant-garde director and theatre impresario Max Reinhardt, performing in over two dozen plays and cabaret acts. She also was featured and then had leading roles in many silent German language films. Although she was married all her life, she had multiple affairs with both men and women and expressed her sexuality and what we would now call “gender fluidity” with insouciance and panache. In 1929 she landed the coveted role of Lola Lola in Josef Von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel, one of the first truly successful talkies and a kind of culmination of German expressionist film style. Immediately after its premiere, Dietrich set sail for America and Hollywood where she was under contract and made six more films with Von Sternberg as well as other classics of the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Throughout the 1930s her fierce anti-Nazi convictions led her to giving away a lot of the money she was making from films like Morocco, Shanghai Express, Blonde Venus and others to help her colleagues — technicians, actors, composers, writers — get out of Hitler’s Germany and ultimately to joining the US Army where she performed often, on or near to the front lines with 5th Army in the European Theatre. After the war she gave “Victory Concerts” in London, Paris, Berlin and Salzburg, where she was heckled by Germans unwilling to forget or forgive her contribution to the defeat of the Third Reich. Through the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s she returned to the stage – the place she loved the best – in what was in effect a one-woman show consisting of songs from her films such as “Falling in Love Again” from The Blue Angel and “The Boys in the Backroom” from Destry Rides Again — a comedic Western with Jimmy Stewart, and created largely by German exiles — as well as some unexpected favorites like Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.”
She died almost penniless in a luxurious apartment on the Avenue de Montaigne provided for her by the French state. When her coffin was carried out, it was draped with the French flag on which were placed her Legion d’Honneur in recognition for her service in defending France during World War II. In Germany, her coffin, now draped in the flag of the Federal Republic of Germany, was lowered into a grave beside her mother. In her public utterances and in her autobiography Dietrich declared that her participation in WWII was the most important thing she ever did. It won her the United States Medal of Freedom; she was the first woman to receive the honor.
Oliver Conant has worked extensively director in New York’s off-off Broadway theatre scene. A ten-year member of the Medicine Show Theatre Ensemble, he directed its last three main stage plays. Other directorial credits include a revival of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Kimberly Akimbo for Nicu’s Spoon Theatre and Romeo and Juliet for Queen’s Shakespeare. As a child he was introduced to Greta Garbo by Salka Viertel and has, since then, felt somehow drawn to the extraordinary congregation of talent in the Berlin émigré community in Hollywood. He was featured in the Warner Brother films Summer of ‘42 and Class of ’44. After that, he appeared on Broadway in Jean Kerr’s domestic farce Finishing Touches.
Jono Mainelli has written, arranged, and/or tinkled the ivories for such talents as Patti LuPone, Jo Anne Worley, Charles Busch, Liliane Montevecchi, Lee Roy Reams, Marilyn Michaels, Maximillian Schell, John Byner, Ernie and David Sabella, Varla Jean Merman, Jackie Hoffman, Brent Barrett, Jana Robbins, Annie Golden, Cynthia Nixon and Celeste Holm, to name a few. He was assistant to the legendary Stan Freeman on A Helluva Town! The Leonard Bernstein Revue at Rainbow & Stars. He has played Joe’s Pub and many New York cabaret rooms, and arranged and played at the Williamstown Theater Festival Cabaret. His musical The Glass House was produced at Lost Nation Theater in Montpelier, Vermont, and further developed at Stephen Schwartz’s ASCAP Musical Theater Workshop. His one-man show, Sixteen Bars: Notes From An Audition Pianist, enjoyed an extended run at NYC’s Triad Theatre. During the January “audition season” for college programs, Jono has been thrilled to be the main pianist and has served on the Auditions Committee for all the NYU Tisch appointments for the last nine years. He attended The Bronx High of Science, Brown University and The Manhattan School of Music.
Madeline Jaye‘s choreography and musical staging credits include The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit (WorkShop Theatre), five plays/musicals for The Medicine Show Theater Company, industrials for Mattel Toys, Inc., IBM, Bell South, Barbie Fashion Summit, Dole Foods’ Easter on the White House Lawn, Hewlett Packard, Love, Valor, Compassion! (American Academy of Dramatic Arts) as well as: On the Verge, Dancing at Lughnasa, ART, and the NYU Practicum (at Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute). She teaches ballet, jazz/theatre dance and movement at LSTFI and LSTFI-NYU programs (since 1995). Concurrently, she has been on the Dance faculty at AADA, Steps Studio and Third Street Music School and guest teacher and/or substitute at AMDA, Broadway Dance Center, Steffi Nossen School of Dance and LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts. Privately, she teaches acting/ speech presentation and Effective Communication to clergy, trial attorneys and business executives, as well as coaching young performers for auditions and performance. Madeline has performed as a dancer/singer/actor on stages across USA, Europe, Japan, and the Middle East and on Film/TV (USA, Egypt, Germany), and spent three years as a Radio City Music Hall Rockette. She holds a BA with Honors in Dance, from Butler University, with additional years of training as an actor and singer in NYC. She is the creator of Jaye Actors Movement: Bridging the Gap, a movement program designed to incite fluency between dance, singing and acting training. With Ron Navarre, she is co-creator of Actors LaunchTM, an audition and career preparatory workshop for actors.
The Medicine Show Theatre is located at 549 West 52nd Street in Manhattan. Telephone: 1-800-838-3006
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