In my last post I reviewed a nonogenerian still going strong (Burt Bacharach) and now an octogenarian Barry Humphries, still performing with aplomb. Born in Melbourne in 1934, law and philosophy graduate Humphries is something of a renaissance man. He starred in Oliver! as Fagin in the sixties but is chiefly known for the Australian wife from Moonie Ponds – Dame Edna Everage.
His love of the arts was showcased in this show, a tribute to the music of the Weimar Republic. In his view it is unjustifiably forgotten. He compered the show supported by singer and dancer Meow Meow and The Aurora Orchestra. Most people’s knowledge of the music of that era begins and ends with Kurt Weill who composed Mack the Knife. There were many more: some of whom died tragically in the camps whilst others changed their names went to Hollywood like Wilhelm Grosz who composed popular melodies like The Isle of Capri.
The problem with this show was the format. Barry Humphries informed and entertained but there was a disconnect between his enthusiasm for Weimar music and the orchestra who seemed no more than young session musicians. The lead violinist, who sang well too, had a severity in her face that reminded me more of the cold young Nazi singing in the Park in Cabaret than a decadent musician. At no stage did I feel I was in a sleazy but intimate Berlin Kabarett … but rather in the soulless theatre of the Barbican. The wit and knowledge of Barry Humphries got the show over the line. He described his Australian dentist as performing before the crown teeth of Europe for example. One had to admire any entertainer aged 84 who stills sings and dances. Meow Meow drew unfavourable comparison with Liza Minelli.
After I left the show my conclusion was that there was a reason why the music of Weimar is forgotten. It’s not that memorable.