Face painted white. Lips lined and rouged in a deep red. Affected speech. Exaggerated, effeminate movements. Oiled back dark hair. A classic black tuxedo finishes off the look. What look, you may be wondering. We’re talking about the quintessential cabaret emcee, as embodied in the classic musical film and played perfectly by Joel Gray – who won an Oscar for his efforts.
Cabaret, which makes a real effort to portray the late Weimar years, succeeds in its imagery of the cabaret emcee. This was the look of the emcee, which, if you’re lucky, you can still catch. There are still a few European Jewish cabaretists on the scene, such as Robert Kreis, who performs wholly in the Weimar style. You’d think it was Joel Gray himself. Then there’s the octogenarian Georg Kreisler, a Viennese-cum-American. An escapee from Hitler’s Austria, Kreisler emigrated to the US and later slowly made his way back to his hometown, via Munich, Berlin, Salzburg and Basel. Think Charlie Chaplin and the roaring twenties, a maudlin, cutting humor.
It all sounds so far flung and nostalgic, but we here in the Denver-Boulder area have a unique opportunity to experience Jewish cabaret first hand: Next week, Boulder’s MoVeRs Festival is hosting Jalda Rebling, a German-born Jewish singer, who will be performing her unique brand of Yiddish cabaret. Her story is fascinating: The daughter of Dutch emigres to East Germany. Raised in the communist state, Rebling developed a voice for Yiddish and Sephardic song, which, behind the Iron Curtain, must have certainly set her apart.
For those particularly interested in the story behind the music, CU’s David Shneer will be presenting a history Lin Jaldati – Rebling’s mother and the “Yiddish diva” of the communist world.
If you attend either the concert or talk, post a comment and let us know what you thought. And in the meantime, enjoy the show!