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Singing for the Songbird
Singing for the Songbird – Falling in Love Again Cabaret Performance for Ark in the Park
Ark in the Park, a community volunteer project based in West Auckland managed by Forest & Bird and the Auckland City Council, and supported by Te Kawerau a Maki, recently hosted an evening of music and song, including a scintillating cabaret tribute to Marlene Dietrich by Jennifer Ward-Lealand, to raise funds for their ongoing mission to bring New Zealand’s largest songbird, the Kokako, back to the Waitakere Ranges.
The evening, introduced by John Staniland, opened with Riki Bennett and Jason Duff performing haunting and hypnotic pieces on traditional Maori instruments that were reminiscent of the birdsong sounds of the forest that the Ark in the Park volunteers are focused on protecting and preserving.
Then the stage lights fell, and the audience was transported back in time to take in a selection of Marlene Dietrich’s most iconic songs. Pianist, Grant Winterburn and Aaron Coddel, bassist, took to the stage before Jennifer Ward-Lealand, channelling the sparkling and seductive spirit of Dietrich, swept out from the darkness in a breathtaking white full length coat and near nude beaded sheath dress, based on Marlene’s infamous naked dresses and swan coat from her later cabaret performances. Dietrich famously uttered “I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men”, and Ward-Lealand certainly lived up to the legend’s words.
First performed in 2003, Falling in Love Again has had sell out seasons in both New Zealand and Australia, and it was evident from the connection between the singer and accompanists, that they had spent many years honing the pieces to offer a show that was imbued with the spirit of, but not smothered by the stereotypes surrounding Marlene.
Sliding easily from French to German to English, vocal highlights included Johnny, La Vie En Rose, Lily Marlene, You Do Something to Me and a gorgeously throaty Falling in Love Again which was an unmistakable ode to the German born star. With witty and informative commentary in between songs, and fabulous lighting by Andrew Malmo that cast silhouettes of Ward-Lealand’s enviable outline on stage, every detail of the cabaret performance was considered.
As a show performed to support the reintroduction of one of New Zealand’s most precious songbird’s, the accomplished vocal stylings of Ward-Lealand’s Falling in Love Again could not have been more fitting. For details on when and where the show is performed, go to www.jenniferwardlealand.co.nz. If you would like to volunteer or support Ark in the Park, you can find out further details at www.arkinthepark.org.nz
By Rose Jackson
22 June 2012