"Lili Marlene" is a musical, which is always difficult enough to get right, but add to that the fact that it is set in Nazi Germany during the rise of the Third Reich and you can begin to understand what a stand alone and unique show this really is.
Janine (Aubrie Alexander) listens to younger brother Jacob’s (Anna Dawahare) story as Kurt (Judd Yort) enjoys the details.
Most musicals are light and bright and about love, journeys or misunderstandings and, if they are good, keep you happily tapping your toes and humming along. "Lili Marlene" is not exactly as straightforward as that.
Of course, the subject matter is dark.
Of course, the urgency in which our characters find themselves is edge-of-your-seat stuff, and you would imagine then that there is little time for anything else…but you would be wrong.
"Lili Marlene" is set in one of the most difficult times in our world history, just before World War II when politics shaped our humanity. How timely. But setting all that aside, if we can, really and truly and at its depth this play is about love.
Love found, love hidden, love of family and even love of country. The songs, and there are many, give the actors the ample chance to express their fears as well as their innermost yearnings and deepest secrets, which is quite a feat in a musical.
Each of the characters has their own journey, and each seems to have their own personal struggles regardless of a Germany on the brink of disaster.
Wife Marlene (LeAnna Sharp) teases her husband Friedrich (Darren Mangler) during a lighter moment.
The story revolves around a nightclub singer, a half Jewish orphan who is courted by a German count. They fall in love and, while his family welcomes her with open arms, the country around them is changing and, in the end, they are all deeply torn. Those who can make their escape and the reality of the desperation of those fleeing certain death is a poignant and deeply effective theme.
The cast is all accomplished singers and quite riveting in their roles, and you can sense the care with which they have all approached this particular subject matter. The staging is strong yet understated and the care with which they have sourced and recreated the wardrobe and the atmosphere of the time is very apparent.
This is tricky stuff at the best of times but set to music and song there is a real danger of being dismissive or at worse exploitive. Yet the skill with which Mr Antin has shaped this play maintains the grace of a knowledgeable perspective and the tenderness of one who has been touched both by love and by tragedy.
I highly recommend “Lili Marlene.”
It’s a window on a world long past that still affects every policy in every country in Europe. A time not far distant enough I’m afraid for every family there to have their own version of its truth…lest we forget.
10950 Peach Grove St., North Hollywood, 91601.
Playing March 19 - April 16
Friday & Saturday at 8 PM and Sunday 2 PM
Written by Michael Antin
Directed & Choreographed by Mark Bowers
Produced by John Lant and Tamra Pica
Arrangements: Rocco Vitacco, Music Direction: David Kamenir, Dramaturg: Jim Blanchette
Costume Design: Ava Soltani-Wiltse, Lighting/ AV Design: Tim Secrest, Associate Producers: Anne Mesa, Jonathan Harrison & Write Act Rep, Production Stage Manager: Alonzo Tavares
Cast Members Include: Aubrie Alexander, Tavis L. Baker, Jessa Campbell, Anna Dawahare, Amy Londyn, Darren Mangler, LeAnna Sharp, Darcy Silveira, Justin Selig, and Judd Yort.