By: Patrick Christiano
Written and performed by Alan Palmer, Chanteuse: A Survival Musical, is a fascinating tale with a cruel unforgiving message.
July 24, 2023: Chanteuse: A Survival Musical, now playing at HERE Arts Center, is an intimate solo tale about one man’s struggle to avoid imprisonment and death during the holocaust. The solo musical, written and performed by Alan Palmer, is a fascinating tale that sheds light on a devastating period in German history, when anyone suspected of being a homosexual was persecuted and sent to the concentration camps where they perished in the gas chambers along with the Jews.
Palmer, a Los Angeles based writer/performer, has crafted an illuminating story about a man, Warner, who struggles to avoid arrest and death at the hands of the Nazis in 1933 Berlin. The personal tale told mostly through song, with lyrics by Palmer and music by David Legg, follows the young man from a boarding school in England, where he felt different, to Berlin where he begins a career as a cabaret artist in the flourishing gay nightclubs of the era.
Feeling euphoric and connected for the first time in his life, Werner meets Jacob and falls in love with him, however their bliss is short lived. With Hitler rising in power, the Nazis begin to raid the nightclubs and the homes of anyone suspected of being a homosexual. Jakob is suddenly taken away to an unknown location, and Werner is forced to hideout with his landlady, Frau Margot Friedrich. When she dies in her sleep, he assumes her identity and transforms himself into a female chanteuse performing in the vibrant supper clubs of the times.
Directed by Dorothy Danner and backed by a four-piece orchestra, Palmer delivers a heart-felt nuanced performance that illuminates the tragedy in haunting detail. Although his singing voice is not powerful, it nonetheless conveys an extraordinary depth of feeling that suits the material beautifully. Palmer sings, dances, changes costumes, and breaks the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience. His disturbing story recounting the horrors of the Holocaust is a cautionary tale that history, indeed, could repeat itself.
Musicians: Jon Wheelock/bass; Chris Sclafani/tenor sax; Joe Lubman/percussion; Kim Fox/conductor on piano.
Chanteuse: A Survival Musical: ****
HERE Arts Center, 145 Sixth Avenue (entrance on Dominick Street), in Manhattan.
For tickets, visit http://www.here.org/shows/chanteuse/
Running time: 70 minutes without an intermission
Chanteuse is a Palmer production and part of the Sublet Series @ HERE/
Through July 30, 2023
Performances of Chanteuse: A Survival Musical are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturday at 7:00pm. Matinee performances are on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00pm.
Photography: Russ Rowland