Divas Apollo Theatre, London

Three glorious women, one bonkers man

The pitfalls of celebrity are many and various, but there can be none worse than to be the subject of a Peter Schaufuss ballet. He did Diana, Princess of Wales and included a chorus of dancing tampons. He did the Rolling Stones in a show called Satisfaction, which didn't give any. He did Elvis, rousing the ire of the Elvis estate to such an extent that he had to pretend its central character was someone else. Now, in Divas, he has applied his fevered hand to a trio of Forties songbirds.

But Schaufuss's three-part dance spectacle isn't really about Edith Piaf, Marlene Dietrich and Judy Garland. It's a series of hysterically emotional portraits of their music. Original recordings of such hits as "La vie en rose", "Mein blondes Baby" and "Over the Rainbow" are relayed at alarming volume while a dancer, dressed to suggest the appropriate singer, engages with a piece of furniture: a tall-backed metal chair which variously stands in for coffin, tombstone or Olympian plinth. While it's often said that you only ever need one good idea, Divas proves otherwise. Schaufuss works that chair to death.

Sauciness being this choreographer's stock-in-trade, you soon learn to predict how each sequence will pan out. You know, for instance, when a bare arm unfurls from behind the chair-back, that you're soon going to see another, and then a pair of bare legs, suggesting that their owner isn't wearing anything. Ooh la la! And you're no more surprised, in a Folies Bergère number, to find fully dressed men partnering girls in their undies, or Piaf (the hardly sparrow-like Caroline Petter) fervidly making love to that chair in "Je ne regrette rien". But in the German section Schaufuss's want of taste makes your jaw drop.

Once Dietrich (Zara Deakin) has slunk about in her furs for a while, on storms a platoon of Fritzes, complete with short moustaches and enthusiastic goosestep. So far, so clichéd, but once the soldiers start to purse their lips and fondle their own rumps, you wonder what historical point Schaufuss is trying to make. It gets worse, as the stage fills with beaming blondes in lederhosen, and more soldiers, this time lugging corpses from the battlefield. The Dietrich segment closes with the lugubrious "Sag mir, wo die Blumen sind" (better known as the Sixties protest anthem "Where have all the Flowers Gone?") as the glaze-eyed diva gazes on three silver tombstones in a shower of crimson petals, while a Hitler Youth plies his sweetheart with a posy. Gott im Himmel!

The pity is that, in more sensitive hands, such a show could have worked. I relished the chance to hear the more obscure songs, and was fascinated to note how potent a sense of national identity came across, whatever the lyrics. Garland's songs were clearly the product of a country not writhing under the cosh of war. Perhaps that's why her segment burned brightest, that and the knock 'em dead presence of Russian guest Irina Kolesnikova, casting her pearls before swine.

Apollo Theatre (0844 412 4658) to 5 July

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there