The New Blue Angel
After Marilyn Monroe and Eva Peron, the remarkable reincarnation of another screen goddess that's proving the toughest challenge yet for Stephanie Lawrence
First you notice those provocative legs. Then those heavy-lidded eyes with their ageless allure.
That white silk top hat, posed rakishly over baby-blonde curls, the black silk stockings and the bracelet cuffs still have the power to titillate in an age where nudity is commonplace.
If the total effect is uncanny it is because this reincarnation of screen Marlene Dietrich in her most famous role comes from the extraordinary Stephanie Lawrence - the actress who dared to recreate that other legend Marilyn Monroe so effectively for the London stage.
It is now more than half a century since Dietrich electrified the world in The Blue Angel, the film about love and degradation which propelled her to Hollywood and stardom - and still the legend endures.
Next month a new £100,000 stage production by novelist and dramatist Andrew Sinclair, featuring a dozen new songs as well as the unforgettable Falling in Love Again, opens at the Bristol Old Vic. It is expected to transfer to the West End by the end of the year.
For Stephanie herself, the role is likely to mark her last foray into the footsteps of other stars. At 30, she can look back on a glittering West End career following Elaine Paige into the role of Evita, recreating the Barbara Streisand role in the brilliant stage version of The Owl and the Pussycat and triumphing in Marilyn.
She has strong views on how she's going to play the role without mimicking her.
"Marlene's sexuality is about being totally in control and men find that very exciting. I hope to capture a flavour of that. She reminds me of a snake who will wrap herself round you and squeeze everything out without the victim even being aware of it - so different from Monroe, who used little girl vulnerability as sexuality.
"I use my own sexuality in roles but it's not something I keep up at the surface all the time as Marlene would. I blush from the attention of men - slow terrible tomato blushes that spread slowly up my neck. I went to a convent girls' boarding school and although I've never had long-term boyfriends, I've never really experienced men a lot or been in their company much.
"I'm a bit like the girl next door. I'll probably blush when I walk out on stage for the first time in that black basque and stockings - then I'll think to hell with it. I do get stage fright and Marlene says she never did.
"I wouldn't like to get stuck playing real people forever. I think the only star I'd make an exception for now is Lana Turner - to me she's the most charismatic movie legend. She has real emotion and warmth in her eyes. I find those qualities rather lacking in Marlene - and yet that's a part of her strength.
Following in the legs of a legend:
Corinna Honan, Daily Mail, 24 October 1986