Martin Sherman’s classic play “Bent”, about homosexual persecution in Nazi Germany concentration camps, has received a highly acclaimed major revival directed by Moises Kaufman at the Mark Taper Forum in LA.
“Bent” is credited with bringing the barely discussed subject of Nazi persecution and mass murder of homosexuals to mainstream consciousness when the play premiered 1979 in London starring Ian McKellen. The 1980 Broadway production starred Richard Gere. The criminally little seen movie adaptation from 1997 starred Clive Owen as well as no other than Mick Jagger in the role of the drag singer Greta.
In the Mark Taper Forum production Greta is played by no other than Jake Shears, the lead singer from my favorite Queertastic Pop/Rock band Scissor Sisters. Shears was also commissioned to compose new music for the song “Streets of Berlin”, which Greta sings in the play.
Jake Shears as Greta sings “Streets in Berlin” from Bent:
The obvious and appropriate influences of late Weimar era composers like Kurt Weill and Hanns Eisler are unmistakeable. I am also forcibly reminded of Mark Blitzstein’s music for his 1930’s Agitprop musical “The Cradle Will Rock”, due to the particular spikiness of the arrangements (and not merely the English language). I also find it interesting that Jake Shears sounds a bit like Rufus Wainwright to me here, not something I would generally say about Shear’s vocal stylings as a Scissor Sister. The style of the song may have something to do with that.
Jake Shears, Berlin, homosexual persecution, Nazi Germany, Cabaret songs… frequent visitors of this blog won’t be surprised that this resonated strongly with me, hence the impulse to share. Well, my love of Scissor Sisters may be news, but probably should come as no surprise nonetheless.
And if you can catch Bent, either in LA, or another production, or watching the movie, please do. It’s a powerful work that will stay with you.