Inspired by Jonathan Miles' best-selling book 'The Nine Lives of Otto Katz'
'Dietrich and the Red Spy'
Music by Stephen Keeling, Lyrics by Jonathan Miles
Book by Jonathan Miles and Stephen Keeling
Jonathan Miles was recently interviewed on YouTube by Smart Monkey TV talking about his book 'The Dangerous Otto Katz' which provides the inspiration for the musical. Click the link to watch the interview.
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All enquiries please contact Charles Walker at United Agents.
Working in Berlin theatre in the mid-1920s, Marlene Dietrich falls for the playboy Communist, Otto Katz. Dietrich also introduces the timid and somewhat ugly Greta Garbo to the decadence of Berlin. When Garbo is whisked off to Hollywood by MGM and Otto is called to Moscow to train as a spy, Dietrich – a young mother – is stuck in Berlin. Otto dreams – though it is impossible to establish – that he is the father of Marlene’s child. This preoccupation haunts him for the rest of his life. Soon, Hollywood beckons Marlene Dietrich where she is hailed as ‘Paramount’s answer to Garbo’.
During the early 1930s, Dietrich and Katz – on opposite sides of the world - keep in contact by letter and seek consolation and diversion in endless sexual adventure. In Hollywood, Garbo - appalled by Marlene’s behaviour when they were in Berlin and afraid for her reputation - tries to avoid Dietrich. Yet both bi-sexual stars dabble on the fringes of Hollywood’s secret lesbian network, ‘The Sewing Circle’. The exotic lesbian playwrite, Mercedes de Acosta, arrives in Hollywood where Garbo treats her with a mixture of desire and contempt, eventually abandonning her and returning to Sweden. The upshot is that matchmaker, Salka Viertel throws Mercedes into Marlene’s arms at exactly the moment that Otto Katz - sent by his spymasters - arrives in America.
Katz goes to Hollywood in 1937, posing as an anti-Nazi freedom fighter. He is, in fact, fund-raising for Moscow. He vividly presents his exploits to Hollywood - a star turn performing to the stars. Overwhelmed to see Dietrich once again, he solicits her help for his cause by wooing her with Romanov emeralds. As the paternity of Marlene’s daughter remains a mystery, Otto clings to the hope that he is the father and asks to see the child. At the very moment he is reluctantly granted a glimpse, Otto is arrested by the FBI and deported. Meanwhile, Mercedes - driven witless by the game-playing by Dietrich and Garbo – tries, unsuccessfully, to kill herself.
Garbo retires and there is a guarded reconciliation between the two stars who have both nursed Mercedes back to health. Dietrich re-invents herself as a cabaret singer and apologizes to Garbo for being cruel in Berlin. Otto is condemned to death in a Czech show trial while still pining for Marlene and hoping that he is the father of her child.
In its final moments, the show glances forward and ends tragi-triumphantly with a Las Vegas cabaret performance by Marlene Dietrich in the early 1970s. Although in some ways she wants to forget, she still misses Otto and celebrates the fact that ‘people live by dreams’.
Listen to Norma Atallah perform 'Always Tomorrow' as Marlene Dietrich and Alen Hodzovic and Katie Nightingale perform the duet 'Love Is A Rose' as Otto and The Passenger from the show on Stephen's YouTube Channel. The sheet music for both songs is available on Score Exchange along with other songs from the show. Listen to songs on SoundCloud!
© Jonathan Miles
Listen to Alen Hodzovic as Otto sing 'Never Let Her Know' from the show on SoundCloud.
Listen to songs on SoundCloud