FRINGE 2017: Berlin Waltz, Telling History Through Music

Berlin Waltz is a riveting dance across the city which faced so much controversy and hardship during the Cold War. It is a brilliant, fun story of Devon More’s bike ride along what used to be the Berlin Wall, as she discovered the history of why the wall was put up, what East and West Berlin were like for the 28 years that the city was divided, and why and how the wall fell. Her adventure came to life through her storytelling and her music in this captivating one-woman show.

The show begins with a waltz, carefully constructed as the audience comes in. Those paying attention get a glimpse of her prowess with ukulele, flute, multiple percussions, and loop pedal, not to mention her creativity and excellence in song writing. Over the course of the show, she builds several songs from the bottom up, layering simple melodies on top of one another, creating incredible songs bit by bit while she tells her tale. Her story drifts seamlessly from spoken word to song; a powerful story told with a powerful voice—strong when spoken and jaw-droppingly sexy when sung. The entire performance is beyond captivating and incredibly immersive.

Despite the heavy topic, More keeps the show light and fun. She uses sock puppets and over-the-top gestures to tell her tale, she keeps the lyrics to her songs sarcastic and the songs themselves sound deceivingly happy. It is an ingenious way to portray history for people that wish to accept the horror in their own time, and to help those unfamiliar with the truth ease into their own realization. At the same time, for those who have studied this branch of history, the songs are ironic and sardonic. It’s rare to encounter such versatility of interpretation within single pieces of music, and is a further testament to More’s brilliance.

Audience participation, so often either loved or hated with little middle ground, is a part of a show that can derail everything if the audience is unwilling. More’s execution of her song requiring audience participation was as smooth and successful as I’ve ever seen. Even the transition into this segment, harshly unplugging her ukulele at the just the right moment, exuded perfection. She walked through the audience asking members to stand up and act as elements of the wall itself, describing what their role is in the monstrosity of division. The effect it created was shocking, powerful, and eye-opening.

This entire piece is brilliant and beautiful beyond words. It is emotional, passionate, and well-paced with moving stories, inspiring music, and heartbreaking history. The stories and songs were thought-provoking and intense, and so well-crafted that the entire show was completely seamless. Each transition from song to spoken word, segment to segment, was perfectly timed and so incredibly tight that it gave the impression of looseness and improvisation. Aesthetically, the show was beautiful, partially because of More’s elegance and grace, partially because of how the stage was set paired with the profound projections that played throughout the piece. I highly recommend this show to anyone and everyone—whether or not you like music and storytelling, if you study history or you need to brush up on some facts. This show is a work of art.