Biography by Bryce Corbett
The German producers of a brand new musical, CATS, are holding open auditions.
A shy teenager ambles onto the stage and prepares to sing. A voice remarkable for
its raw power soars above the theatre.Unknown, without an agent and having had
no formal vocal training, the young Sabine Hettlich is immediately cast in the
lead role. The producers would later cite the encounter as the discovery of a major new singing talent.
For Sabine, it was unexpected beginning of a remarkable career.
“When I was sixteen I announced to my parents that I wanted to be a nun,” she
says. “I don’t suppose my life could have turned out any more differently.”
As a child, Sabine studied classical ballet. Whilst at high school, she was selected
to train at the ROYAL ACADEMY of DANCING in London, where she later
graduated with honours.
Auditioning for CATS at the age of 19 was something she had done on a wing and
a prayer. The fact she was cast in the lead role of Grizabella/Demeter was testament to her raw talent. The fact the musical smashed all theatrical box office records in Germany - was testament to her star appeal.
After one and half years with Cats, Sabine left to pursue her long-harboured musical love of JAZZ.
As the charismatic front woman of Prime Design - an award-winning German
jazz group - she continued to develop her stage and vocal skills. Performing an
innovative repertoire of jazz/funk fusion - Sabine found the new music style encouraged her to experiment with her voice.
It was an experimentation which paid dividends. That year she was crowned
BEST SINGER at the prestigious Deutsche Rock Prize.
It was around this time that she came to the attention of famed big band leader,
As the host of his very own jazz TV program, Jankowski was in search of a muse -
a young singer whom he could nurture. Sabine became the maestro’s new prodigy.
During her time with Jankowski, she met and worked with various jazz legends,
including the influential Dave Bruebeck.
The TV program catapulted Sabine to a new level of recognition in her homeland.
She began singing all over Germany with the most recognized BIG BANDS in the
country (WDR Big Band, RIAS Orchestra, HR Big Band, SDR Big Band etc.)
Under Jankowski’s tutelage, Sabine pursued a varied singing program, performing
with SYMPHONY ORCHESTRAS, jazz bands and BIG BANDS.
“I learned to feel comfortable on stage, to improvise - to play with my music and
explore the outer limits of my vocal range,” she says.
“I feel in my heart like a jazz singer. Jazz for me has always represented freedom -
freedom of interpretation.”
But not even the sprawling musical landscape of jazz was big enough to contain
Sabine’s vocal talents.
Before long her rising star came to the attention of the film world - attracting
some of the biggest players in the game. DISNEY contracted Sabine to provide
the voice for Princess Jasmin in the German version of their hit animated film,
ALADDIN. For the German version of the popular Elmo movie, Sabine was chosen
to give voice to the songs which Vanessa Williams had performed on the
She was used again by Disney to sing on the German soundtrack of HERCULES,
and was one of the principal artists on the German soundtrack of Annie.
All of this coincided with an experience which remains one of the most formative
in the singer’s career.
In a production called City Lights, on the stage of Berlin’s most famous Revuetheatre,
the FRIEDRICHSTADTPALAST, Sabine trod the boards and set the
newly reunited city alight.
And while her German homeland had recognized and helped to nurture her remarkable talent, Sabine soon looked to foreign climes to expand her experience
and further develop as an artist.
The first stop was New York.In the city that never sleeps, the German wunderkind
soon found herself one of the lead cast members of the original production
of Pomp, Duck and Circumstance.A mixture of musical theatre, comedy and cabaret, the production was largely “improv theatre”. It forced Sabine to expand her acting range - in the hot-house conditions of an OFF BROADWAY, surprise-hit
Hailed by the New York critics as “having the right voice for Kurt Weil”, Sabine
crowned her Big Apple stint on Fifth Avenue, with a starring role in the Macys
Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Then, setting a pattern which would come to define her varied career, Sabine decided to leave the theatre and head back to the recording studio.Signing with the
Stella Music label, Sabine headed north to Montreal, to start work on a solo album.
Following extended sessions with some of Canada’s best known big bands and
the MONTREAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA - and under the expert guidance of
Celine Dion producer, Guy St Onge - Sabine produced her first solo album - A
Lady With Appeal.The album caught the attention of some of Los Angeles most
influential music producers, including Grammy-award nominated Chris Walden,
who invited her to the City of Angels to collaborate with him.
"Chris is one of my oldest and most faithful musical companions,” says Sabine. “
He brought me to L.A. to work with his big band and has gone on to be my arranger
for all my career.”The result in L.A. was a body of musical work which not
only earned Sabine considerable press acclaim and radio airplay - but also more
than one review which compared her talent to that of Barbra Streisand.
Emboldened by the reception she had received in America, Sabine felt it was time
to return home. An offer to perform in an anniversary season of CATS proved irresistible.
She returned to Germany triumphant and assumed the role of the musical’s
resident femme fatale role, Bombalurina. There was a certain, pleasing serendipity
to the scenario. When last she had trodden the German stage in Cats,
she was the young, impressionable Demeter. Now she was back, a little older,
more mature and much more comfortable with her talent. The skittish kitten that
German audiences had met some years previously had become a sultry feline.
And so it was that she came to the attention of renowned Paris cabaret director,
Pierre Rambert. He had been commissioned to produce a bold new show for the
famous Parisian cabaret venue, Le LIDO DE PARIS, and he needed a leading
lady powerful enough to carry it. “I was looking for a new challenge,” says Sabine.
“The Lido was looking for a new leading lady -the timing was perfect. ”The show,
Bonheur, was written for Sabine - building on her charismatic on-stage persona
and making full, nightly use of her powerhouse of a voice.
In a two-hour cabaret extravaganza, Sabine captivates audiences with her magnetic
on-stage presence. Ballads, jazz classics and up-tempo numbers are all interpreted
with the vitality which has become her trademark.
The voice soars above the on-stage parade of sequins and feathers. When she
sings, she doesn’t so much invite your attention - she demands it. From Sondheim
to Cabaret, from the dreamy pastiche of an Indian fantasy to the seedy
dance halls of 1920’s Berlin - Sabine stalks the stage as if she owns it.
And the critics cannot get enough.
“A raw yet sensual voice” said Le Figaro. “1.77m of talent, endless legs, fantastic
figure and a sensual voice which seems to make the auditorium vibrate” said
L’Officiel des Spectacles. “Sabine Hettlich has set Paris alight with her verve,” according to Elle magazine. For Stern magazine, she is “the blonde angel from Paris” who “casts a spell over the audience with her charm and huge voice”. The
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung celebrates how “the diva struts around the stage
in her glittering evening dress, flicking men away like flies”. And while according
to Reuters she has “a voice like Streisand and legs like Dietrich”, for Focus magazine, she is quite simply the “Fräuleinwunder from Paris”
The new Marlene Dietrich or Ute Lemper for the modern age - all are comparisons
which, while flattering, capture only part of her unique talent - a talent for
music and reinvention. “I have made a career of confounding expectations and
surprising my audiences,” she says. “The music is my guide. I follow where it takes
After returning to Berlin to headline the production "Glanzlichter" at the renowned
Friedrichstadtpalast, she was starring in "Licence to Kiss" at the "TEATRO ZINZANNO" in SAN FRANCISCO.
Recently she has been performing in ZÜRICH/SWITZERLAND as the Female Lead
„Lisa Wartberg“ in „ICH WAR NOCH NIEMALS IN NY“ and at the same time playing
„Velma Kelly in „CHICAGO“ in the Theatre St.GAllen.