Jan Heinemans schreef in 1997 in WINGS (inflightmagazine van Transavia Airlines

Herman en Babette van Veen

Performing across frontiers

Herman's daughter Babette has been following in her father's footsteps with equal success for several years. In the Netherlands, people know her from the well-known television soap opera "Good Times, Bad Time". As multi-talented as her father, Babette writes, composes and sings songs that easily climb into the top ten on the Dutch pop charts. Andfoto: Jac Reyer she is an exceptional stage actress. Her performances enjoy success throughout the country. Perhaps some day she will do as well as her father beyond Dutch borders. lfl addition to the challenge of cabaret theatre and musi4 there is also the call of the silver screen. This year father and daughter will appear together in a film titled 'The Night Butterfly', a romantic medieval adventure. The story will feature Babette in the lead, with father Herman in a more modest role in the background.

After 32 years Herman van Veen is quickly approaching his 4,000th performance. in contrast, the series 'Good Times, Bad Times' has run for a mere 1,200 episodes. Babette has appeared in 800 of them. But the average audience for the series is some 1.3 million per episode. 'I'd have to perform forten years to reach that many people', says Herman. His largest audience was a hall packed with 20,000 people. But he also has performed for as few as 50 and sometimes even 35.
When performing abroad, Herman always begins the show in Dutch. 'I explain in Dutch that the language 1 will be speaking and singing that evening is not my mother tongue.' He always opens the show holding an inverted umbrella. 'It lets the audience know that 1 come from a county with brutally strong winds. A land whose people are as unpredictable as the wind', he adds with a wry grin.
Referring to the challenge he faces in other countries, 'I speak very good French, German and English, but Dutch is the only language 1 really master. In Germany I am a different man on stage because of my limits with the language. The same goes for France and England. But this can work for you in that it forces you to keep things simple. But you have to stay alert to the word associations in a particular language. For instance, in Switzerland the word brown is associated with chocolate. Sing a song featuring the word brown in Bavaria and people wince - for them it calls fascism to mind. In Belgium, mention the word brown and people raise their hands with five outstretched fingers. 'Five beers, please.

Thinking back over his long career, Van Veen mused, 'In the United States I received probably the best review one could have from Frank Rich of the New York Times, one of the world's best critics. A wonderfully glowing, long review. What he said really boiled down to the single fact that he found me to be a 'world-class yokel'. It was a marvellous and, to a certain degree, very touching compliment. Once, in Philadelphia, during a silence in the show, an old man suddenly blurted out 'Bless that man'. And everybody in the crowd immediately endorsed the sentiment with a rousing, warm 'Yeeeeah'. It felt good.'

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