Return of the Clown Prince

rainer hersch as victor borge
rainer hersch as victor borge

He poked fun at the Nazis as the Third Reich invaded his country, became a star in America despite not knowing a word of English when he arrived there and was once the highest-paid entertainer in the world.

Victor Borge, The Clown Prince of Denmark, was a prodigy all his life - a piano virtuoso as a child Borge who developed his own unique style, blending concert piano with stand-up comedy, interacting with the audience.

With the German invasion of Denmark, Borge, who had famously told many anti-Nazi jokes as part of his act, escaped to America where he was hired by Bing Crosby to be part of his radio show. His stage show, Comedy in Music, became the longest-running one-man show in the history of theatre. Victor Borge continued to perform right up to his death, still playing 60 shows a year when he was 90 years old.

Now British comedian and pianist Rainer Hersch pays tribute to Danish comedy legend Victor Borge when he visits Buxton Opera House on Saturday June 18.

Described as a Broadway calibre show, Borge’s extraordinary life is retold and his classic routines re-imagined for the 21st century.

He has appeared 13 times at the Edinburgh Festival; had numerous comedy-concert series at the South Bank in London; featured in comedy clubs all across Europe and in TV shows around the world.

A hit on four continents, Rainer Hersch’s Victor Borge show has been greeted with critical acclaim and sold out theatres from Montreal to Adelaide.

More than just a tribute, Rainer Hersch’s Victor Borge is a rollercoaster ride of outstanding comedy and dramatic insight.

Borge was born Børge Rosenbaum in Copenhagen, Denmark, into a Jewish family. His parents, Bernhard and Frederikke Rosenbaum, were both musicians—his father a violist in the Royal Danish Orchestra and his mother a pianist.

Like his mother, Borge began piano lessons at the age of two, and it was soon apparent that he was a prodigy. He gave his first piano recital when he was eight-years-old, and in 1918 was awarded a full scholarship at the Royal Danish Academy of Music.

Among Borge’s famous routines is the “Phonetic Punctuation” routine, in which he recites a story, with full punctuation (comma, period, exclamation mark, etc) as exaggerated onomatopoeic sounds.

Borge used physical and visual elements in his live and televised performances.

He would play a strange-sounding piano tune from sheet music, looking increasingly confused; turning the sheet upside down, he would then play the actual tune, flashing a joyful smile of accomplishment to the audience (he had, at first, been literally playing the actual tune upside down).

When his energetic playing of another song would cause him to fall off the piano bench, he would open the seat lid, take out the two ends of an automotive seatbelt, and buckle himself onto the bench, “for safety.”

He appeared several times on Sesame Street and was a guest star during the fourth season of The Muppet Show.

Victor Borge continued to tour until his last days, performing up to 60 times per year when he was 90 years old.

• The show will begin at 7.30pm. Tickets for Rainer Hersch’s Victor Borge are priced at £14 and £16 and discounts are available. Call the Box Office on 0845 127 2190 or buy online at www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk.