Piaf: A Centennial Celebration

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Piaf: A Centennial Celebration

The Town Hall, NYC, December 19, 2015

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Edith-Piaf-Cabaret-Scenes-Hall-of-Fame-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212Gather a host of performers together to sing the songs of Edith Piaf, and the result will surely please devoted fans of this enduring French icon. As Robert Osborne, host and emcee of Piaf: A Centennial Celebration noted, 1915 was a very big year for talent (Sinatra, Strayhorn, Holiday, Welles, to name a few). Piaf is not the least of these, so it’s fitting that homage be paid to her, even if the result was a mixed bag.

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The opener, a strident, big-bang “Milord,” was performed by Molly Pope, followed by a calming auditory antidote in Marilyn Maye. With her smooth, sure style, Maye, just 13 years younger than Piaf, effortlessly sang “I Love Paris,” and “C’est Magnifique.”

Piaf fit no mold, and so it was fitting that several outré performers contributed their talents. Australian Kim David Smith, known for his Weimar-era inspired work, sang an emotive, compelling “Padam, padam,” while fellow Aussie, Melissa Madden Gray, better known as Meow Meow, offered some comic flabbergast before a beautifully sung “La vie en rose,” Piaf’s signature song. The multi-talented Gothic Little Annie Bandez, channeling a dramatic, alternative-universe Piaf, sang “Autumn Leaves” en français (“Les feulles mortes”). More traditionally, a grand and resonant interpretation of “’Cause I Love You” was offered by Amber Martin, followed by Piaf interpreter Gay Marshall, who sang “Elle fréquentait la Rue Pigalle” with a plaintive cello and violin backing, “L’accordéoniste” with, of course, an accordion accompanist, and “La Foule.” High drama was provided by the stately Vivian Reed with “Mon Dieu” and “Heaven a Mercy.” Elaine Paige provided the finale with the a dazzling “Non, je ne regrette rien” and the Piaf-composed “If You Love Me, Really Love Me” (“Hyme à l’amour”).

Piaf: A Centennial Celebration moved at a fair clip, wisely sans intermission. Yet, overall, the show lacked pizzazz. The American Pops Orchestra, under the baton of Luke Frazier, played admirably, but a smaller combo might have been a more robust choice.

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Lacking was a number to highlight the band, although there was a fine musical solo by guest artist, violinist Aaron Weinstein. Visual interest, such as projected images of Piaf, also would have been a welcome addition. Musical Director Tedd Firth deserves the Legion of Honor medal for his masterful piano work and for magically guiding this tribute to one of France’s greatest stars through uneven waters.

Marilyn Lester

Marilyn Lester left journalism and commercial writing behind nearly two decades ago to write plays. That branch in the road led to screenwriting, script-doctoring, dramaturgy and producing for the stage. Marilyn has also co-authored, as well as edited, books. It seemed the only world of words she hadn’t conquered was criticism, an opportunity that presented itself via Theater Pizzazz. Marilyn has since sought to widen her scope in this form of writing she especially relishes. Marilyn is a member of the Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild, Women in the Arts and Media and The League of Professional Theater Women.