Christine Andreas: Piaf—No Regrets

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Christine Andreas

Piaf—No Regrets

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC,  July 7, 2017

Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes

jpg” alt=”” width=”212″ height=”212″ /> Christine Andreas
Photo: Stacy Sullivan

“The most important thing in life is a resilient heart.” — Edith Piaf

Haunted by Edith Piaf (1915-1963), Christine Andreas has for years presented iconic material associated with the little sparrow. Piaf—No Regrets is the illuminating and entertaining zenith of those forays. Andreas sings in impeccable French, as well as English, peppering the concert with well-selected quotes and Piaf’s own words in monologues by dramaturge Drew Harris. The resulting portrait is respectful, not reverent, admiring not worshipful.

At first glance, one wouldn’t imagine the two a likely match. Piaf was wiry, scrappy, and seemingly untucked, even when groomed; a street-bred voice of the people and passionate “monster sacré,” who exhausted herself and those around her, taking life in her teeth. Andreas is womanly, elegant, meticulous, and worldly. Committed presence of her husband, writer/producer Martin Silvestri (here her first-rate MD/pianist/accordionist), testifies to a durable marriage.

Still, there are parallels. Like her heroine, the artist has been challenged by adversity. She’s authoritative, tenacious, ardent, and clearly empathetic. Unlike imitators, Andreas neither overacts nor engineers vocals to copy Piaf. “Tonight I’m going to do my best to disembelish your life,” she says, addressing the muse about whom so much has been romanticized. Without mimic—except similarity of gesture—she channels her muse.

A film clip of the famous chanteuse segues into Andreas’ lavish, live version of “Hymne à l’amour” (Marguerite Monnot/Geoffrey Parsons): “The blue sky over us can collapse on itself/and the ground can (really) cave in/Little matters to me if you love me….” She’s mastered the musical hurry-up-then-wait indigenous to French songs. Not a flicker of her voice is less than urgent.

Michel Emer’s “L’Accordioniste” is the first of several numbers accompanied by Silvestri on evocative accordion. One is never at a loss as Andreas relates those stories not performed in both languages. In this deeply romantic lyric, a young girl rises to loss with the kind of unassuageable dancing exemplified by The Red Shoes. Elongated notes circle the stage before dissipating.
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“Valse d’Amour” (Marguerite Monnot) follows suit, tenderly describing a vocalist who no longer needs to sing when she falls in love. Lovely music box piano ebbs and flows.

Though Andreas thinks most songs suffer from French to English, she indulges her accompanist with “The Poor People of Paris” (Marguerite Monnot/Rene Rouzaud), a jaunty music hall ditty likely not meant for the French: “I just got back from Paris, France/All they do is sing and dance…” Silvestri sings with palpable pleasure. A little two-handed repartee adds zip.

“This one translates much more easily,” introduces “Autumn Leaves” (Joseph Kosma/Jacques Prevert/Johnny Mercer). Perched sidesaddle on the stool, Andreas fervently conjures a scenario far from the stage. The rendition is pristine—neither embellishment nor excessive volume mar its impact. Piano music drifts, curls, and floats.
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Gravitas also provides musical backbone for Jacques Brel’s “Ne me quitte pas.” Steeled for abandonment, she nonetheless pleads and promises with every fiber of being. Desperation swells and then, spent, releases. “…I’d’ve been the shadow of your dog/If I thought it might’ve kept you by my side …Please (she whispers) don’t go away.” (English lyrics: Rod McKuen.) The heartsick lament is raw.

Piaf’s signatures “La Vie en rose” (Marguerite Monnot/Edith Piaf) and “Non, je ne regrette rien” (Charles Dumont/ Michel Vaucaire) “follow as the night the day” (Shakespeare). The first, written just after World War II, suggests a battered populous might at last be optimistic again. Arms extend welcome, palms open, an octave climbs, evoking frisson. (Andreas can convulse your heart or make it flutter.) The second is a ferocious anthem. Her left leg pulses. Lyrics soar and snap.

An infectiously joyous “Milord” (Marguerite Monnot/Georges Moustaki) closes the evening. Andreas covers the stage now, gesturing, pointing, slapping her hip. Our audience spontaneously claps in time then stands. We’ve spent time not with a legend, but rather one flesh-and-blood woman celebrating another. The show is insightful, heartfelt, and lustrous.

Christine Andreas continues at Feinstein’s/54 Below July 11, 14, 15.

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.