Street Singer Review 2!

Review by Alix Cohen on www.womanaroundtown.com
Read it on their site here

 

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On the occasion of Edith Piaf’s centennial, Rioult Dance New York has innovatively staged a celebration of the little sparrow’s music. Though her life is sketched with a poor script, glorious vocals by singer/actress Christine Andreas, imaginative choreography by Pascal Rioult and a company of skilled, young dancers offer buoyant entertainment.

Our audience sits at tables on three sides of a T formed by extending a runway out from  the raised stage. That dance takes place on this narrow platform while maintaining grace, originality, and visibility to both sides is an accomplishment. Andreas performs for the most part from the stage itself accompanied by a small band. Evocative lights scallop from the ceiling as if at a summer festival. Songs are in French with occasional English verses.

 

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“Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” soars to the rafters on the wings of an overflowing soul. Andreas is riveting. Early life speeds by in awkward Cliff Notes. Dancers woodenly recite script lines. Choosing to focus on an aberrant three weeks of youthful blindness, Rioult suggests loved ones are praying for Piaf by offering three women in a sexy jitterbug number. Your guess at interpretation as good as mine. This is followed by a repetitive pas de deux as Andreas stirringly sings “Mon Dieu.”

A Pigalle number with captivating slow motion parentheses and exaggerated facial expressions is offset by Andreas’ rendition of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” (I can’t imagine Piaf singing this) which is lip-synced by a parading male dancer in terrific spangles and feathers. As a representation of Piaf’s time with The Folies Bergère it’s a wonderful conceit, but alas, the dancer moves without sex or suggestion.

From here on in, it’s smooth sailing. Rioult’s clever Can-Can is performed boy girl boy girl with front to back configurations. “Sous Le Ciel De Paris” and “La Valse de L’Amour” bloom sumptuously romantic. Andreas’s tightly rippling vibrato gets under one’s skin. Her singing is palpable. Four couples execute a modern waltz. Reference to World War II “you might have seen the movie” is tacky; watching Piaf enter the camps to entertain with three musicians and leave with five is deftly telling.

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“La Vie en Rose” arrives as pas de deux. Both rough and tender, the dancers cling and recoil, caress and physically abuse. He pushes her down-you can hear the thump – she springs up, winding around him. He moves to slap her, she strokes his outstretched arm. Thrown again, she leaps into his arms with naturalness that belies ballet. Let down slowly, she strikes. The piece is marvelously effective.

Act Two begins with Marcel Cerdan, the love of Piaf’s life. (He died in a plane crash.) As played by Rioult, who actually looks a bit like the boxer, he’s at first a redolent presence, then overstays.“I’m not a pessimist,” Piaf says, “Love is good until you lose it.” A dancer puppeted by unseen force, in thrall perhaps of her emotions, personifies “L’accordionist.” Ripped and tossed, the character at last collapses.

“A Quoi c’a Sert L’Amour” recalls the pleasure of their relationship in movement: What good is it, love?/People are always telling their foolish stories/But what good is it, love?… It brings us joy/with tears in our eyes/It is sad and marvelous… Like a diva or a prima who has spent her life honing superior craft, Andreas makes stunning vocal flight and majestic control seem easy.

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“Padam Padam” illustrates excess, drug addiction, a period of being lost. Andreas is surrounded by blank-eyed, stumbling dancers who exit like storm troopers. With “Millord,” we’re back to the joy of realizing it’s better to have loved and lost than not to have experienced… “If there were even a tiny chance I’d lose some of the good parts in order to lose the bad, would I take that chance, non.” Thus, aria da capo, we’re back to “Non Je ne Regret Rien:” No, nothing of nothing/No! I don’t feel sorry about anything/Not the good things people have done to me/
Not the bad things, it’s all the same to me…

Andreas’s last song is proud, sad, enraptured.

Costume Design by Pilar Limosner favors the men. Bodysuits over which the ladies wear various skirts are cheap looking as are what appear to be eurythmy shoes. Sound Design (with which no one is credited) has unfortunate reverb and the club, assuming that this is its regular crowd (it is not), makes the mistake of playing LOUD, thumping, abrasive music before the show and between acts. So much for mood.