Review: Piaf – No Regrets: Christine Andreas at The Pheasantry, London

For Musical Theatre Review
By Jeremy Chapman
October 16, 2018

 

Star rating: five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

One of the finest voices in the cabaret world, two-time Tony nominee Christine Andreas was at her electrifying best in a three-night residency at The Pheasantry.

Superbly accompanied by composer husband Martin Silvestri on piano and accordion, the Broadway star totally inhabited Edith Piaf and hypnotised her audience – they gave her not one but two standing ovations at the end of an absorbing 75-minute set.

Wearing a black dress – Piaf always wore black – Andreas delivered 15 mostly-familiar Piaf numbers in a flawless accent yet, outside the songs, she doesn’t speak a word of French, relying entirely on her ear to pick up the inflexions and meaning.

Elaine Paige, who played Piaf in the 1993 West End revival of Pam Gems’ musical play about her extraordinary, drug and alcohol-fuelled life, was in the first-night audience and must have been as thrilled as we all were by Andreas’ power and passion.

Her ‘If You Go Away (Ne Me Quitte Pas)’, the English version of the 1958 Jacques Brel masterpiece, was unbearably poignant. Although not specifically referring to that song or the beautiful ‘Autumn Leaves’ that came out of ‘Les Feuilles Mortes’, Andreas hates most translations of French songs, saying they “totally wounded” the originals.
As an example, she and Silvestri duetted on ‘The Poor People of Paris’, a mis-translation of ‘Le Goualante de Pauvre Jean’. Without looking at the written words, American songwriter Jack Lawrence heard ‘Pauvre Jean’ as ‘pauvres gens’ (poor people) and created an entirely different story!

Finishing her set with great hits ‘Je Ne Regrette Rien’, ‘Badam, Badam, Badam’ and ‘Milord’, Andreas also shows herself to be a terrific actress. Her use of hands and arms is nothing short of exquisite.

Abandoned by her mother as a baby, Piaf did her own PR work, frequently embellishing the stories of the poverty of her youth, being brought up by prostitutes in her grandmother’s brothel, her own pregnancy as a teenager and her drug reliance to sell herself to an adoring public.

Often economical with the truth according to Andreas, the Little Sparrow created her own legend. Her biggest love affair was with the audience.

In the 13 years before her death at 47, her companion was the much-younger Charles Aznavour but it wasn’t a sexual relationship. Aznavour insisted he never made love to her but was her willing slave, looking after her finances and writing songs with her.

Her greatest love, former world middleweight champion Marcel Cerdan, was torn from her when his New York-bound plane crashed with no survivors in 1949.

Her best-known song ‘La Vie en Rose’ was also the title of the biopic for which Marion Cotillard won Best Actress Oscar in 2007 and she was given a ten-minute ovation after singing 27 songs in a Carnegie Hall concert when loaded with drugs to ease her pains.

Piaf was some woman and Andreas totally nailed her. The gorgeous sensual vibrato of her soprano is in just as good shape as it was 42 years ago when she followed Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolittle.

It is such shame this star of My Fair Lady, Oklahoma! and On Your Toes has done nothing on Broadway since the 2010 transfer of La Cage aux Folles. She is magnifique.

Next month Piaf ­­– No Regrets goes back to Feinstein’s 54 Below, the plush Manhattan nightspot where she gave birth to the show in June 2017, and ties in with the 9 November launch of an album of the same name which she recorded in London with a 36-piece orchestra.

 

 

Review: Christine Andreas: Piaf – No Regrets

For Cabaret Scenes
By Alix Cohen
July 7, 2017
 

“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. “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.

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.

 


 

Review: Christine Andreas: Piaf – No Regrets

For Theater Pizzazz
By Joel Benjamin
July 9, 2017
 

Could there be two more dissimilar singers than Edith Piaf and Christine Andreas?

Piaf was tiny, frail and possessed a straightforward piercing voice upon which she hung her heart. Andreas is taller, with a healthy upright posture and has a trained bell-like voice that reveals itself within its gorgeous layers.

Why, then is Andreas’ Piaf – No Regrets such an enormous success?

First of all, both are artists first. Secondly, both have had awesome personal issues to overcome, something that informs interpretations of even the most innocuous works.

Another reason for Andreas’ standing ovation was her musical director/accompanist Martin Silvestri whose witty, yet subtle, arrangements supported all of Andreas’ interpretive choices.

Virtually all the songs we associate with Piaf were on the program, pretty much in chronological order, all spliced to biographical tidbits of Piaf’s fascinating life, enhanced by several videos of her performing some of the songs.

The first few songs were from Piaf’s early period in which she sang about the basement of society—whores, pimps, street people—and their extravagant emotions. “Hymne à l’Amour” (Marguerite Monnot/Geoffrey Parsons) flowed from a video of Piaf singing it to Andreas’ entrance through the audience, emotionally bringing the audience along with her. The several songs that followed were paeans to love as an addiction: L’Accordéoniste” (Michael Emer), “Valse d’Amour” (Monnot) and particularly, “Mon Legionnaire” (Monnot/Raymond Asso) and “Mon Manège à Moi” (Norbert Glanzberg & Jean Constantin), all about a poor lady’s all-consuming amour passionné.

During World War Two—represented by Piaf/Andreas singing “Le Marseillaise” (Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle”—Piaf was responsible for shrewdly freeing many from imprisonment.

After the War, Andreas related that Piaf changed the type of song she sang commensurate with her success and maturity, the ones that we now associate most closely with her. Andreas went from the bittersweet “Autumn Leaves” (Jacques Prévert/Joseph Kosma) to the optimistic “La Vie en Rose” (Monnot/Piaf), probably the song most associated with Piaf. Along the way showed Piaf’s fondness for new songwriters with her soulful “Ne Me Quitter Pas” (Jacques Brel).

Piaf lost the love of her life, boxer Marcel Cerdan, in a 1949 airplane crash. She expressed her grief in “Mon Dieu” (Charles Dumont/Michel Vaucaire) into which Andreas poured all her emotions as she gazed upwards.

The final two songs were also signature numbers for Piaf and made for a terrific, poignant ending of this show. “Non, Je ne Regrette Rien” (Charles Dumont) and “Milord” (Monnot/Georges Moustaki).

 


Review: My View – C’etait une’performance palpitante de Christine Andreas – PIAF- No Regrets

For Times Square Chronicles
By Stephen Sorokoff
July 16, 2017
 

You didn’t have to know French to understand that Christine Andreas created the magic of Edith Piaf last night au-dessous de Rue 54. Feinstein’s/54 Below became a nightclub in Paris and something similar occurred during the performance.  The exciting and vibrato glazed voice of Madame Andreas had the audience hollering in uncontrollable and passionate ecstasy as she went through her song list in a show titled PIAF- No Regrets.   This evening was an extraordinary portrait of Piaf performed in French and English.  Je Ne Regrette Rien’.  You will have no regrets if you ever have the opportunity to see Christine Andreas, and an added thrill is hearing her music director/husband Martin Silvestri accompany his wife on piano and skillfully play a genuine accordion. She has thrilled thousands of audiences and generated wondrous musical moments during her career and, I’m talking about Christine Andreas as well as Edith Piaf.

 


 

BROADWAY WORLD PHOTO COVERAGE HERE