AISLE SAY France (via Florida)


Three Reviews by Marie J. Kilker

Piaf, une vie en rose et noir
Piaf, a life in rose and black
by Jacques Pessis
Directed by and Starring Nathalie Lemitte
10 Daunou
7, rue Danou, Paris,

A bio-musical that's been touring around France for the last few years, Piaf, une vie en rose et noir has a narration that emphasizes the noir' in Edith Piaf's life. There's plenty of that, narrated by Jacques Pessis. Piaf, whose birth and childhood were not easy, spent her early years blind and with her mother in a brothel. By her teens, sight restored, Piaf became a street singer and unwed mother to a child who soon died. Because of her small size, her professional name indicated she was a little sparrow but  she had a big voice, shown in this show by Nathalie Lemitte. Though an international star, Piaf also became addicted to drink and drugs, sorrowing over the loss in a plane crash of her first prizefighting husband but in her final cancerous days helped by a second, much younger spouse.

As her own director, Lemitte tries not to be a Piaf impersonator. Indeed, she's tall and blonde and more animated. But she smoothly integrates directorially and is integrated as actress and singer into Jacques Pessis' mostly spoken narrative. Accordionist Aurelian Noel accompanies her effectively. The bulk of the show consists of onstage appearances by the three performers, whose gestures are often as story telling as words, but there are dressing room scenes that provide more intimate glimpses of Piaf's life.  Audiences can't seem to get enough of Piaf's many songs, though, which they often end up singing with Lemitte. She may oblige with encores that stretch the 90 minute performance beyond the script and repeat the title song, as she did last December.

Noblesse et Bourgeoisie
Noble and Middle Classes

by Carlo Goldoni
Adapted and Translated by Attilio Maggiulli
Directed by Attilio Maggiulli
Assited by Claudine Simon
La Comedie Italienne
17-19 rue de la Gaite, Paris,

October 2013 through August 2014

This is Attilio Maggiulli's and his troupe's second version of Goldoni's play to be shown in the last decade. It concentrates less than previously on the games and comic bits known as lazzi and less on the heroine's worries about loss of social status  than on her reputation and her husband's fidelity and the greed of his paramour. La Comedie Italienne has been in the news since a desperate attempt by director Maggiulli to win back the Ministry of Culture's cut subsidies to the theater. This show, the current major annual feature of the sole Italian theatre in France, playing in French but keeping alive the tradition of the Italian players there who so influenced Moliere, has been trimmed to essentials. The costumes are still sumptuously gorgeous (especially the heroine's golden lacey gown) but the roster of players has been limited to the essential. What hasn't been cut in the least is the relevance of the tenor of the times of the play to today's.

Beautiful Helene Lestrade  plays  the devoted wife of bourgeois origin, out of place in the  deceptive nobility and mercantile atmosphere of 17th century Venice, where masks and robes are used to conceal.  Her husband, a scheming and really ignoble Count (shown as despicable by David Clair), is given to drinking in excess. He's been utterly captivated by a jealous, greedy woman (the hilarious Guillaume Garnaud, in drag) whose raven-black outfit perfectly reflects her character. She's given to counting or hiding her jewels most of her spare

time. The meeting between her and Lestrade's Rosaura is a high point . Arlecchino (colorful, agile Alexis Long) runs in and out of the intrigues while pointing them out to the audience along with acting as a guide to times and places of action. Still, he's not too busy to flirt outrageously with the maid played by Sarah Mouline. A major achievement of Arlecchino and the servant is to convey shrewdness or flirtiness or wry wickedness despite masks. Much credit goes to Attilio Maggiulli for doing so much to make this play work under reduced budget and controversy.  La Comedie Italienne is celebrating its 40th anniversary, but the celebration has been marred by the director's arrest for his Christmas day protest. The troupe is pleading on its web site for petitions to the Minister of Culture to restore its subsidy and respect it and its founder and leader. The current show is a strong argument for signing.



Charles Trenet: Le Fou chantant a cent ans
The Singing  Madman on His 100th Anniversary
Conceived and Directed by Gerard Chambre
Played by La Cie Opera ma non troppo
Maxim's, 3 rue Royale, Paris

Charles Trenet was one of the first and perhaps also the ultimate cabaret singer.  Yet he also appeared at the Bobino and Olympia and later in life at the Opera and Palais des Congress.  Like younger contemporaries Yves Montand and Charles Aznavour, with whom he sang or who sang in similar celebrity, he has had Gallery and Bibliotecque exhibits in Paris devoted to his work. One was on display at end of '13, full of books, records, sheet music and like copies and collections of his songs. In Maxim's hour devoted to The Singing Fool all of the work in media came to life through individual and group renditions with a little narrative at times to place them in different eras or among reputed styles.

Trenet almost always sang his own words and music, and they were unique. Like Georges Brassens (a review of whose work I unfortunately didn't get to), Trenet was a true poet, if a bit less profound.  His range covered realism to whimsey. The only thing I missed in this revue was the man himself. The highlight, as may be guessed, was his La Mer, a song so loved and identified with him. Bobby Darin's version, Beyond the Sea, made him famous and Kevin Spacey paid homage to both in his biographical film of Darin. This revue shows it's too bad someone also didn't film their source. 


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