Review: Piaf! The Show

Celtic Connections
The Theatre Royal, Glasgow
4 Stars (4 / 5)

Piaf! The Show has proven that one can never have enough of Edith Piaf and her music. Set against an atmospheric backdrop of projections featuring previously unseen photographs of French music’s ultimate grande dame and the Paris of her day, the performance is a heart-warming and nostalgic tribute to the singer, played by Anne Carrere. Rather than a dramatization of Piaf’s life, the show takes the form of a theatricalized medley of her music, as Carrere flits between a bar set-up and a wooden bench beside a street lamp.

The image might seem bland if not boring, but the lack of a dramatic arc is entirely recompensed with the music, in particular Carrere’s extraordinary voice and stage presence. The nasality and rhoticity of her voice, combined with an acute impression of Piaf’s vocal trills, makes it seem as though she is merely lip-syncing to the original track. It is also amusing to see her take on the postures highly reminiscent of Piaf’s stances during her live performances.

However, after being performed over a hundred times, the show is very polished and routine, and there are moments when it seems the performers are merely going through the motions. When Carrere tears in the middle of the second act, it has emotional resonance, and yet one cannot help but wonder if it was perfectly staged or a genuine reaction to the moment. At the same time, it makes segments with audience interaction more engaging, and Carrere’s vocal versatility is impossible to deny.

More credit to the four musicians who have the virtuosity to support Carrere’s vocals and transport the audience to Paris with their renditions of Piaf’s hits. The performance ends simply and sweetly with Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien to a standing ovation and an encore.