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A CurtainUp Review
Piaf: Love Conquers All
With the assistance of Adam Blanshay, Emmerson directs herself. She has also designed the set, a whimsical black and white cartoon-like arrangement dominated by an elaborate chair, with red telephone and umbrella as accent pieces. Emmerson also gets the credit for hair and costume — Piaf's traditional "little black dress."
But of course it is the story of Piaf's flamboyant life that makes this show so dramatically charged. Her life was all about her music. And her music was all about love.
The show begins in 1949, when Piaf is on tour in New York City. A series of flashbacks bring the singer back to her beginnings, performing on the streets of Paris; the death of her only child; her discovery by Louis LePlée; his death (a murder she was accused of) and her rise to stardom under the tutelage of impresario Raymond Asso. The first act ends back in the present, recounting Piaf's affair with the love of her life, the married boxer Marcel Cerdan, and his death in a plain crash.
The scenes are all punctuated by Piaf's songs and Emmerson's faithful interpretations of "Milord," "L'Accordeoniste,""La Vie en Rose," and "Hymn a l'Amour."
The second act takes a more serious turn, covering Piaf's addictions, her automobile accidents, her failing health. But Emmerson, through music and narration, also underscores Piaf's tremendous will to live. . .and to love.
Piaf's final love was Theo Serapo, a Greek many years her junior. An aspiring singer whose career she tried to launch as she had done with so many other lovers, Serapo was devoted and caring. He brought flowers and gifts. But he could not restore youth and health. Yet Piaf's final songs, most notably "Je Ne Regrete Rien," prove that the indomitable singer lived life to the fullest and would have changed nothing.
Emmerson is adept at showing both sides of Piaf's personality. She has the guttural laugh, the self-mockery, the sentimentality and the Gallicisms of this outsized personality. She also has a beautiful voice and a true talent for stepping into another's body and soul.
The show also owes much to the marvelous piano playing of Carmela Sinco, who sits upstage at her piano, barely visible behind a scrim. Sinco expresses instrumentally what Emmerson conveys vocally. Her playing is lush, romantic and evocative.
Emmerson (who hails from Montreal) effortlessly mingles French and English, so that it is not really necessary (although it is helpful) to understand French. But then, Piaf's music was and remains universal because it speaks a language understood by everyone. And that is the language of love.
Try onlineseats.com for great seats to
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