New York, Krakow, Rio – the world is seeing la vie en rose and ne regrette rien when watching “PIAF! Le Spectacle”.
The park benches of Pigalle and the street lanterns of Montmartre. The immortal tunes of Paris. And that voice that is recognizable the world over. Has Edith Piaf come back to celebrate her 100th birthday with her fans, 51 years after leaving us?
Although you might swear it is the Little Sparrow that performs up there on stage, it is actually not the long-departed singer herself but Anne Carrere, a young singer from Puget, a small town in the hilly Var region of the Niçois hinterland. She and her fellow musicians transport you back to the height of Edith’s fame and glory, presenting the songs that French children have soaked up with their mother milk and that constitute a sacred part of the country’s musical heritage.
In the land of guttural rolling Rs and voices rooted in the deepest depth of the diaphragm, Piaf-style singers are aplenty but Anne Carrere is a league apart. Make that three leagues, actually. You close your eyes and it IS Edith who you hear. You open your eyes and it IS Edith who you see. Anne embodies La Môme as if she were her flesh and blood reincarnation. Up there on stage with her, a band of four – accordion player, pianist, contrabassist, and percussionist – complementing the evergreen tunes to perfection.
The show narrates the story of the Parisian singer’s career through her songs. So, even with the greatest of musical talent at hand, you still need an environment that makes you feel like you are as much a part of Montmartre as the Sacré Cœur church or the famous steps. And this production goes beyond well-chosen stage décor. Unreleased contemporaneous photography projected onto the background plunges you right into the heart of the French capital of the Edith Piaf era, making you entirely forget that you are in Nice….. or Poland, Brazil, Italy, Spain, USA, or Canada….. Such is the universal appeal and magic of “PIAF! Le Spectacle” presented by Niçois show production company Directo Productions in honour of the unforgettable singer’s 100th birthday in 2015.
Creative genius and professional luck must have conspired when Gil Marsalla, stage director of the show and CEO of Directo Productions, discovered Anne Carrere on the doorsteps of Nice in 2014. Just 29 years old, this Toulon native already has solid experience under her belt, having participated in numerous talent competitions to showcase her broad range of musical skills from classical to jazz and break dance. But deep down, she is deeply enamoured with the traditional French chanson, and that ultimately propelled her to audition for another one of Gil’s shows, “PARIS! Le spectacle” in summer 2014. She came, she sang, she conquered. It was therefore a no-brainer for Gil to also put her front and center in “PIAF”.
“I have worked in show business – on and off stage – for 25 years and mounted shows in the entire world. But to this day, Anne Carrere is my greatest artistic discovery yet. A diamond you want to keep raw… don’t you dare to touch and polish her – such is the nature of her pure and natural talent,” Gil raves.
This is high praise indeed from Gil Marsalla, the brilliant mind behind Directo Productions, who is a well-known and much-appreciated presence in his home town of Nice. He indefatigably creates and produces one flamboyant, flawlessly executed hit show after another, and has a knack for discovering and promoting new talent – not only Anne Carrere, the Piaf reincarnation, but across the artistic spectrum, like for instance Laurent Barat, the Niçois shooting star standup comedian who shares a stage with Gad Elmaleh.
Gil’s shows bring down the house wherever in the world they perform. Mexico, Japan, hardly a blank spot on the map. Still, there is one venue that ranks way high on his wishlist: “As a company 100% “made in Nice”, and featuring many local and regional artists, we would really, really love to play at the Théâtre National de Nice or the Opéra de Nice. We know for a fact that our local audience and fan base is hoping we get the opportunity to do so. Irina Brook and Anne Ginesta are openminded directors who enjoy magical, playful music and dance shows, just like the ones we create, so we are much looking forward to collaborating with them some time soon.”
Meanwhile, “PIAF!” is touring the globe all this year to rave reviews and sold-out houses wherever it appears. One of the major highlights, and a date circled red in the tour calendar: a pitstop at the Symphonic Space on Broadway in New York on October 23. But there will also be opportunities for the French audience, including Nice, to relive a moment in Edith’s time and (spiritual) presence, and celebrate the centennial of her birth. One such confirmed date is December 19, 2015, the actual date of La Môme’s 100th birthday, when the show is playing at the magnificent Théâtre Dejazet in Paris for two days. Consult the tour plan for details and secure your tickets early before they are all gone. We know you’ll thank us for it later.
Natja Igney is a senior global communications strategist with 1021 Global Communications Consulting. She has a particular interest in theatre and filmmaking.
All images courtesy Directo Productions