Christine Andreas: Piaf, No Regrets

Christine Andreas – Piaf, No Regrets
Bay Area Cabaret, December 2, 2018
Venetian Room, San Francisco

Christine Andreas, multiple-award winning singer, actress and two-time Tony nominee, brought her acclaimed one-woman show and CD Piaf, No Regrets, to an enthralled audience at Bay Area Cabaret. Partly an attempt to de-mystify the cultural icon, Andreas weaves Piaf’s story of adversity, tragedy and great successes in an attempt to set the record straight. The show not only will introduce a new audience to Piaf’s legacy, but cement Andreas as one of the finest cabaret performers gracing the stage.

Opening with “Hymne a L’Amour” (Piaf/Marguerite Monnot), Piaf’s poignant love letter to the love of her life, the late boxer Marcel Cerdan, Andreas expresses both the strength and vulnerability of love and loss which resonates so clearly in Piaf’s works. A champion of the common man, Piaf grew up with nothing and sang of the people who populated the poor section of Paris. “L’Accordeoniste” is an example of a ‘chanson realist’, the plaintive tale of a prostitute who falls in love with a musician who she loses to war. She’s swept up in her emotions but remains in love with the music and the remembrances of her lost love, asking the music to stop on the last line (“arrêtez cette musique) . Interestingly, the song was composed by Jewish French composer Michel Emer, né Michel Benjamin Rosenstein. He was among the many people Piaf helped hide during the Nazi occupation of France.

Andreas can ride from 0 to 60 with ease, starting slow and quiet, then rising to goose-bump inducing crescendo’s that leave one giddy. Accompanied by her husband, Grammy-nominated arranger/composer Martin Silvestri on piano and of course, the accordion, they sang the cute duet of “Poor People of Paris” (Jack Lawrence / Marguerite Monnot / Rene Gustave Rouzaud). Some numbers included English lyrics when translated, like the stunningly beautiful ballad “Autumn Leaves (Les Feuilles Mortes)” and Henri Content and Norbert Glanzberg’s catchy waltz “Paddam, Paddam”.  Christine’s French is impeccable, her voice clear and sharp. Her rendition of Piaf’s signature song “La Vie en rose” with its controlled tremelo moved the audience to its first standing ovation.

Jacques Brel’s haunting “Ne me quitte pas” and its translated English version by Rod McKuen (“If You Go Away”) and the ever-popular “Non, je ne regrette rien” (Charles Dumont/Michel Vaucaire) were sublimely sung, adding to the transcendent atmosphere of the evening. Andreas bounced along rhythmically with her husband’s period accordion melodies. Following French meter, Andreas skillfully connected the rhyme of words with the melody. Combining historical Piaf anecdotes, a complete mastery of the material and her inimitable charm, Andreas has achieved perhaps the definitive Piaf tribute show. Andreas channels the soul and passion of Piaf and ups the ante with her superior technicality. By the rousing encore of “Milord”, Andreas had the crowd hooting and clapping the beats of the ‘working class’ girl who falls for an elegantly dressed British man (‘milord’). Piaf, who played the Venetian Room back in her day, was certainly watching Andreas’s show in spirit, and for one gorgeous night, we all traveled to a smoky, bustling cafe in Pigalle for an intimate set of magic.

Bay Area Cabaret continues with An Evening with Carmen Cusack and Susan Werner, Sunday, January 20, 2019 – 5 p.m.