A brilliant return for Piaf

Issue 

Piaf: The Songs and Story in Concert
With Jeannie Lewis
The Playhouse, Sydney Opera House, until Aug 1. Reviewed by Francesca Davidson

Piaf is brilliant. Directed by Ted Robinson, the show played in the 1980s to rave reviews, and the 1995 production is no less successful.

Conveying the life of Piaf through a combination of narration and song, with Jeannie Lewis as Piaf, the production skilfully melds music and theatre. The set is simple, with a live band in one corner and the two main actors moving into spotlights around the stage.

The narrator tells Piaf's story, at times taking on the role of various characters in her life or in her songs: a Gipsy, a love-struck teenager or her husbands.

There is no doubt that Lewis' rendition of Piaf's songs is what makes the show. Singing some of Piaf's greatest songs, she had the audience clapping along to "Milord, Milord", spellbound as she sang "Les Blouses Blanches" and in tears at "Mon Dieu, Mon Dieu", the song Piaf wrote after her husband's tragic death.

Other well-known songs such as "La Vie en Rose" and "Mon Legionnaire" are likewise performed with spirit, really conveying Piaf's personal experiences and development as a singer. As Piaf sang mostly about her own life, the format of telling her life through song works very well. The performances of the band and narrator are also good, although occasionally the tone of the narrator was a little patronising. This is a production not to be missed.