The DMV got a taste of “La Vie en Rose” this past Tuesday night as “Paris! The Show” played George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium for a one night only engagement. This vibrant and heart-felt show is a celebration of French music and dance, presented by a small but mighty cast.
Producer and director Gil Marsala helms this new production that includes some of France’s most well known and loved post World War II songs. Music from Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, Jaques Brel, Maurice Chavalier, and more are included. This is coming off of Marsala’s extremely successful production of “Piaf! The Show,” which celebrated the life and career of one of France’s most famous chanteuses. That show traveled the world and even sold out Carnegie Hall on the anniversary of Piaf’s first show there. Anne Carrere, whole portrayed Piaf to rave reviews in “Paif! The Show,” reprises her role as Piaf in “Paris! The Show.” For more information, read an interview with Carrere.
…vibrant and heart-felt…
The story follows Françoise (Stéphanie Impoco), a small town girl who dreams of moving to Paris to become a famous artist. On her journey to success she becomes friends with Edith Piaf (Anne Carrere) and falls in love with a bohemian painter living in the Pigalle quarter of Paris, Charles Aznavour (Jules Grison). Dancers Karine Soucheire and Jeff Dubourg display a plethora of different dance styles and impressive costumes as they add movement to the classic songs.
The DC chapter of the Alliance Francaise helped to bring “Paris! The Show” to the area, in their continued effort to promote French culture within the district. The show had special guests the French Consular General, as well as the Yorktown High School French Society.
The set was fairly simple- a bar, a table and chairs, a bench, and a screen across the back. It was enough to help move the story forward, but it really let the music be the star of the show. Impoco was effervescent and lovely as the young dreamer Francoise. Her voice was powerful, yet deft, with a tone as clear as a bell. She also brought bubbly stage presence, especially when she had a hiccup with her microphone in the 2nd number. She was never out of character for a second, and in fact the moment only made the audience love her more. While she did well in all of her numbers, this reviewer’s particular favorite was her stirring rendition of “Et Maintenant” towards the end of the show. Her vocals were dynamite and she was able to show her heartbreak through the performance.
Grison was similarly impressive in his role as Charles Aznavour. He brings an electric stage presence to this role, charming the audience as well as the beautiful Francoise. He danced a bit as well and sang, and was similarly able to move back and forth from buoyant numbers to the more serious ones. He shone on the numbers “Ne Me Quitte Pas” and “Comme D’Habitude” or as it’s known in English, “My Way.”
Carrere is dynamic as Piaf- you can see why she sold out venues all over the world playing her. She has the tight “r” rolls that Piaf is known for, and she sang every song with such enormous joie de vivre. When she sang the upbeat songs, like the fun “Milord,” the audience clapped along with her. And when she sang others, she had such intensity that you felt like these songs came from her very soul. This reviewer loved her renditions of many songs, but “Je Ne Regrette Rien” and, of course, “La Vie en Rose” were my particular favorites.
The show was completed by incredible performances from the two dancers, who not only displayed a vast proficiency in a myriad of ballroom dances, but also performed in fantastic costumes reflective of the time periods. Karine Soucheire and Jeff Dubourg showed impressive stamina as well, seeing as how they did all the dancing for the entire show, and some were quite rigorous. My personal favorite was an authentic Can-Can to open up the second act.
The show also would not have been the same without the superb live music, provided by the band. Made up of Philippe Villa on piano, Laurent Sarrien on percussion and xylophone, Daniel Fabriquant on double bass, and a very impressive Guy Giuliano on accordion. While all of the performers were great, the music would simply not had the same level of authenticity without the incredibly dexterous accordion playing.
Overall, it was a noir fantatique, ending with the audience on their feet and singing with the cast. There was even a hilarious moment where each of the singers danced with the same audience member in turn, allowing the rest of the audience in on the joke. This was a beautiful show that celebrated French culture and music- if you are a Francophile, be sure not to miss it!While “Paris! The Show” was only in town for one night, here is more information if you want to try and catch another show on the tour.