If it's offbeat revues you're after, make a beeline to the short-run Street Singer: Celebrating the Life of Edith Piaf at 42West Nightclub, and make it fast. Tonight's performance (May 16) is the last, pending a possible return engagement.
For the unexpected enterprise, choreographer Pascal Rioult has the ever-intrepid Christine Andreas reprising the iconic Parisienne's signature tunes (okay, most of them but not "The Poor People of Paris"), while 10 of his dancers act out the emotions with which the heart-felt ditties burst.
Your first question might be: Does Andreas even sound like Piaf? The answer is an astounding yes. Not much taller than Piaf and similarly piquant, she's got the famous vibrato down pat. Moreover, she packs the deep feelings so well into them in the actual Piaf's absence that it comes as a shock to learn she doesn't speak French. That she doesn't may explain why occasionally her pronunciations aren't as impeccably crisp as her predecessor's habitually were.
Rioult's choreography--he's always especially responsive to French music--ranges wide along the rather narrow runway on which he works. Some of it is amusing, some of it romantic, some of it a bit tawdry. He really goes to town on his version of an apache done to, of all things, "La Vie en Rose."
The man himself indulges a certain amount of moving. Portly now, he's most effective when impersonating the boxer Marcel Celan, who--as all Piaf's idolizers know--was the love of her life and the great loss when he died in a plane crash.
Yes, part of the celebration of the street singer is a narration that Andreas, using a French accent, speaks. It's not extremely comprehensive but more along serviceable lines. Piaf's low birth and paternal abuse are covered, as is her fast rise when plucked from the rues and boulevards by impresario Louis Leplee, who isn't mentioned by name.
Curiously, while Piaf's appearing in Pigalle is recalled at least twice, no mention of her 11th arrondisement upbringing is included. That's her beloved Belleville, and she considered herself a Bellevilloise. After all, Piaf isn't buried in Pigalle's Montmartre cimetiere. She's interred in Pere Lachaise, not more than a short stone's throw from the gutters where she first warbled in her guttural tones for spare coins.
In case you're wondering, the songs--arranged by Don Rebic, who's at the piano--are, with few exceptions, sung in French. When Andreas delivers them in English, anyone who understands the French lyrics may not care for the translations. That's certainly still true of Mack David's "La Vie en Rose" version.
In the Charles Dumont-Michel Vaucaire "Non Je ne Regrette Rien," where Piaf insists she regrets nothing, she might have changed her mind and regretted some of the translations she was required to perform.