Edith Piaf, known as France’s national chanteuse, had a very complex life. Abandoned by her mother and raised in a brothel, she worked her way from singing on the streets to become an international star. During World War II, she sang at prisoner-of-war camps where she was instrumental in helping a number of prisoners escape.
Now, Tony-nominated Broadway star and cabaret sensation, Christine Andreas, brings Piaf’s complicated persona and transformative music to the Orinda Theatre’s concert series April 23 with her new show, Piaf – No Regrets.
“At first, I had a misconception about Piaf. Many people think of her as this poor, tragic soul, but she was so much more than that. She was magnificent,” said Andreas. “Yes, her life was crazy and eccentric, but she lived it on her own terms. She broke through so many barriers as a woman and as a performer. As a composer, she wrote over 100 songs. What a soul!”
In Andreas’ show, she takes Piaf out of this tragic myth to show what a great artist she was and how she reflected the tumultuous time in which she lived. To accomplish this, Andreas added slides and videos – some featuring Piaf singing.
“It’s really more of a theater piece than a cabaret show. I added four to five beautiful speeches by poet and writer Drew Harris. They help put you in Piaf’s world,” she said.
A consummate performer, Andreas’ starring roles on Broadway include The Scarlet Pimpernel, Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady (opposite the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Ian Richardson), Light in the Piazza and La Cage Aux Folles with Kelsey Grammar.
Her concert work has taken her to such esteemed venues as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and London’s West End.
Andreas performed to a sold-out crowd last May as part of the concert series with Love Is Good and looks forward to sharing her enthusiasm about the music and personality of Edith Piaf.
Also making the show special is Andreas’ husband, Grammy Award-nominated composer, producer and pianist Marty Silvestri.
“Marty does an awful lot in the show,” said Andreas. “He’s not just a pretty face playing the piano up there. But I’m keeping his contribution a surprise.”
As to working with her husband, Andreas said, “We challenge each other in a good way. He’s the best showman I’ve ever worked with.”
The complexity of Piaf’s music drew Andreas to her songs. She was captivated by how Piaf could transport listeners to another world through her music.
“At the end of a performance, the audience should feel like they’ve been taken somewhere, that their hearts have been opened. They should feel their humanity, in a good way,” Andreas said, who challenges herself to dig deeper into the meaning of every song each time she sings.
Piaf No Regrets plays April 23 at 5 p.m. at the Orinda Theatre, 2 Orinda Theatre Square. Seating is reserved and is expected to sell out. For tickets, visit www.orindamovies.com.
Sally Hogarty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.