Recommended Theater: PIAF! THE SHOW (Global Tour at the Herbst in San Francisco)

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by Chuck Louden on October 16, 2023

in Theater-International,Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area,Tours


French cabaret singer Edith Piaf is one of the most celebrated performers of the 20th century. She began her career in France back in the 1940s singing as a street artist to earn money. With her unique cabaret style and her sad torch ballads about love, loss and sorrow, she worked her way up to brothels and nightclubs. By the end of her short career filled with personal tragedy, alcohol and drug use, she was filling concert halls — most notably the Paris Olympia. Her fame extended to the United States in the late 1950s and she guest starred on The Ed Sullivan Show eight times. In her signature black dress, she would perform her widely popular “La Vie en rose” (“Life in Pink”), “Non, je regrette rien”, and “L’Homme de Berlin”. Piaf died in 1963 at the young age of 47 due to liver disease.

This 60th Anniversary World Tour is a fantastic opportunity for Piaf fans old and new a chance to experience the work of this legendary singer. An impersonation turned into a celebration, at the beating heart of producer-director-writer Gil Marsalla’s solid salute is Nathalie Lermitte, who channels the French chanteuse while infusing her own style, capturing the spirit and songs with her captivating voice of the former Edith Giovanna Gassion (1915-1963), renamed the “Sparrow” for her plucky streetwise survivor skills. Bay Area fans can experience the music and sound of Edith Piaf for one night only (Nov. 6) at The Herbst in San Francisco.

In the first act an ever-enchanting young Piaf is discovered interacting with her superb four-man band, singing up her first storms on the streets of Montmartre and the steps to Sacre Coeur. Archival footage — Parisian postcard projections; vintage newsreel excerpts; and unreleased photographs (including a montage of Edith’s many lovers)  — beautifully detail her life and times. (The band is Philippe Villa on piano; Frederic Viale on accordion; Benoît Pierron on percussions and xylophone; and Gilliard Lopez on double bass.)

Catnip to Piaf lovers, the second act will display the standards to great effect. Along with the always entrancing “Les Feuilles Mortes”, Lermitte will give us the Sparrow with her peppy evocation of the man with the motorcycle; the percussive pageant of her love-laden “Padam…Padam”; the delirious waltz “La Foule”; the plea for passion “Mon Dieu”; and, of course, the poignant “Hymne à l’amour”, one of many signature songs to an emotion she all but patented.

photos courtesy of Directo Productions

PIAF! The Show
60th Anniversary World Tour
Gil Marsalla & Directo Productions (France)
starring French Sensation Nathalie Lermitte
Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness Ave in San Francisco
Monday, November 6, 2023 at 7:30pm
for tickets ($45 – $65), visit City Box Office
for more global tour dates and cities, visit PIAF

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