Theater Review: FORMIDABLE! (Aznavour 100th Anniversary World Tour at Town Hall in New York)

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by Paulanne Simmons on January 14, 2024

in Concerts / Events,Theater-International,Theater-New York


Charles Aznavour hoped to be still singing before audiences on his 100th birthday. Unfortunately, he died in 2018 at the age of 94. But Jules Grison is celebrating Aznavour’s 100th birthday in grand style, starring in Formidable! Aznavour 100th Anniversary World Tour. Produced and directed by Gil Marsalla, the man behind Piaf! The Show, the entertainment kicked off its international tour at New York City’s Town Hall on January 13.

photo by Marta Pich

Aznavour, who has been compared to Frank Sinatra, was a crooner. But like Sinatra, he was also comfortable with jazz and swing. And like Sinatra, he too mined the human soul to explore all the pain we are capable of enduring. Grison captures Aznavour’s warm, intimate and vulnerable style without ever resorting to simple imitation.

photo by Eric Carriere

Best known for his role in the French musical version of Romeo and Juliet, Grison is also passionate about Music Hall and French Variety Music. He has collaborated on several projects celebrating this music.

Backed by Phillipe Villa on piano, Frédéric Valle on accordion, Benoit Pierron on drums and Giliard Lopez on double bass, Grison sings a repertoire of Aznavour favorites, including “La Bohème,” “Hier encore” (“Yesterday When I Was Young”), “For Me Formidable” and “Sa jeunesse.” These songs remind us of the complexities and, too often, the pain of love. But they also celebrate Paris and the search for the meaning of life, while mourning the loss of youth and warning us of the fleeting passage of time.

photo by Marta Pich

Behind Grison, projected images highlight the beauty of Paris or create a special mood for the songs. This is especially noticeable when a burning candle diffuses romance as Grison dances with a woman he has selected from the audience.

At the end of the show, Grison, seated at the piano, plays and sings in English, alternating with the recorded voice of Aznavour. It is a powerful reminder that true talent survives eternally.

photo by Eric Carriere

Formidable! Aznavour 100th Anniversary World Tour
Town Hall, 123 West 43 Street
reviewed on Jan. 13, 2024
2 hours with intermission
for future dates and cities, visit Formidable!

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