Saturday, November 29, 2008

Piaf (The SOB Review)

Piaf (The SOB Review) - Vaudeville Theatre, London, United Kingdom

** (out of ****)

There are really only two worthwhile reasons to see the current, limited Donmar Warehouse West End transfer of Pam Gems' Piaf. And while those two reasons alone can't save Jamie Lloyd's 95-minute production from the mess it is, they've ironicly kept me from recommending against seeing the show.

Unfortunately, the play with music Gems has written comes across as a greatest hits package, and not necessarily of the tuneful variety. The game cast practically needs a revolving door to keep up with the show's many scrapes, murder, boxing jabs, car accidents and even plane crash. Although cast members shift from one portrayal to the next rather effortlessly, the audience is left to fend for itself in figuring out who's who. Most context and character development is left purely to the imagination, betraying the difficult, heartwrenching existence of the eponymous singer.

So thank goodness for Little Sparrows. Those two reasons for seeing the show I alluded to at the top that eclipse the madness on stage?

First is the opportunity to enjoy a live performance of the timeless songbook from the legendary "Little Sparrow" Edith Piaf. Second is to have it delivered by the abundantly assured and captivating actress Elena Roger in the title role. Just as she dazzled in last year's West End revival of Evita, once again, Roger proves a sensation. Succeeding in eerily channeling Piaf, Roger soars to make for one of the year's most extraordinary and magical performances, almost in spite of the ill-conceived production around her.

I for one can't wait to see what she does next and can only hope that Broadway is paying attention.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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