I spent Friday evening listening to Edith Piaf sing at Carnegie Hall in the '50s.
Actually, the event was Piaf! The Show, we were in the Fifties in NYC and the singer was Anne Carrere, but close enough — Carrere hauntingly summons Piaf's vocal stylings so beautifully it has been said she possesses the legend's instrument at her peak. In a warm, witty rendering of all the songs Piaf made famous, Carrere's challenge was to inhabit Piaf's unique style while giving us flashes of her own personality.
Act I consisted of early Piaf, 16 French numbers performed with gusto by Carrere and her tight band. Carrere looked the part enough to create an illusion but not enough to appear to be a caricature. The crowd was eating from the palm of her hand, so delighted were they to be hearing songs in what was likely the native language of more than a few.
After an intermission, Carrere & Co. returned for 12 more tunes, these more modern and among Piaf's signature hits. With each number the crowd grew more enthusiastic, awaiting the inevitable arrival of “La Vie en Rose” and “Non, Je ne Regrette Rien.” Carrere performed cheekily, leaving the stage to flirt with audience members, some of whom were all to eager to flirt back. (When she approached a woman, the attendee stood and shook her breasts, which earned her a skip.)
The only less than perfect part of the evening was when a creepy guy overeagerly volunteered to dance with Carrere onstage. Even seated, his body movements were disturbingly suggestive, threatening to kill the buzz of an incredibly emotional and faultlessly classy evening for Carrere, who was debuting at Carnegie Hall 60 years after Piaf's famed gig there. Her own respect for Piaf and her charm as a newcomer to the world stage won out.
Wayward audience members aside, the evening was magical, driven by Carrere's indefatigable growl and her sweetness in admitting to us how much it meant for her to be able to bring us those songs in that place in that context.
For us, too, and for any big fan of Piaf; this is a show that can't be missed. Let it pass you by and you will regret it.
Piaf!: The Show has about 400 upcoming shows scheduled through 2019 in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Info here.
Set list after the jump ...