Piaf: Love Conquers All

  • Review by:
    Robert Rubin.

    A Review by Robert Rubin.

    Piaf: Love Conquers All, a one woman original musical drama, has opened at the SoHo Playhouse which is located at 15 Vandam Street in New York City. The show presents the life and loves of the French singer whose music reaches through generations and across the world.

    In this intimate drama Piaf shares her memories of hardship and joy. She talks about her struggles and victories during her career. The singer, who stood four feet ten inches tall, was born in 1915 in the streets of Paris. The production begins when Edith was a street singer in Paris. As a result of her dismal poverty she loses her young child to disease. Piaf is discovered in the streets by club owner Louis Leplee. After some sources spread rumors that Piaf had murdered Leplee, she becomes the world�s highest paid female singer of her time. She became known not only in Paris but around the globe. The play also deals with her despair from the death of the love of her life, a world champion boxer, in a plane crash. Along the way we witness her battle against Rheumatism, which crippled her health, her morphine addiction and her alcohol abuse. Her unique voice and her music still allowed her to perform for generations of fans. Along the way we hear fourteen songs, in French, which were made famous by Ms Piaf that seem to comment on the events in her life. However, for those who do not know French or the work of Ms Piaf they may not be able to follow this idea. These songs include �La Goualante Du Pauvre Jean�, �La Vie En Rose�, �C�est L�amour�, �Mon Dieu� and �Non Je Ne Regrette Rien�.

    The show was written by Roger Peach, a producer, director, writer, actor and lecturer for 45 years. His book gives us glimpses in the life of Piaf, but fails to give us a detailed dramatic incite into the many turning points into her life. He fails to really show us the extraordinarily gifted songbird. We are never able to understand that Piaf became a very famous chanteuse of France during the time that Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich were enjoying fame. The production never deals with how her songs epitomized the vulnerability of France, which was occupied by German. We never realize that the nation of France was in love with Edith Piaf. She appeared on stage in a plain black dress, a harsh spotlight on her, and she just sang her heart out. Audiences cried, laughed, and cheered. Instead we get a stretch of moments that changed the direction of her life.

    The role of Edith Piaf is played by Naomi Emmerson. She first portrayed Piaf in Toronto in 1993. She does a good job of acting out the vignettes of the main characters life and brings her famous songs to life. She does make us understand that the two things that were important to Piaf were that she had to sing and fall in love. Ms Emmerson has also designed the rather sparse setting. It was a good idea to use projections of the places in which the story takes place. However, the production quickly forgets about this idea and uses only two projections. The music is provided by Carmela Sinco at the acoustic piano who does a nice job, but perhaps the addition of an another instrument would help give a little more drama to the production.

    Although the overall production is acceptable and Ms. Emmerson brings life to the production, in the end we realize that this dramatic musical seems to lack the fire that was the life of Edith Piaf.

    Robert Rubin