Gay Marshall Performs Piaf: Queen of Heart
The Metropolitan Room
34 West 22nd St.
New York, NY 10010
(Btw. 5th & 6th Ave.)
Gay Marshall on Vocals
Eric Svejcar on Piano and Musical Direction
Deni Bonet on Violin
Martha Colby on Cello
Steve Gilewski on Bass
Bill Schimmel on Accordion
Press: Savoy Communications
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 4, 2010
(See a CD Review of Gay Marshall Singing Piaf)
Gay Marshall sings Piaf with an impressive French accent and tone, evocative of “The Little Sparrow”. She sings in both English and French, and tonight’s repertoire was expansive, as she sang her way through 14 of Piaf’s renowned tunes, beginning with “Padam” and ending with “L’Hymne à L’Amour”. Ms. Marshall has her own stage image, quite different from Piaf’s, with a dark fedora, long brown braids, and jokes about the French. When she walks into a song, her music is evocative of Piaf’s music, especially in French, though sometimes lyrics are emphasized to bond with the audience.
While “Padam” (Contet-Glanzberg) was performed in French, “Les Amants d’Un Jour” (Delécluse-Senlis-Monnot) was sung in English with emotional affect. “Enfin Le Printemps” (Rouzaud-Monnot), although in French, was accompanied by a wit-filled monologue. Ms. Marshall presents herself with an aggressive audience repartee about her life in Paris and impressions of the French, a self-showcasing demeanor. She speaks of Piaf with mixed impressions. Piaf was poignant and vulnerable, romantic and genuine. Ms. Marshall goes off-message, remarking about Obama and the way the French treated her as “The United States”. She should stick to the songs.
It should be noted that the band was superb throughout the evening, with soulful cello effects, a vibrant accordion in Parisian motif, and lively, melodic bass and piano. “La Belle Histoire d’Amour” (Piaf-Dumont), in English, was once again ornamented with Ms. Marshall’s self references and some unpleasant comments about Piaf’s “reputation”. I had expected a sophisticated homage to Piaf, whose music was the essence of her show. “Le Ballet des Coeurs” (Rivegauche-Glanzberg), in French and English, was one of my favorites, a piece that involved a love triangle, and it was sung in a very moving manner. “Elle Frequentait La Rue Pigalle” (Asso-Matrier) and the iconic “L’Accordeoniste” (Emer) followed. Bill Schimmel, tonight’s accordionist, shone in the spotlight.
“Avec Ce Soleil” (Larue-Gérard) and “Les Blouses Blanches” (Rivegauche-Monnot) are both lesser known works, and, according to Ms. Marshall, the second song related to “men in white shirts at a detox clinic”. It was an inspired composition. However, shockingly, Ms. Marshall had ranted about Piaf not being able to survive in 2010, “to be online or go to the gym”. She should have raised the audience’s appreciation of this quintessential French music, not lowered her cabaret show to diminish the star of her gorgeous music. “Le Vieux Piano” (Contet-Leveillé), featuring Eric Svejcar on piano, almost reached the level of refinement and tact that I longed for. Ms. Marshall told a poignant story about a “dead piano” and a soldier, who had shot everyone at a Club, except one old lady. She sang with requisite sadness and polish.
“La Foule” (Rivegauche-Cabral), one of my longtime Piaf favorites, was sung in two languages with urgency and dynamism, while “Le Droit D’Aimer” (Nyel-Lai) is about the right to love one whom you choose, as Piaf married Théo, who was 20 years younger, a former hairdresser. “Milord” (Moustaki) finished the show, with an encore or two. Last time I was in Paris, I attended an all evening cabaret of Piaf songs, with an impersonator, who sounded and dressed remarkably like Piaf. She never spoke once to the audience. This was Paris. She sang all night, and I still think of that dim, surreal show. Over the years, I’ve been to several Piaf cabarets, and they were all fine tributes to this renowned and celebrated French chanteuse. Ms. Marshall has the musical talent and accent to mount such a show. However, tonight she should have stayed with the music. At the beginning of the show, Ms. Marshall admonished a guest for using a no-flash camera, so I did not use mine.
You can experience live jazz and cabaret at The Metropolitan Room year-round, by clicking onto www.metropolitanroom.com.