I’ve never really came from a musical family but one thing I always remember is listening to my grandfather’s records of his favourite singer, French Chanteuse Edith Piaf, and last night at the Leicester Square Theatre I had a chance to learn more about the ‘Little Sparrow’ as Sally Jones presented her wonderful tribute show “No Regrets”
The show starts with a projected montage of scenes of Paris and pictures of Edith Piaf herself and then Sally, a vision in a black sequined evening gown comes on the stage. Sally starts off by telling the audience that this is not going to be an impression or impersonation of Edith, and it definitely isn’t. Performed with a simple stage in the intimate space of the Studio, “No Regrets” is not just a tribute show but an exploration of the life of Piaf interspersed with some of her most famous songs. And what a fascinating life this lady had. As with all the great divas, drama and tragedy seem to be a prerequisite to fame and success, but by goodness Edith really took it to the extreme. Abandoned by her mother, raised in a brothel, pregnant by the age of 17, discovered on a Parisian street by a nightclub owner at 19, the extraordinary tales of her life are just too numerous to catalogue but Sally does a wonderful job in telling the story all the way through. Along with some fascinating tales, the most interesting fact that came out was how little, even now, is actually known about Edith, for example her war record, where she seems to be equally condemned as a collaborator and celebrated as a hero of the resistance.
Then there are the songs. Apparently Edith recorded over 300 songs which is a heck of a lot to choose from and the choices made were excellent starting with the excellent ‘Padam Padam which not only got the audience singing along with the chorus but also reminded me how long it has been since I learned French at school and how much of it I had forgotten. But, as with opera, the language is not a problem. Without understanding the words, the emotion of the lyrics comes shining through picking up and holding the audience’s attention throughout. Even allowing for my grandfather’s interest in Edith Piaf, I was amazed at how many of the songs I knew, at least to hum along with, and even singing the chorus line ‘on n’est rien du tout’
A lot of this is, of course, down to the performance and Sally Jones is a consummate performer bringing all her musical theatre experience to each song. I was lucky enough to see Sally’s other tribute show “Get Happy, the Judy Garland Story” last week and it was a real pleasure to be in her presence again. Sally has a lovely way of working with an audience using her warm personality and lively sense of humour to tell the tale of someone she obviously loves immensely. The entire evening is a tribute to Sally’s skills as an actress and singer and as the final lines of the immortal ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’ faded into the distance I was conscious that I had just witnessed 90 minutes of pure unadulterated entertainment.
Review by Terry Eastham
NO REGRETS – THE LIFE STORY & SONGS OF EDITH PIAF
Leicester Square Theatre on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd May.
Sunday 3rd May 2015