Piaf: The Legend is not so much a tribute act – more an act of tribute. Mandy Meadows, who was raised on a sheep farm in New Zealand, had a wash, and arrived at the Brasserie Zedel’s wonderful Crazy Coqs cabaret space, is, as she herself confesses, nothing like Edith Piaf – “the Little Sparrow” – in stature, shape, deportment or lifestyle. But boy, can she sing. Backed by a strong five-piece band that boasts a magnificent accordion player, Meadows belts out the Piaf classics with verve, style, oomph and a mesmerising musicality. But the ultimate charm of this show is that Meadows intersperses each number with snippets from the life of the Great French Chanteuse, taking us on a gentle, if at times harrowing, journey around the streets, markets and nightclubs of pre-and-post-war Paris, in search of the soul that inspired the diminutive singer’s infectious magic.
We hear about Piaf’s childhood blindness and how a group of Ladies of the Night saved up to get her a cure; how she lost her own two-year-old daughter to meningitis; how she helped French prisoners escape during the war; how the love of her life, boxer Marcel Cerdan, was killed in a ‘plane crash after Piaf had persuaded him to take a flight, rather than the much longer trip by sea, from Paris to New York; how she survived three car crashes but
succumbed to morphine and alcohol addictions as a consequence; and, ultimately, how she discovered almost by accident her signature tune by a composer – Charles Dumont – whom she detested, with the iconic lyric by
Michel Vaucaire, and which will ever be associated with “France’s National Chanteuse” – Non, je ne regrette rien. It’s a life that infuses every note that Piaf sings with pure soul and Meadows is adept at emulating it.
All this is recounted by Meadows with a passionate lightness of touch that helps us understand the songs and their significance to Piaf and her story. And the songs themselves are an explosion of vibrant emotion-twanging
excitement that grabs the audience by the heart-strings and delivers rapturous applause. Meadows may not look like Piaf but she certainly performs like her. There’s the iconic torch ballad La vie en rose; the pulsating semi-rocker Padam, Padam; the jaunty, cheeky, circus-like Milord – which reminds us that Piaf’s father was a circus and street performer whom she sang with as a child; the classic house-down-bringer, L’hymme de l’amour and, of course, Non, je ne regrette rien which Piaf saw as her own personal life-defining eulogy.
Meadows delivers the songs with flair and panache and that authentic throaty French uvular trill that was Piaf’s trademark characteristic and she manages to create that mysterious je ne sais quoi that Piaf’s music was, and still is, imbued with. It’s a great show – catch it if you can.
Review by Peter Yates
Don your finest Breton shirt and twist your tiny moustache in preparation for the classiest, funniest, tear-jerkiest evening in town.
International singer, Mandy Meadows, is back for the French Fest after every Piaf: The Legend show in 2018 sold out from Verdi, Royal Albert Hall to a private yacht in Corsica.
This is not another tribute, this is a celebration and reflection on Edith Piaf’s extraordinary view on love and tragedy. The show will be backed by six-piece authentic French band including accordion and clarinet.
Mandy invites you to enjoy outrageousness, simplicity and joie de vivre of Edith Piaf. More than merely a singer, Edith survived the death of her daughter at two, the murder of her mentor, the fatal plane crash of her married lover, the overdose of her mother – all while becoming one of the most iconic figures in French music and history.
Who was this 4ft 8in circus born waif? How did she save the lives of hundreds of prisoners of war? What can we learn from her short life?
20th March 2019