Gay Marshall Sings Piaf

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by Joe Regan Jr.

 

On March 7 a sold out house assembled at the Metropolitan Room to experience Gay Marshall’s new show on Edith Piaf entitled Gay Marshall Sings Piaf.  After appearing on Broadway in A Chorus Line, Marshall moved to Paris.  Marshall discovered Piaf’s Montmartre and fell in love with and married a Frenchman, Jean-Louis Blondeau, a photographer and logistic expert.   Last year Marshall appeared in Piaf A Centennial Celebration at Town Hall.  The show is full of Marshall’s personal history adjusting to French customs with many language malapropisms in her first days in Paris, and funny instances with her French stepchildren.  In a black slouched hat and pants suit, Marshall sings many of the Piaf songs in her own English translations.  Her patter is full of humorous jokes about herself.

Marshall has a stronger and more melodic voice than Piaf ever had.  I saw Piaf at the Biltmore in Los Angeles years ago and I have never forgotten that performance and still can see Piaf doing “Bravo For The Clown“ and “La Galante de Pauvre Jean“ which became the U.S. hit instrumental “The Poor People of Paris.”

Marshall started with one of Piaf’s most famous songs, “L’Accordeoniste.” in English.  Ross Patterson, her superb music director and pianist, makes the piano sound like an accordion.

When Marshall sings a song in French, she tells us what the words mean.  When she alternates between English and French, as in “Les Amants d’Un Jour,” she lets us know the sorrow of two lovers renting a room in which to die.  That song, as well as many of Piaf’s repertoire, was written by Marguerite Monnet.  Up front Marshall informed us that we would not be hearing the happy songs that Piaf sang.  One stunning song, “Les Blouses Blanches” was the reminiscences of a woman in a padded cell in an asylum, thinking the white straitjacket is a wedding gown!

When Piaf was appearing in New York City in 1949, she insisted that the great love of her life, the married champion boxer, Marcel Cedan, fly to New York rather than take a boat.  The plane crashed and he died.  Piaf wrote a song about that lost love, “Le Belle Histoire d’Amour,” and how she could never forget him.  If a new man came into her life, she will see her dead lover’s eyes in his eyes, and vows that she will never be happy again until she embraces him in the next world.  Marshall does a heart-breaking version of this song with the English lyrics she has written.

Much later, Piaf caused a scandal with a new lover, 20 years her junior, Theo Sarapo.  Marshall defiantly sang the justification song written by Francis Lai for that love “Le Droit D‘Aimer.”

During the course of the act Marshall talked about all of Piaf’s health problems including several car accidents, her alcoholism, and how she became addicted to the pain killing drugs she was fed during her life.  Never saving any money, Piaf was forced to work even when sick.

There was a full version of Piaf’s hit “Padam” which had Marshall’s audience cheering.  Right after that, Marshall sang “La Foule,” a bouncy song about going out into the steamy crowds on Carnival night and being thrust against a great love, the mob suddenly tearing them apart and she never found her new love again.

One of Piaf’s most famous popular hits was “Milord.”  Marshall sang her own English lyrics which were different from other English versions I‘ve heard, but faithful to the spirit of the French lyrics.  The audience joyfully clapped along rhythmically on this standard.

For her encores, Marshall did the requested “La Vie En Rose,” in English and French, and then finished with the 1960 song that became Piaf‘s anthem “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.”

Gay Marshall’s CD Gay Marshall Sings PIAF la Vie l’amour is available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon and other digital retailers.

Gay Marshall Sings PIAF will repeat April 4 at 9:30 PM at the Metropolitan Room, 34 W. 22 Street, New York (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.)  Reservations are a must.  Call 212-206-0440 or go online to www.metropolitanroom.com

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