by Marilyn Lester
Gay Marshal is a petite fille de grandes capacities – a diminutive performer who has a lot of energy, enthusiasm and vocal prowess. Her Gay’s Paree! is a bonbon aigre-doux, a wry love-hate ode to the City of Lights, long on the love, short on the “hate,” and tinged with much humor and amusement. Her rendition of “J’suis Snob “ (Jimmy Walter/Boris Vian/G Marshall), for example, was dead funny as was her opener, “Another Song About Paris” (Dave Frishberg). The sum total of Marshall’s show is one of captivating entertainment, complete with an illustrated, guided tour via a 3D “map” of mini wood blocks. Moreover, Marshal embodies joie de vivre; she’s relaxed and personal. As she navigates her way through the evening the mood she creates is a one-on-one ambience. The two of you might be chatting casually over a citron pressé at a neighborhood boîte. No matter if your table-mate bursts into song now and again.
Marshall, who says she had “Francophilia thrust upon her,” was already well on her way there, having discovered Edith Piaf and eventually marrying a French homme. Gay’s Paree is light on Piaf, but then again, this is a show not about the little Sparrow, but about Gay. Her “Les Feuilles Mortes” (Joseph Cosma/ Jacques Prêvert) did reveal a few things about Marshall, including that she can sing in the Piaf style as well as in her own decidedly American way, with control over the nasal quality that characterized Piaf, as well as many other French singers. Marshall’s diction is superb to the point of making a foreign language comprehensible to the American ear. She also is a savvy translator of the material into English, able to stick closer to the true meaning of the French words than many of the accepted commercial versions, as with her expert rendering of “Les Feuilles Mortes,” which in English became “Autumn Leaves.”
The source of Marshall’s ire with her beloved Paris is that she is too American, and never quite assimilated the French mindset. But “А Paris” (Francis Lemarque), “Les Grands Boulevards” (Norbert Glanzberg/Jacques Plante) and “Sous le Ciel de Paris” (Hubert Giraud / Jean Drêjac /G Marshall) are her love songs to the city. There’s much nostalgia and memory in Gay’s Paree!. For a remembered actor with a drinking problem she sings a soulful “La Bohême” (Charles Aznavour/ Jacques Plante/G Marshall), and for a homeless man who put money in her hat when she once, like Piaf, performed in the street, “Stone” (Michel Berger/ Luc Plamandon/Tim Rice). Marshall also performed on the famous Bateaux Parisiens, the boats that ply the waters of the Seine. On the boats Jacques Brel was a popular request, including “La Chanson des Vieux Amants” (Jacques Brel/G Marshall), “Quand On n’a Que L’amour” (Jacques Brel/ Eric Blau/Mort Shuman). Brel was also a rousing part of Marshall’s tour de force and powerful, knock-out ending, a medley of “Les Grognards/La Colombe/Sons of-Pierre Delanoл” (Hubert Giraud/Jacques Brel, Alistair Clayre/Jacques Brel, Eric Blau, Mort Shuman).
It turns out too that Music Director and pianist Ian Herman plays the piano in French as well as English! Herman’s romantic artistry was like a full-bodied, fine-vintaged wine, complementing perfectly the main course of gourmet performance.
Gay’s Paree! Gay Marshall at Pangea, March 15 2017 at 7:30 PM
Pangea, 178 Second Ave., 212-995-0900, www.pangeanyc.com