BWW Interview: Vivian Reed on the Edith Piaf Celebration and Importance of 'Passion'

Producers Daniel Nardicio and Andy Brattain will honor Edith Piaf, the iconic French songstress on her actual 100th Birthday with PIAF: A CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION with stars from Broadway, London's West End, Jazz, Cabaret and Rock 'n' Roll. Starring Elaine Paige, Christine Ebersole,Marilyn Maye, Vivian Reed, Little Annie, Gay Marshall, Molly Pope, Amber Martin, Aaron Weinstein and Meow Meow, the concert will take place on Saturday, December 19, 2015 at 8:00 PM at The Town Hall (123 West 43rd Street). Backed by the 15-piece American Pops Orchestra conducted by Luke Frazier, this one-of-a-kind event brings the eclectic styles of ten incredible performers in one room to interpret Piaf's legendary catalog. The evening will be hosted by Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies.

Broadwayworld spoke with Vivian Reed, two-time Tony nominee, about her upcoming performance at the Celebration and why Edith Piaf's "passion" is universal.

Can you explain a little bit about what the Edith Piaf Centennial Celebration is?

It's a celebration of Edith Piaf's life. She's from Paris, and I lived in Paris also for about seven years. I went over there with the show I was doing on Broadway called Bubbling Brown Sugar. I went there and we were at the Theatre de Paris. After that, Pierre Cardin's PR person asked me if I'd be interested in performing at Pierre's theatre, ESPACE PIERRE CARDIN. I said sure, and they worked it out over the next year. Then I went over there and ended up staying for seven years. I would come back and forth though to the United States to look after my apartment and see my parents. That's when I became very much aware of Edith Piaf. Her life was just amazing. I think what I love the most about her work is her ability to deal with lyrics in such a dramatic way. It's what I'm known for as well; maybe that is what draws me to her. I try to explain to my students that you don't have to have the greatest voice in the world, but you must be able to communicate with the audience and tell the story. That's what she did so amazingly. I'm so honored to be a part of this celebration of her life.

How did you get involved with this concert?

Daniel, one of the producers, had seen me perform at a few places and had me at Fire Island to do a big show there. He sent a message to my manager to ask me if I would be interested in doing the Celebration. I had to check my schedule, but I was free, and of course I said yes.

Do you have a favorite Edith Piaf song?

It's probably everybody's, but [I love] "La Vie en rose." I also like "Non je ne regrette rien," which means I don't regret anything. There's a couple, but the favorite would be "La Vie en rose." I think she was one of the writers. Grace Jones had a big disco hit with that. It's a very popular, famous song. She's had several others that are famous as well.

Do you know what songs you'll be singing at the concert?

Honey, I better know by now! I'm singing "Mon dieu," and another song called "Heaven Have Mercy." "Mon dieu" is going to be half in French and half in English. "Heaven Have Mercy" is all English. Everything she did was dramatic. Many of her songs dealt with love, sorrow and unrequited love, and these two songs are no different.

Are you excited to work with all of these amazing artists?

Marilyn Maye and I did Sondheim Unplugged together. Gay Marshall I met years ago, so yes this is a wonderful lineup of artists.

Why do you feel it's important to honor Edith Piaf?

There are not too many singers like her. I'm talking about a woman who was absolutely wonderful on the stage while she told her stories, but she came from very humble beginnings having sung out on the street. When I found that out it made me think of so many great artists who are unsung in New York City: these street artists. You go down to the Subway and hear them singing and think "Oh my god. If only someone could just give them a break." She started on the street and was discovered there. People fell in love with her because they could identify with many messages that she conveyed through her music. That's probably the key ingredient that makes an audience come time and time again to hear you. The communication is so important. There are probably a lot of young people who haven't hear of Edith Piaf, but when you hear some of the songs and messages, you can't help but want to know more about her. When I first moved to Paris, I didn't understand the language that well. With Edith Piaf, even if you might not understand what she's saying, you fall in love with the passion in her voice. I think they have the right line-up of artists to deliver her songs. I'm excited; I think people are going to be impressed.

PIAF: A CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION will take place on Saturday, December 19, 2015 at 8:00 PM at The Town Hall (123 West 43rd Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues in New York). Tickets, which range from $55 to $200, are available at VIP packages are available, which include access to an intimate after-party with the performers.

Vivian Reed is a two-time Tony Award Nominee (Bubbling Brown Sugar & The High Rollers Social & Pleasure Club), Drama Desk Award Winner, Outer Critics Circle Award Winner & has received an NAACP Award as well. She studied at the Juilliard School of Music and has sustained a dynamic career as an actress, singer and dancer on the stage and screen. In addition to several appearances on The Tonight Show, The Today Show and the ABC-TV daytime drama, One Life to Live, Ms. Reed took on the role of Josephine Baker in the film Le Rumba. Selected by People Magazine as one of the '25 Most Intriguing People of the Year, Vivian Reed has captured the hearts of audiences all over the world and continues to share her wealth of knowledge and experience as a 'celebrity vocal teacher' on the staff of Marymount College, in New York City.

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