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BWW Review: CHRISTINE ANDREAS: PIAF, NO REGRETS from The Cabaret Project Of St. Louis Hits Every Spectacular Note Possible

Filmmaker Emilie Silvestri captures, to perfection, this musical biography on film.

BWW Review: CHRISTINE ANDREAS: PIAF, NO REGRETS from The Cabaret Project Of St. Louis Hits Every Spectacular Note Possible

When I was a kid I was wildly interested in the theater, in Broadway, in music, and in singers - I hungered for it. I yearned for culture and art; while other kids were playing dodgeball and kick the can, I was at the local library checking out books and record albums so I could feed my soul. At a certain point I discovered PBS, where I could see theatrical productions filmed for television, and that became my lifeline to Broadway, to theater, to music. Even during my college years I sought out and found televised theater and music programs that made me feel closer to the metropolitan world of the artistic and the aesthetes. Those television programs kept me alive and thriving, and that is not hyperbole, it is just fact.

Watching Emilie Silvestri's new film Christine Andreas: PIAF, NO REGRETS was like getting in a time machine and returning to the days of my youth, there to savor that thrilling, exciting, life-saving experience once more.

Created for The Cabaret Project of St. Louis' virtual series TRIBUTES, this hour-long film documents Ms. Andreas's nightclub act, but the cinematic creation goes far beyond a filmed recording of a cabaret show. Director/editor Silvestri honors Andreas, Piaf, and the original club act by approaching the project as a piece of theater, which is what this is: a play masquerading as a cabaret. Ms. Andreas is not playing Edith Piaf in the play but La Mome is right on the stage with her, thanks to the writing and acting. With a seamlessly constructed script by her own hand, Ms. Andreas takes what might have been a perfectly fine tribute show and turns it into an electrifying biography play, introducing the audience to Piaf and Andreas as colleagues, as women, as singers, as sisters. Listening to a singer of Andreas' caliber discuss the act of singing, watching her break down Piaf's technique and emotional approach enhances the experience of her own work and that of Piaf, seen throughout in rare film clips. At the start, Piaf is shown in performance footage that segues to Andreas singing the same song, a natural transition, even though the two artists have vastly different styles and sounds. That which makes the progression innate is the individuality of each performer, the ferocity with which they approach the material, and, like Piaf before her, Christine Andreas eats this material. You can feel her feel it to the deepest place in her soul, to the marrow, and when she feels the fervor, so do you.

Don't worry, you won't be feeling suicidal from all the misfortune - that's not what this play is about. Ms. Andreas addresses it early in the show: this is not about the great tragic figure that people usually think of when they hear the name Edith Piaf. Unlike the wonderful film La Vie En Rose, the story that Christine and Edith are telling in this biographical entertainment is not about Piaf's unhappiness. Oh, sure, it gets mentioned, but so does all the good stuff, too - the joy, the gaiety, the adventure, the triumph. With appropriate levity, Ms. Andreas dispels rumors, confirms truths, talks of Edith, talks to Edith, and brings her to the audience, as she brings the audience to both of them. Like Piaf, Andreas is wonderfully theatrical, a gift she does not deign to hide from the camera. She knows when to be Christine on the street and when to be Christine in the spotlight, embracing the bigger aspects of performance storytelling, equally, between song and anecdote, returning to straight speak in asides to an audience that only she sees, an audience that never applauds - and it works here because we at home are applauding the tour de force performance, filmed on the stage of the Katharine Hepburn Theater in Connecticut. Transitioning from English to French as easily as inhaling and exhaling, Andreas gives everything she's got - she simply knows no other way, one of the qualities that render her the perfect vessel for Piaf's story and music.

Christine Andreas: Piaf, No Regrets is a masterpiece in every sense of the word - as a live entertainment it must be a magnificent piece of theater to behold, but thanks to Emilie Silvestri and her entire team of filmmakers, the show and Andreas' Herculean effort can now live on forever, and not just in the memory like some televised special from one's youth, but as a sensational piece of theatrical documentation. Assisted with panache and presence by musical director Martin Silvestri - a genius moving from piano to accordion as he provides all the support one could expect from a colleague or spouse - Christine Andreas bestows upon viewers one incomparable thrill after another, thrills that are a full-on family affair between the Silvestri's, including Emilie's boyfriend, arduously employed cinematographer Nathan Golon, whose camerawork is beyond compare.

And leading the way for this family of four artistic wonders is their guardian legend, Edith Piaf, still alive and still an inspiration in this new age of virtual theater.

Don't miss this one.

Christine Andreas: PIAF, NO REGRETS presented by The Cabaret Project of St. Louis

Streaming February 20th & February 27th
Available 7:30 pm - midnight CENTRAL TIME both evenings

Tickets $25 can be purchased HERE

Visit The Cabaret Project of St. Louis website HERE

BWW Review: CHRISTINE ANDREAS: PIAF, NO REGRETS from The Cabaret Project Of St. Louis Hits Every Spectacular Note Possible

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