Review Roundup: PIAF by Atlantis Productions; Show Closes 3/23

PIAF's cast during curtain call (photo credit: Bobby Garcia)

Manila, Philippines, March 17, 2013 -- Atlantis Productions (Disney's "Aladdin," "Rock of Ages") kicks off its new theater season with British playwright Pam Gem's reworked version of her original late '70s play "Piaf," which is a bio-drama with music based on the life and career of Edith Piaf, one of France's most popular performers during World War II.

Pinky Amador, "Miss Saigon" original London cast alum and one of the best actresses in the Philippines, stars as the legendary chanteuse.

"Piaf," directed by Bobby Garcia ("Next to Normal," Disney's "Aladdin"), puts together more than 25 of Piaf's most enduring songs such as "La Vie En Rose," "Hymn to Love," and "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien."

Actors Giselle Tongi-Walters, who is making her musical theater debut, Ima Castro, Jamie Wilson, Reuben Uy, Altair Alonso, Hans Eckstein, Mako Alonso, Nel Gomez, and Sandino Martin join Amador on stage at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium.

Below are excerpts from reviews:

Vladimir Bunoan, And she [Amador] gave such a fully committed performance that she practically disappears in the role, deteriorating right before our eyes, as she embraced Piaf's crude, foul-mouthed arrogance while carrying the singer's heavy emotional baggage of grief and despair, as well as hope.

Her nervous meltdown that ends Act One after the love of Piaf's life, the boxer Marcel, dies in a plane crash is already worth the price of the ticket. Her singing has never been this resonant, powerful yet highly emotional, an acting performance in itself.

Walter Ang, Philippine Daily Inquirer: In Atlantis Productions' "Piaf," audiences are greeted by a room made of wide, drab, wooden panels and crumbling shutters that reach the rafters, a visual metaphor for the vast, high-reaching yet damaged life of the play's titular French chanteuse.

Atmospherically lit by Martin Esteva, Faust Peneyra's set uses the same shutters to half-reveal and half-hide a red marquee sign with Piaf's name. In other words-can we truly ever know the real Edith Piaf?

Fortunately, the glimpses that can be gleaned from her life is delivered in spades, thanks to Pinky Amador who portrays Edith Gassion, later named Piaf (sparrow), with an almost unbelievable force.

Amador fully embodies Piaf from her naïve, crude beginnings to her brash, wild peak, and then her fragile, withering last days-always exuding a strength of character that never wanes, even when Piaf becomes an invalid, both physically and emotionally.

Johann dela Fuente's makeup design and wig styling certainly helps the physical transformation take place.

And the singing! It feels as if Amador has swallowed a subwoofer and ten speakers, the way she volleys blasts of her powerful voice at the audience, especially in the final songs for both acts, "La Belle Histoire D'Amour" (Beautiful Love Story) and "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" (No, I Don't Regret a Thing).

No English translations were provided for the lyrics, but even if audiences ne comprennent pas le français, there is no misunderstanding Amador's emotive voice, overflowing with heartbreak and, always, defiance.

Rome Jorge, Amador stars as Piaf in Atlantis Productions' latest offering at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium of the RCBC Plaza. Much has been said about Amador's intensive and extensive research: her love of French language and culture, travels to France, and interviews with people who personally knew and worked with Piaf.

But in real life, people are judged by results and not by their effort. What is seen and heard is their work and not their studies. Most of Amador's audiences are neither francophones nor historians, just as many of Piaf's fans around the world across decades neither understood her songs or knew her personally.

What matters is the truthfulness of her songs and her character. And if these be the criteria, Amador triumphs.

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From This Author Oliver Oliveros