- Written by Backstage
Look out, Elaine Stritch: You've got competition for the most glamorous golden-years gams in town, and French chanteuse Yvonne Constant is currently flashing them with style at the Metropolitan Room. Constant, though most definitely an original, is also like Stritch in that she performs in take-no-prisoners mode, incapable of sentimentality, show-bizzy glitter, and spurious uplift. She lays it on the line with tart honesty, communicating in that universal language known as the Gallic shrug, of which she employs infinite shadings. Constant reclaims the word "sophistication" as a term of admiration.
The lady has been at her trade for more than half a century, yet the former ballet dancer and Tony-winning performer still looks sexy and smashing in a short beige shift, held together at the sides by twin cascades of golden rings, worn over a full body suit. This is her sixth Metropolitan engagement in three years, and the organizational idea this time around is "La Différence," as in the differences between French and American attitudes toward life, love, politics, art, and sex. These are explored both through Constant's witty self-written commentary and the often-extreme variances between French and English lyrics to popular chansons by the likes of Gilbert Bécaud and Charles Trenet.
Constant arrives on stage via an amusing gloss on "La Marseillaise" that quietly punctures its perfervid patriotism. Then she takes flight with a quartet of Trenet songs, during which she explains that she is only a recent convert to his oeuvre, having dismissed him as lightweight for most of her career. You'd never know it from her fizzy renditions of "Boum" and "Je Chante!," in which she thoroughly embraces the songs' giddy and occasionally manic charm while leavening it with a pointed self-awareness.