- Written by The Two of Clubs
When French chanteuse Yvonne Constant entertains in her new show “Paris on the Road to Piaf,” at the Metropolitan Room (Sept. 25, 28, Oct. 19, 23, 2008), she not only provides plenty of enjoyment but in effect is passing along some of the glorious history of French songs. Constant, who was born in Paris, has mastered an array of numbers that capture the essence of the popular music that expresses the heart and soul of the outpouring of chansons by leading French singers in the last century.
Not only that. Constant looks great. On opening night, she was snazzy in her glittering black jacket and tights, and oh, those long, slender legs that she confidently flashes. She is also skilled at acting out the songs, sometimes with a sassy demeanor, and at other times with a wistfulness that conjures up the romance or the sorrow inherent in the lyrics. She also punctuates her performance with illuminating explanations.
Her approach to the material is to sing some of the numbers that led up to the special era of Edith Piaf, and concentrate in on what she describes as “la chanson realiste,” in other words, songs that deal with the nitty-gritty of life, especially relations with men. While she doesn’t attempt to imitate Piaf, she is adept at capturing the mood of a Piaf song in her own strong voice. For example, she infuses “La Vie en Rose” with intense romance, she gives “Padam” vigor, and when she sings “Non, Je ne Regrette Rien,” she evokes the summing up of a lifetime.
Constant pays tribute to Yves Montand and Charles Aznavour with songs associated with them, and she has some sidebar fun with Marlene Dietrich, giving an impression of her singing “When Love Dies” (“Quand L’Amout Meurt”). She notes her admiration for Dietrich, but amusingly adding “when she is on pitch.” There is considerable humor in Constant’s delivery of “Tout Va Tres Bien, Madame La Marquise.”
The delightful chanteuse begins and ends her program with “Song to Life,” with music by Didier Barbelivien and special lyrics by Deirdre Broderick. Her accompanist for the latest performance is once again skillful pianist and musical director Russ Kassoff, and they work well together.
Constant has an illustrious background, including a Tony for her first Broadway show, “La Plume de Ma Tante,” holding a record for the number of performances on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show,” appearances in assorted Broadway, movie and TV productions, performing in international cabaret venues, and recently singing the “Ah Paris” number in the “Follies” presentation at New York City Center. It is our good fortune that she is still honoring the great tradition of the French chansons by showing us how they really should be sung. At the Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street. Phone: 212-206-0440.