Edith Piaf is one of the most recognisable voices to come out of Europe with her guttural rolling of R’s and belty chansons, any music-lover would be well aware of her unique vocal stylings.
While this production may be a celebration of Piaf’s centenary with her life sadly ending almost sixty years ago, the ‘little sparrow’ lives on through a homegrown pocket-rocket performer, Michaela Burger.
Burger assumes the roles of narrator and characters as she tells a brief history of Piaf’s life and the songs that shaped her fame. With perfect inflection and characterisation, Piaf’s tragic life filled with lovers and booze and drugs, starting in a brothel in Paris is spookily accurate. There is no need to shut your eyes and imagine – it’s as if Piaf is up on the stage.
Each moment is showcased with an iconic song including all of the most well-known like ‘La Vie en rose’, ‘Padam Padam’ and ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’ as well as other lesser-known pieces. Again, the rendition is immaculate with devotion to the original performances in every way.
Directed by Shona Benson, this piece is very well structured, getting rid of the non-essential and highlighting the talent and the flaws of the artist. Burger so obviously adores her character and the era in which she sits. Her joy at speaking of the wonderful, miraculous moments and her apparent heartache of the tragedies is genuine and engaging.
Just like Piaf, it is amazing that such a big voice can come out of such a small frame and Burger gives every ounce of impeccable vocal technique to encapsulate the iconic music. Greg Wain is a wonderful balance to Burger’s larger than life persona, strumming the guitar and providing the odd vocal back-up. It felt like the audience should be smoking long cigarettes and humming along like in the French cabaret rooms of the time.
The sold-out performances and rapturous standing ovations is a true acknowledgement of art well done without any of the glitz or glam. Burger is a treasure that must be shared with the rest of the country. Let’s hope the sparrow gets to fly elsewhere with this gem of a show.