The essence of one of France’s national icons, Edith Piaf, was captured by Louise Pitre in “Le Vie En Rouge,” Friday at the Cabaret at the Columbia Club. It was the first of a two night engagement at the downtown night spot for the French Canadian singer who has appeared in three productions of “Piaf.” She also played Fantine in "Les Misérables,” received a Tony nomination for her role as Donna Sheridan in “Momma Mia!,” and was in “Sweeney Todd,” and “Jacque Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.”
Pitre, accompanied by her music director Steve Hunter on piano, sang in both French and English. In deference to the predominantly English-only audience, and prior to performing songs associated with Piaf, Pitre translated the lyrics to each with nearly as much passion as when she sang them in French.
In addition to Piaf songs, the husky-voiced singer also sang Broadway and pop tunes. Between songs, Pitre, whose first language is French, shared stories and anecdotes about growing up in Montreal and later Ontario and her career in Canada and on Broadway.
Highlights of Act 1 were her renditions of Piaf’s hits that included “La Foule” (“The Crowd”), and an intense “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” (“Don’t Leave Me”). As she did while playing Fantine in the Paris production Pitre sang, “I Dreamed a Dream” (“J’ Avais Reve D’Une Autre Vie”) from “Les Misérables,” in French.
Pitre, was moving in “Time Heals Everything,” from “Mack and Mable,” that featured a lovely piano solo by Hunter. She also showed proficiency as a belter in “Some People,” which the character Mama Rose, sings in “Gypsy.” Telling the crowd that it was her dream role, Pitre announced that she will be starring in the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre production that opens Feb. 6, 2014.
“Mon Menage a Moi” (“You Are My Carousel”), which she said was one of Piaf’s few happy songs, was Pitre’s opening number in Act 2. Other Piaf songs gorgeously interpreted by Pitre were “La Vie En Rose” (“Life in Pink”), and “Hyme A L’Amour” (“Hymn to Love”).
Other standout moments occurred when Pitre sang “Send in the Clowns,” from “A Little Night Music,” and “If He Walked into My Life,” from “Mame,” a production in which she played the title role, recently, at the Goodspeed Opera House.
Making for an imressive conclusion to Pitre’s show was her encore number, “Non Je Ne Regrette Rien” (“No, I Regret Nothing”). Previously, while remarking on its beauty, Pitre called the Crystal Terrace Room a “fairyland.” Suffice to say, her often mesmerizing tribute to Piaf, and singular talent in general, only added to the atmosphere of the magical venue that is the Cabaret.
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