Last Wednesday, a phenomenal show of French music and culture was performed at the Fredericton Playhouse and delighted its audience.
Paris—The Show is a musical that showcases the greatest French songs after WWII, written by such legends as Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, Yves Montand, Lucienne Boyer and plenty of other French stars.
The songs are performed by five actors with incredible voices—some play a single character, while others have varied roles. The singing is accompanied by a live band onstage, who themselves act and interact with the characters in-between tracks. Not only are the actors noteworthy for their vocal abilities, but they fill the show with complex and intimate choreography that brings the romance of Paris straight to the audience.
From as early as its opening, the show engages viewers by having the actors mingle among the crowd in their incredible costumes while the audience members take their seats. This is a very clever way to start the show, as it makes the audience feel as though they are really sitting among Parisians, and are involved with the action onstage. From there, the lights dim and the band members take their places for a magnificent first number.
The piece follows the story of a young girl who comes to Paris with romantic dreams of becoming an artist. While in Paris, she meets Edith Piaf and falls in love with a young man; this, of course, leads to intense passion and melancholy—traits typical of sentimental Parisian life. This narrative is filled with French culture and images appropriate to the time period and those who lived in it.
Even the show’s set must be complemented, as it is both simple and elegant; just enough is offered to give the audience a sense of being in the scene—whether a lamppost, a bottle of wine, or a bench meant for dreaming and romantic thoughts. Centre stage is a projector used to display iconic images of Paris; these images accompany the scenes and work brilliantly with the actors’ costumes (which only seem to escalate in extravagance with every scene). As well, during the entirety of a show, a smoke machine slowly lets out a cloud that rises to the ceiling of the room, giving the audience the feeling of sitting in an old Parisian café with cigarette smoke above their heads.
Brilliantly, the show is both a collection of songs arranged to accompany a storyline and a storyline crafted to suit the greatest French songs of the post-war era. This means the piece’s musical and theatrical sides beautifully intertwine, creating a performance that both showcases French art and serves as an effective standalone piece.
There simply isn’t enough that can be said about Paris—The Show. It is a seamless combination of French culture, awe-inspiring visuals and live music accompanied by complicated dance numbers, all shaped into one emotional rollercoaster that will astonish any audience member. Tres bien!