STREET SINGER: PASCAL RIOULT
May 15, 2015
French born Pascal Rioult chose the perfect venue for "Street Singer" - 42 West Nightclub. With its runway and beaded back wall, bar and cabaret tables, 42 West sets you up for a night dedicated to a chanteuse. The star of the evening, Christine Andreas, sings 16 songs, that will forever be associated with Edith Piaf, with clarity and purity, never attempting to imitate Piaf's sound, suggest her vulnerable presence or complexity, nor does the choreographer Rioult, except when he appears as narrator and as Piaf’s lover. In these moments, his athletic frame, his voice and his caress transport us; we can feel the potency of Piaf’s most adored, adoring lover, a boxer who died in a plane crash. When Andreas is lifted and tossed by the male dancers, we feel her unguarded giddy release from life’s dark energy.
Two dances made one’s spine tingle, a duet conveying oscillating emotions set with wonderful musicality to “La Vie En Rose” and a dance in drag that was very entertaining, even though one wondered why it was in the program at all.
The head-scratcher is how Rioult strayed so far from his subject. He choreographed the songs and directed his cherubic company as though he was producing a revival of “Oklahoma.” Never do we feel the desperate undertow of a Paris slum, nor the despair of of a waif hungry for love. Pilar Limosner, credited for the costumes, gave Andreas a form fitting black dress jazzed with just three triangles of silver sequins at the hem, and period/culturally appropriate striped sailor shirts and pants for the 5 male dancers, who also often appear bare chested for no apparent reason. But the 5 female dancers were short-changed by their costumes.
Brian Clifford Beasley’s black and white images look very chic and polished as projected on the back wall. The live music under direction of pianist/composer Don Rebic is perfect. The dancers Catherine Cooch, Brian Flynn, Charis Haines, Jere Hunt, Michael Spencer Phillips, Sara Elizabeth Seger, Sabatino A. Verlezza, Holt Walborn, Candace V. Perry, and Louis Roccato are all well trained with all American good cheer.
The finale set to “Non Je ne Regret Rien” brought the 10 dancers on the runway, doing snippets from the evening's choreography. Yet, rather than suggesting flashbacks from Piaf’s life, this finale just emphasized how little the choreography and dancers related to Piaf. Filmed biographies are often disappointing (however, the 2007 film of Piaf's life starring Marion Cotillard was marvelous); clearly danced ones can be equally difficult to realize.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers