ALTHOUGH Christine Andreas is now in her late 60s, she remains a formidable force on stage. Especially when belting out songs from the extensive songbook of Edith Piaf. She quite literally generates volts of electricity with her presence and sultry voice.
Performing at the Pheasantry (Pizza Express Live) in London’s Chelsea on October 11, she mesmerised the audience from the very first moment as she strode down the spiral staircase and onto the stage – with a recording of Piaf’s Hymne A L’Amour playing in the background.
As soon as she launched into L’Accordeoniste, it was quite obvious it was going to be one hell of a night. Husband Martin Silvestri quietly orchestrating away on piano – and occasionally playing the accordion quite scintillatingly. And just to add to the thrill of the evening, Elaine Paige (who played Piaf in London in the 1990s and also recorded an album of her songs) sitting in the audience, quietly nodding away in approval.
Acknowledged by Andreas but not asked to join her on stage (what a double – triple – act that would have been).
Andreas has all the attributes necessary to pay tribute to the classic chansons of the French songstress. Like Piaf, she is a pocket dynamo of an individual, physically small and slender. The archetypal Le Mome (little sparrow). She also has an uncanny resemblance to Piaf even though Edith Giovanna Gassion died at the tender age of 48 while Andreas is still chugging along very nicely at 67 (she does not look a day older than 50) and quite beautiful with it. Whatever pills or vitamins Andreas is taking I want.
But it is the explosive voice that makes Andreas’s Piaf so compelling. As confident singing in French as she is in English. Interchanging between the two with ease. She sweeps you back in time to seedy, sexy, sensual Paris.
As lovers of Piaf would expect, Andreas performs all her famous songs with thrilling aplomb – Mon Legionnaire, Padam Padam, La Vie En Rose (passion personified), Ne Me Quitter Pas, Non Je Ne Regrette Rien and finishing the set with Milord (acknowledging Piaf’s time spent living in brothels).
But it is some of her lesser known songs that make the night so special. A rousing and patriotic rendition of La Marsellaise, Silvestri masterfully playing the accordion on Sous Le Ciel, and Andreas and Silvestri performing a super duet on Poor People Of Paris.
Andreas was obviously born to entertain and her CV pays testimony to this (star performances in a long list of musicals such as My Fair Lady, Oklahoma, La Cage Aux Folles and The Scarlet Pimpernel).
Although her telling of Piaf’s story in between songs was sometimes a little haphazard as she forgot where she was in the French songstress’s life story, this was no more than a blip. A forgivable one.
Christine Bovill has quite rightly won recent acclaim for her Edith Piaf show – she is back performing it at Wilton’s Music Hall in East London early next year. But Andreas’s voice gives her the edge.
If you are free on Friday or Saturday night (October 12 and 13), and in the vicinity of London’s Chelsea, you would have no regrets if you pitched up at the Pheasantry for a night of musical magic.