The Angel and the Sparrow is a fantastic musical drama about the decades-long friendship between French chanteuse Edith Piaf (Louise Pitre) and German Hollywood legend Marlene Dietrich (Carly Street). With powerhouse performances by Ms. Pitre and Ms. Street and great writing, the show transports the audience with the beauty of great art and the tragic sacrifices it entailed. Bring tissues- this will floor you.
These legends could not be more different from each other: Piaf the emotional volcano with a voice that will shatter the stoniest heart and Dietrich the disciplined, refined professional with a free spirit before such a term existed. They meet when Piaf performs in New York after the Second World War. Dietrich immediately recognizes Piaf’s gift and takes the little sparrow under her wing. The ladies become the closest of friends, challenging each other personally and professionally. As the years pass, Piaf’s addictions and Dietrich’s lack of sentiment became obstacles. But time is the great equalizer and they must face their faults to save their friendship.
Ms. Pitre is sensational as The Sparrow. She embodies Piaf so completely- the fragile body, the voice and phrasing, the hearts-and-guts feelings- it’s as if Piaf is there in life. Ms. Street is wonderful- she brings Dietrich’s distinctive voice, confidence, and allure with full force. They capture the charisma of these artists and never let the hurricane of emotions run away from the story. The singing is terrific with songs that not only mark the period but the turns in their lives.
The supporting artists (Lucinda Davis and Joe Matheson) were up to the task of anchoring the story. The live band marvelously recaptured the sound of the time. The sets give breathing room for the larger-than- life Piaf and Dietrich. While the period was glitzy, it’s the ladies who bring the true glamour; no need for superfluous decorum.
A must-see show for all generations: full of passion, sorrow, and memories of a tumultuous era. Bravo to all!
Photo credit: Leslie Schachter
The Angel and the Sparrow: a Segal Centre Production. Directed by Gordon Greenberg. Written by Daniel Große Boymann & Thomas Kahry. Adapted by Erin Shields. Show continues until May 6, 2018, at Segal Centre, 5170 Chemin de la Côte-Ste-Catherine, Montreal. For tickets call the box office 514-739-7944 or go to www.segalcentre.org