As part of the festival’s partnership with France, Celtic Connections brings us Piaf! The Show, a celebration for the 100th anniversary of the singer’s birth. This extraordinary audiovisual experience, including never before seen images of Piaf, transports the audience from the theatre into the streets of Paris, through Montmartre and up the steps of the Sacré Cœur, to learn of the life and career of the ultimate grande dame, recalling the places where famous songs such as L’Hymne à L’Amour and Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien came to life.
Partly based on the 2007 Oscar winning biopic, La Vie en Rose, starring Marion Cotillard, here Anne Carrere takes front and centre stage masquerading as the iconic French singer, and she pulls it off. There are plenty of Piaf-style singers, but Carrere’s presence on stage makes you question if it is in fact the Little Sparrow herself back to grace us with one last performance. Those who knew Piaf personally find that both Carrere’s incredible voice and joyous personality are reminiscent of Piaf at the height of her career and the man behind Directo Productions, Gil Marsalla, might have put Carrere at the top of hers. She captures the star’s charisma in each little comic moment and her absolutely flawless vocals are powerful enough to evoke emotion even in audience members who are not familiar with Piaf’s life or work. She’s accompanied by four musicians on the piano, bass, accordion, drums and xylophone, and a simple set that consists of a street lamp, a bicycle, cafe tables, a park bench, puts the focus on the music and the story behind the recognisable voice.
Initially, it’s not what you may expect. You may wonder in between songs if there will be a break to tell more of the story of the artist’s life through narrative, but Carrere does not even pause to breathe; she glides from one song straight into the next. Quickly the idea that Piaf! The Show is a musical theatre performance turns into the reality that it is a concert, an enjoyable night of classic French music. The audience are narrated through her life purely by music and image alone – her life is understood through her work.