Celtic Connections

Piaf! The Show

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Alison Kerr

four stars

Celtic Connections came to the Theatre Royal for the first time, on Wednesday evening, and brought with it a huge audience for the UK premiere of an Edith Piaf show featuring a young French singer named Anne Carrere.

Piaf! The Show turned out not to be so much a piece of musical theatre – which one might have expected given the choice of venue – as a concert with costumes and props. Carrere was accompanied onstage by a quartet, while evocative images of old Paris (and later of Piaf) were projected behind her.

It took a while to realise that there would be no stories or introductions to the songs and the first half was an exhausting, non-stop battery of (frankly, quite samey) songs sung by Piaf when she was a street singer; Carrere – who, like her heroine, has a big, powerful voice and a teeny frame – barely paused for breath as she rattled from one bawdy number to the next, capturing Piaf’s defiant spirit in the process.

With the second half – which covered the years of the international fame, the big hits and the major concert halls - came a change of gear, and we got to know Anne Carrere a bit. She turned out to be a delight, coquettishly flirting with the men in the front row and guiding them up to dance with her (as much for comic effect as for authencity’s sake), crouching down beside her pianist to wipe her eyes with his coat tails after the unbearably moving Hymne a l’amour left her tearful, and encouraging the audience first to participate in an Autumn Leaves hum-along then to let rip with the full La Vie en Rose.