By Roger Muffplunder-Smyth
Vocals: Michaela Burger, Guitar: Greg Wein
Date / Venue: Saturday September 5th, 2015 - Town Hall, Auckland
Exposing Edith comes to Auckland after rave reviews at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival earlier this year and its premier at the Melbourne Cabaret Festival in 2013. The performance is part of the Auckland International Cabaret Season which offers a series of classic, audacious and risqué acts over 5 days - and the very civilized opportunity to sit at tables with a glass of wine and cheeseboard whilst watching.
Exposing Edith is a musical reflection on the life of Edith Piaf, the iconic French chanteuse, as well known for her tragic and drama filled life as her exceptional voice. Piaf's self-destructive behaviour, whirlwind love affairs, wild spending, ability to acquire and abandon lovers with abandon and eventual spiral into heartbreak and addiction are catalogued throughout the show. Michaela Burger recounts the stories behind Piaf's celebrated songs and also takes on a series of key characters from her life, complete with accents and physical gestures. Like Piaf, the equally tiny Michaela Burger possesses an astonishing voice, packed with knockout power and an ability to wrench emotion out of lyrics.
A breath taking one-minute summary of Piaf's life until the age of 20 opens a show that offers well known classics alongside lesser known numbers such as Mon Legionnaire and L'Homme de Berlin. For the non-French speakers in the audience there are plenty of points of entry thanks to Burger's imagined background conversations and elements of some songs translated. The pared back production - just Michaela Burger accompanied by Greg Wein on acoustic guitar - ensures the emotional impact of Piaf's songs gets full attention, as does the theatrical intensity of their portrayal.
Edith Piaf's well loved classics Milord, Padam Padam, L'Accordianiste, La Vie En Rose and Je ne Regrette Rienallowed Burger to really showcase her talent, while A Quoi Ca Sert L'amour, which Piaf recorded with her last lover Theo Sarapo, gave Greg Wain a chance to sing also. Not all of the songs were done traditionally. Some were delivered in more contemporary arrangements and personally I wasn't crazy about the use of audio loops and reverb for songs traditionally accompanied by an orchestral backing. An innovative idea, nevertheless, for such a pared back production. Following a well earned standing ovation Burger reappeared to offer Piaf's most celebrated songs La Vie En Rose and Je ne Regrette Rien as an encore to the delighted audience.