The RZ reviewed Piaf properly as a freelance sample, so he won’t be posting a proper review here.
Therefore, a few notes:
-Everything you’ve heard about Elena Rogers in this production is true. She is absolutely amazing in the title role.
-The supporting cast are generally excellent, and it’s nice to see some of the better actors from RENT: Remixed in a show that doesn’t blow fetid monkey cheese.
-The Whingers commented on their blog about the accents used in the show, and the RZ doesn’t mind the fact that Rogers is the only one who speaks like a French person, but Katherine Kingsley fails at doing German - and fails badly. She sounds like a bad cartoon caricature rather than the biggest blonde bombshell before Marilyn Monroe.
-The RZ never released how huge the Donmar’s stage is until Piaf because they usually add a wall further upstage or cram it so full of furniture that nobody can move. The bare stage really helps you focus on the action, though John Napier wants his section of black brick road returned to Les Miz.
-The songs are sung in French. The RZ understands that audiences (at least in the UK) will be familiar with them in their original language and may have had enough French in school to follow the key phrases, but if you want to integrate the music, which they are halfway attempting to do here, the lyrics need to be in English. If you can translate Brel you can translate Piaf, esp. given that the former was the superior songwriter anyways.
-The story is told so fast that you’ll miss something if you blink - most likely Piaf getting shagged by someone in the male ensemble - they all have a go over the course of the show.
-The text has been shortened for this production, but the last 10 minutes still drag.
-Overall, despite the strengths (legendary music, tour de force leading lady, good staging), the RZ was left feeling cold and detached by the end. Whether this is playwright Pam Grimes’ objective or not is subject to debate.
-None of this matters because the entire run (short of a few recently released questionably restricted view seats) is sold out anyway.
Where: Donmar Warehouse
When: Until 20 Sep. M-Sa @ 19:30, W/Sa @ 14:30
How Much: £13-£32.50. *SOLD OUT*
Concessions: 10 day seats are sold at 10:30 AM for £15 as well as 20 standing places for £7.50.
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £15 for Rogers and the music. £20 you get an eye candy bonus from the male ensemble.
RZ Other Notes: In the RZ’s opinion, take the standing places first if you can - they’re head on from the rear of the circle vs. the day seats which are on the sides. For whatever reason the direction doesn’t make very good use of the thrust, and the actors (particularly Rogers) play it to the back of the stalls for 90-95% of the show. Not that it matters so much in a tiny venue like this, but still...