Michaela Burger almost breathes Piaf. Having spent many years, on and off, living in France, and being a diminutive singer, she could almost be her half-sister. Except that Miss Burger is quite young, and Edith, had she lived, would have turned 100 this year.
As a tribute to her centenary, Burger has worked with director Shona Benson, and guitarist and singer, Greg Wain, to put together a show which is both a tribute, and a development.
She opens in a trench-coat, shouting out one of the songs which Edith would have sung on the streets of Paris during her busking years. From the beginning the audience felt somehow in the presence of musical greatness: it sent shivers up the collective spine. From there she goes on, in true cabaret style, to tell the story of Piaf’s musical life.
Although the important life events were there – the death of her daughter, the death of Marcel Cerdan – Burger and Wain concentrate on her musical development. She tells great stories of Edith’s relationships with song-writers, producers and other singers, giving us more depth of understanding as we listen to the classics such as Milord, Padam Padam, L’Accordianiste and Je ne Regrette Rien.
In amongst the songs we all came to hear, were lesser known numbers such as Mon Legionnaire, L’Homme de Berlin, which was her last recording, and A Quoi Ca Sert L’amour, which she recorded with her last lover, Theo Sarapo, for whom Wain filled in beautifully.
Interestingly not all of the songs were done as Piaf did them. Some were delivered in more contemporary arrangements. This was engaging, but it made the show slightly odd: we weren’t sure if it was a Piaf tribute or a reworking of Piaf’s hits. But it’s a minor quibble.
Michaela Burger is luminous, powerful and engaging. Wain’s playing is impeccable. Piaf will officially turn 100 on December 19th. Miss Burger’s ever-growing fan-base will be agog to see what she might do!
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Rating (out of 5): 4
Season: Season ended