Piaf

A musical play by Pam Gems.

Original London West End Production 1979 with Jane Lapotaire

1st London West End Revival 1993 with Elaine Paige / Lorraine Brunning

2nd London West End Revival 2008 with Elena Roger

From the streets of Paris to worldwide fame, Edith Piaf continues to be remembered and revered for her exceptional voice and extraordinary life. Using the songs that Piaf made famoue, the life of one of the 20th century's greatest singers is retold vividly capturing the glamour and squalor, the rise and fall of this complex, fragile and enigmatic performer.


Original London West End Production 1979 with Jane Lapotaire

Previewed 12 June 1979, Opened 15 June 1979, Closed 13 December 1979 (in repertory) at the Donmar Warehouse
Transferred 28 December 1979, Closed 12 January 1980 (eight performances only, in repertory) at the Aldwych Theatre
Transferred 15 January 1980, Closed 16 February 1980 (strignt run) at the Wyndham's Theatre
Transferred 14 March 1980, Closed 16 August 1980 (in repertory) at the Piccadilly Theatre

The original cast at the Donmar Warehouse featured Jane Lapotaire as 'Edith Piaf' with Zoe Wanamaker as 'Toine', Darlene Johnson as 'Marlene Dietrich', and Ian Charleson as 'Pierre', along with Conrad Asquith, Michael Bertenshaw, Bill Buffery, Jocelyn Cunningham, Carmen Du Sautoy, Geoffrey Freshwater, Allan Hendrick, Anthony Higgins, Ian Reddington, and Malcolm Storry.

The cast at the West End's Aldwych Theatre as per Donmar Warehouse, with the exception of Helen Brammer who took over the role of 'Madeleine' from Carmen Du Sautoy.

The cast at the West End's Wyndham's Theatre as per the Aldwych Theatre, with the exception of Valerie Testa who took over as 'Nurse' from Jocelyn Cunningham, and Diana Van Fossen who took over as 'Marlene Dietrich' from Darlene Johnson.

The original cast at the West End's Piccadilly Theatre featured Jane Lapotaire as 'Edith Piaf' with Zoe Wanamaker as 'Toine', Diana Van Fossen as 'Marlene Dietrich', and Hilton McRae as 'Pierre', along with Brian Abbott, Alan Barker, Daniel Benzali, Michael Bertenshaw, Helen Brammer, Harry Ditson, Geoffrey Freshwater, Paul Greenwood, Joan Morrow, and Tony Robinson.

Directed by Howard Davies with designs by Douglas Heap, and lighting by Leo Leibovici.


1st London West End Revival 1993 with Elaine Paige / Lorraine Brunning

Previewed 8 December 1993, Opened 13 December 1993, Closed 18 June 1994 at the Piccadilly Theatre

The original cast featured Elaine Paige as 'Piaf' with Wendy Morgan as 'Toine', Greg Hicks as 'Jacques' / 'Marcel' / 'Theo', Dawn Hope as 'Josephine Baker', along with John Arthur, Lorren Bent, Ron Emslie, Joe Jones, Polly Kemp, Stephen Noonan, Rocky Marshall, Michael Roberts, Steven Serlin, and Andrew Vezey. Lorraine Brunning played the role of 'Piaf' on Wednesday matinees.

Elaine Paige played the role of 'Piaf' from 8 December 1993 through to Saturday 14 May 1994, with Lorraine Brunning taking over the role from Monday 16 May through to 18 June 1994.

Directed by Peter Hall with movement by Henry Metcalfe, designs by John Gunter, lighting by David Hersey, and sound by Paul Arditti.

Unfortunately Elaine Paige was forced to leave this production earlier than expected due to the strain the show was putting on to her voice.


2nd London West End Revival 2008 with Elena Roger

Previewed 8 August 2008, Opened 13 August 2008, Closed 20 September 2008 at the Donmar Warehouse
Previewed 16 October 2008, Opened 21 October 2008, Closed 24 January 2009 at the Vaudeville Theatre

A major revival of Pam Gems' play with songs, Piaf in London featuring Elena Roger in the title role.

The cast at the Donmar Warehouse featured Elena Roger as 'Piaf' with Lorraine Bruce as 'Toine', and Katherine Kingsley as 'Marlene Dietrich' / 'Madeleine' / 'Nurse', along with Shane Attwooll, Phillip Browne, Luke Evans, Michael Hadley, Steve John Shepherd, Leon Lopez, and Stuart Neal.

The cast at the West End's Vaudeville Theatre featured Elena Roger as 'Piaf' with Lorraine Bruce as 'Toine', Katherine Kingsley as 'Marlene Dietrich' / 'Madeleine' / 'Nurse', along with Shane Attwooll, Phillip Browne, Luke Evans, Michael Hadley, Taylor James, Steve John Shepherd, and Owen Sharpe.

Directed by Jamie Lloyd with designs by Soutra Gilmour, lighting by Neil Austin, additional music by Ben Ringham and Max Ringham, and sound by Christopher Shutt.

The director of Piaf, Jamie Lloyd said: "It's important that it's not a sentimental piece. It would be cheesy to have her wearing her heart on her sleeve. She was a tyrant and manipulative but she could also be warm and witty."

Elena Roger's West End theatre credits include the title role of Michael Grandage's revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber / Tim Rice musical Evita (Adelphi Theatre 2006) and Matthew Warchus' revival of Marc Camoletti's Boeing Boeing (Harold Pinter Theatre 2007). Jamie Lloyd's London theatre directing credits include Harold Pinter's double-bill The Lover and The Collection (Harold Pinter Theatre 2008).

"The Little Sparrow came back to fluttery life last night in the remarkable sound and form of the actress and singer Elena Roger in a stunning performance of a show that literally brings tears to the eyes. This is probably the most outstanding single performance I have seen this year, and this tiny actress literally became Piaf from the moment she walked on to the stage, frail and birdlike but full of heart-tugging power... Although jerky at times in the earlier scenes, Miss Roger guides her spellbound audience through her many boulevards of sadness... Miss Roger also manages to examine, in this beautifully observed performance, how basically strong Piaf was in terms of character and ambition... Like Piaf, she definitely has nothing to regret." The Daily Express

"Niceties first: the lighting really is excellent, and Jamie Lloyd's production rattles on at a cracking pace. In a show about Piaf, however, only one element - the actress - matters.... Elena Roger can't hide her Argentine roots, in her accent or even in her body language, so she's at her most convincing soaring through the epic choruses, rather than enunciating little French phrases. Still, she makes a convincing Parisian chancer, especially to an Anglophone crowd." The Sunday Times

"It is, no question, a remarkable impersonation. Elena Roger... as Edith Piaf in Pam Gems's 30-year-old play, she blazes as both guttersnipe and diva... When Roger sings 'l'Accordeoniste', she mimics Piaf's disconcerting intermittent licking of her fingers. She plays air accordion, and rubs her palms along her little black dress, as Piaf did; she makes it, as Piaf did, a song about a woman who is being played, and who ends with a suicidal wail... All this is gripping, but it is high-grade mimicry rather than re-creation: impressive, not affecting. As is the whole production. Jamie Lloyd's direction reinforces each effect with a scatter of shrewd but noticeable manoeuvres." The Observer

"Why did we ever think this was any good? The biodrama Piaf by Pam Gems - when premiered by the RSC in 1979 - transferred to the West End and to Broadway. Presumably the French chanteuse's life, glimpsed in splinters, seemed stylistically exciting back then... In the starring role, Elena Roger is an extraordinary presence, her gaunt, glassy-eyed face perched atop a tiny body. This Argentine singer, doing a French accent, mercifully avoids recreating Gems's cockney sparrow - a sort of charmless Eliza Doolittle. That said, her limited acting ability is exposed on this thrust stage. Though she wells up during one of her many chansons, you get no real sense that her character has been through the emotional mill." The Independent on Sunday

"The standing ovation for Edith Piaf at the vast Carnegie Hall in New York lasted an astonishing 20 minutes, we are told in Pam Gems's Piaf. The scale was somewhat smaller at the Donmar Warehouse but none the less heartfelt as the audience leapt to its feet to applaud Elena Roger's gutsy evocation of France's most celebrated chanteuse... Argentine actress Roger dazzled as Eva Peron in Evita, but up close, as you can't help but be at the Donmar, she is even more extraordinary. There's nothing special about Roger's slutty street urchin whose head seems too big for her stunted body, until she sings. Then, it's as if a light comes on from within. Her huge eyes burn bright and her guttural voice, like Piaf's, emerges from her soul and scorches with its dark, despairing love songs." The Mail on Sunday

Piaf in London at the Vaudeville Theatre previewed from 16 October 2008, opened on 21 October 2008 and closed on 24 January 2009.