|From left: Linden Furnell, Leandra Leandra, Lim Kay-Siu, Sebastian Tan, Rani Singam, Robin Goh and L.A. Benjamin|
The stage was presented like a high-class nightclub, with rising cream-coloured curtains revealing strings of crystal as a backdrop. Black formal wear were the dress code for the day – suits for the men and understated gowns for the ladies adorned with fuchsia accessories; neckscarfs, ties or tanktops for the men and light costume bling for the women.
Given the recent controversy over the unidiomatic use of Singlish in another currently running theatrical production, the cast of singers wisely chose to perform the evening's programme largely in English translations (peppered with sung and spoken French phrases) for the sake of the many French nationals in the audience. The exceptions are two solo numbers by Robin Goh, sung in what sounded like confidently fluent French. Beyond mastery of language, Robin's singing encapsulated what we know and love about Piaf's singing; raw emotionally gritty delivery filled with resignation and tenderness. It was the performance of an actor intent on presenting truthful delivery of his material.
Elsewhere, the songs of were given a polished glossy treatment, with arrangements (by Bang Wenfu and accompanied by a 5 piece band led by August Lum) in a variety of styles including 80s dance, disco, variety-show-style group numbers, Linken Park-style synth rock with rapping in English and Hokkien. The women had uniformly strong voices, L.A. Benjamin in particular whose powerful gospel-styled vocals brought the house down. Its all very entertaining, showcasing great chemistry and the individual skills of the singing cast, band and music arranger. Though it may be a far cry away from the gritty world of prostitution and helpless lovelorn desperation that Piaf portrays in her songs, it was a solid music making and entertainment in its own right.
For me, the best numbers are those with stripped down arrangements, such as when raspy-voiced Lim Kay Siu sang a love song publicly dedicated to his wife Neo Swee-Lin, accompanying himself on guitar (he would accompany himself on the keyboard later that evening), Sabastian Tan singing La Foule and Robin Goh's aforementioned numbers.
All in all, I had an enjoyable time at the La Vie en Rose concert for their fresh take on familiar tunes, strong individual vocals, adventurous music making and the occasional tug on the heartstrings. An evening of entertainment worth checking out!