The Sparrow and the Mouse: Creating the Music of Edith Piaf (A Sisterscene Production) Toronto 2011 Fringe Review

I wish I had had the opportunity to see The Sparrow and the Mouse: Creating the Music of Edith Piaf, prior to visiting Piaf’s grave in Père Lachaise cemetery, Pairs, France in 2009. The significance of her location amongst kings, noblemen, and the elite in every arena from politics to literature would have had more impact had I known of her brothel upbringing as the “illegitimate” daughter of a street singer and a street acrobat turned soldier.

Edith Piaf’s place in the canon is now inarguable; her work is frequently performed by classical and operatic singers such as Melanie Gall. The writer, singer and actor along with director, Karen Gall, and pianist Erin Craig manage to handily avoid any of the expected pitfalls of a musical, historical-biography, one-hander. Piaf’s life offers rich dramatic fodder, capably brought to life by Melanie Gall’s expressive performance. Piaf’s story is told from the perspective of her half-sister, closest confidant and musical collaborator, Simone Berteaut (Melanie Gall).

The frankly and well-told, narrative of Piaf’s life is interspersed with some of her most well-known songs; and a few less well-known. The thoughtfully chosen songs were companions to the story-telling, vividly illustrating the relationship between Piaf/Berteaut’s music and their profound experiences.

Most of the songs were performed in the original French so a basic grasp of the language is helpful in appreciating the connection between the anecdotes and the songs. The French is everyday rather than poetic and Gall’s command of the language is superb; I found it fairly easy to get the gist of most of the lyrics.

Even if you don’t remember so much as “Bonjour” from your high school pseudo French class, The Sparrow and Mouse is still worth seeing. The issues Piaf faced are timeless (although I am really glad I don’t live in Paris circa 1920). Gall’s performance is heartfelt. The songs are beautiful and engaging. Worth it for the singing alone and a must see for music history buffs and those who love them.

The Sparrow and the Mouse: Creating the Music of Edith Piaf plays at venue 3, Bathurst Street Theatre 

– Playing: 

Wed, July 13 1:45 PM 339
Thu, July 14 9:15 PM 350
Sat, July 16 2:15 PM 360
Sun, July 17 5:15 PM 369

– All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $10+$1 convenience fee)

– Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows