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Friday, 22 April 2011

One woman's French Foly - regretfully revisited

We've all been there - trying to recapture a moment that brought so much enjoyment first time around and left us with a wonderful memory.

Such was the case with Liane Foly's "La Folle Part en Cure", which has just wrapped up a month-long run at the Théâtre Le Palace in Paris.

It was, to say the least, disappointing, and at times quite frankly - dull.

The problem was no so much Foly's talents as a comedienne and impressionist - they are indisputable.

Instead it was the material, and certainly the venue didn't help, which meant the show fell short of the magic from Foly's 2008 "La Folle Parenthèse" when the blues and jazz singer first revealed her talents as an impersonator to the general public and regaled audiences with spot-on impressions and biting humour.

So what went wrong this time around?

Well first up the script. The running gag was the world coming to an end in 2012 and a very special spa opening its doors to a range of celebrities enabling them and the audience to laugh away the blues.

Giving Foly a hand on stage and allowing her to slip from one voice to another was Serge Perathoner as "Docteur Loco" the psych in charge of spa.

He accompanied her on the piano, fed her lines to poke fun at celebrities and provided continuity necessary to avoid the show becoming a string of disconnected characters and disjointed impersonations.

But it simply didn't work.

Some of the jokes were lame, the vignettes a little too long and the running gag, tedious.

The sketches that opened and closed the show were cases in point.

Lady Gaga at the beginning and Geneviève de Fontenay (the woman who until recently had been the doyenne of the Miss France competition) at the end were not so much impressions as they were caricatures.

Nothing wrong with that as they both brought about an initial smile and allowed Foly to launch into some astounding impersonations of singers - male and female. The younger generation of the French music scene at the beginning in the shape of Grégoire, Zaz and M (Matthieu Chedid) were astonishingly spot-on.

And so were the late greats Joe Dessin, Mike Brandt and Daniel Balavoine at the end - allowing audience participation as everyone sang alone.

But as Lady Gaga, Foly amused only for the initial 30 seconds - and that only really in terms of her costume - and as Geneviève de Fontenay there was a joke involving an interminable and incomprehensible meeting with the Pope. Both went on for far too long.

Missing from the show was the political bite and satire of her 2008 show. Sure Ségolène Royal made an appearance - a rather long one - but the humour was as absent as the former Socialist party's presidential candidate seems to have been from the political scene in recent months. And as convincing as Foly was as Roselyne Bacholet, once again the jokes just fell flat.

French president, Nicolas Sarkozy made a brief entrance along with his wife Carla, but there wasn't really much happening apart from some shoulder shrugging .

Of course some impersonations were always going to work because Foly masters the voices and the mannerisms so well. That was the case with a couple of her favourites - Line Renaud and Muriel Robin - where it's hard to tell where Foly finishes and the character takes over.

And a duet of Jeanne Moreau singing with Vanessa Paradis was remarkable.

But there were also those that missed the mark by a mile, such as Susan Boyle and Edith Piaf. In both cases it just sounded like Foly singing. And that's perhaps how she should have left it because she has a magnificent voice and a wonderful timbre.

While the material was a bit iffy, the venue didn't help much either.

Dating from the 1920s, Le Palace is a former music hall and cinema which reopened in 2008 after having being closed for more than a decade.

But it's shabby, badly air-conditioned (in other words not at all) and the seating is uncomfortable; a far cry in terms of comfort from the Théâtre Marigny at which Foly performed back during her Paris run in 2008.

Hopefully the show will tighten up as it goes on the road around France until November, taking in dates at Arras, Rennes and Rouen and popping over the border in September to the Swiss city of Geneva.


Anonymous said...

I agree - I went to the show and must confess I looked at my watch several times, and never really felt like joining in when she asked the public to sing along.

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