Wednesday, June 16, 2010

She IS Edith Piaf!!

Multi-talented Naomi Emmerson brings to life Edith Piaf’s unmatched passion for song, her inspirational story of survival and her unwavering faith in love in Piaf: Love Conquers All, this intimate Off-Broadway hit that has travelled from Montreal to Manila before coming to San Francisco.

Emmerson interprets fourteen of Piaf’s most notable songs in their original French language (dialogue in English) and will be accompanied by Alan Choy’s live acoustic piano. Woven among songs are anecdotes of Piaf's life - her passion for men, music and morphine. A version of Piaf's life was recently brought to the screen with an Oscar-winning performance by Marion Cotillard in “La Vie an Rose”.

Piaf: Love Conquers All runs from July 7 - August 7, 2010 at the Eureka Theatre (215 Jackson Street, San Francisco, CA – near the Embarcadero). Tickets are $25-$36 and are available at 800-838-3006 or at

I had a chance to talk to Naomi Emmerson recently and we discussed the role she’s played approximately 200 times during her acting career.

What is your attraction to playing Edith Piaf?
“When I first started playing her in 1993, it was a job. But now my motivation is to continually bring her music out to the audience in a meaningful way that is a tribute to her life. The music probably motivates me the most. The lyrics really tell her story, so if you listen to them you’re really getting a window into her life. She had a very mercurial life full of extremes and recklessness and she was things that I am not. So, I get to pretend and then feel honored that there was a woman who made a ton of sacrifices to share her music with the world.”

Tell us three things we probably don’t know about Edith Piaf.
“I bet nobody knows that she was a Rosicrucian later in her life. And she was very mystical and believed in spirits and had many precognitive experiences. She had an Ouija board she carried with her all the time. One time she read the board and then opted out of taking a flight and the plane later crashed. She also helped approximately 150 prisoners of war to escape from the German camps. She would perform for the prisoners and then would make sure to have her picture taken with them. Then, she’d find out these peoples’ names and ID’s were forged for these prisoners. During a return performance, she’d smuggle these prisoners fake ID’s and they could essentially walk right out of the camp. Also, she was by far the highest paid female entertainer of her time—more than Judy Garland or Ella Fitzgerald.”

If you could have lunch with Edith, what would you ask her?
“I actually had a very vivid dream in which we were drinking together in a bar. I would probably ask her if she minds that I’m singing her songs and does she approve?”

Her passions included men, music and morphine and in that particular order?
“I think her men would have been the first one, because without men and love in her life, she couldn’t have done her music, I believe. And then when she had the pain of lost love, she sang even better. So, those were connected. And, of course, the morphine played a big part in her life. Piaf got addicted to it after she was in a very bad car accident. After three years of abuse, she did finally quit. But she never gave up the booze!”

If people are sitting on the fence about seeing this show, what would you tell them to get their fannies in the seats?
“First off, the tickets for the show are very reasonably priced. In New York, we charged $45 and here the tickets are $25-$36. Also, the theater is beautiful; the set if amazing and people who know Piaf will come and really enjoy feeling like they’re visiting an old friend. And for those who don’t know anything about her, they will leave the theater absolutely wanting to know more.”