Johnny, from California, by New York, presented his show Johnny en rose: Songs of the Little Sparrow at the A Club in Adelaide on Friday 15 February. He was only performing two shows in Adelaide, which have now passed. You can also read our interview with Johnny here.
A show in which a man sings Piaf is unusual. Even more unusual that the accordionist is a woman! In Johnny en rose: Songs of the Little Sparrow, this is not a show about the life of Edith Piaf but more so a story about how Johnny has been inspired by Edith Piaf.
It’s obvious that Johnny is used to singing on stage. His experience on cabaret stages is evident. He starts the show with “Padam, Padam“. He then moves into “Hymne à l’amour“. He sings mostly in French but also does the occasional verse in English. He also explains what the songs are about, even sometimes acting them out. For example with “Les Amants d’un jour“, he stands wiping a glass as he sings from the perspective of the waiter in the café.
Amusingly, he tells us that in another show he did about Edith Piaf, he did a “death count” with the audience. How many people died in the songs of Edith Piaf. In a show of 90 minutes, 12 people were killed off! And in effect, in this show we hear of a few deaths, such as the couple who rent the room in “Les Amants d’un jour“, “L’accordeoniste” with whom Piaf is in love but who doesn’t come back from the war, among others. Or there’s the story of “La Foule” where the crowd pushes Edith into the arms of a very handsome man but that same crowd tears here away from him and it is impossible to find him again.
In summary, he sings us songs that we all know and expect from the show, with the exception of “Je ne regrette rien“. For those who had not read our interview with Johnny, they may have asked why he didn’t sing this song.
Unfortunately, on the opening night, we had a few difficulties in hearing Johnny when the accordionist stopped playing and instead put backing music on the speakers. When Johnny was singing, he was great. Even though his stories are amusing and deserve to be told, perhaps he would be better served to work on a few elements. There were parts where we had the impression he had gone off on a tangent instead of sticking to the story. Even if you want to appear as natural as possible, a script may avoid the issue of straying. We appreciated the stories even if they could have been refined. The story of how he came to own the Edith Piaf biography is particularly amusing.
Presenting a show on the opening night of the Adelaide Fringe is quite daring! With so many free things to do on the opening night, it is quite possible that no one would go to see your show, preferring instead to stay outdoors in the electric atmosphere produced by Adelaide Fringe. We were only 25 people for this performance – but the room could hold perhaps only 40 people maximum – which meant that we didn’t have the impression that the room was empty.
Overall, Johnny en Rose: Songs of the Little Sparrow was a nice show and Johnny sings well. He has charisma and his stories are amusing. Perhaps with a bit of refining, this show could be excellent. I hope to see Johnny singing at a future Adelaide Fringe or elsewhere.
Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Adelaide Fringe
Don’t forget that you can read about our 22 must-see shows right here!