Johnny en rose: Songs of the little sparrow – the story of a Piaf fan

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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.

“L’homme à moto”


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!

Johnny en Rose: Songs of the Little Sparrow on at Adelaide Fringe this weekend

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Johnny en Rose: Songs of the Little Sparrow is but one show with a French theme which is on at this year’s Adelaide Fringe. We spoke with John Gabriel Koladziej, the artist who created the show and who is the titular Johnny en Rose.



You’re bringing your show Johnny en Rose: Songs of the Little Sparrow to Adelaide Fringe this February. Tell us about the show.

Sure thing. Johnny en Rose: Songs of the Little Sparrow is a cabaret show I’ve been doing in New York and Los Angeles over the past two years. It’s a solo show, performed with live accompaniment, comprised of Edith Piaf songs and personal stories. Definitely a coming-of-age piece. Essentially, “Boy meets Piaf!”


How did the show come about?

I had always intended on doing a solo cabaret show, but just never got around to it. I was doing some spring cleaning and found an envelope stuffed with music and song lists that I had made over the years. When sitting down to actually piece some of this together, I realized that so much of it was Edith Piaf music. She made a large impression on me as a kid, which is kind of a funny thing. Then I thought, “Wait a minute, there’s a show in that!”


Have you always been interested in/inspired by Edith Piaf?

Yes, since I was about eleven or twelve. I acquired a copy of one of her biographies (you’ll have to come to the show to find out just how!) and found it completely fascinating. Her world, her songs, her life … it was very different to my suburban upbringing outside Los Angeles. It all sounded so wild and I was instantly intrigued.


How did your coming from New York to the Adelaide Fringe come about?

Caught the festival a couple of years back and just had to make this happen! Such a great variety of show and I really enjoyed the folks in Adelaide. My kind of people – friendly, social, and they know how to have a good time!



How does your show differ from other shows in which Edith Piaf songs are covered?

Mostly in that the show is not necessarily a biography of Edith Piaf (although there are

stories and Piaf lore in the show). It’s a bit more of a personal evening and I’ve found a lot of folks seem to relate to the material, not just the Piaf songs, but experiences and stories that I share during the piece.


Are you taking the show to any other Australian cities or is the Adelaide Fringe the only place people can see the show?

Adelaide is the only stop this year, but who knows what may happen in 2020!


You worked with composer Dan Redfeld previously on Little Women – An American Musical. How did you and Dan Redfeld come to collaborate?

I’ve known Dan since I was a teenager (we even workshopped our musical version of ‘LIttle Women’ with Deborah Gibson and Elaine Stritch) in the days prior to 9/11. Most recently we wrote a song cycle for soprano and orchestra called A Hopeful Place and the album is out now. His music is melodious, haunting, and gorgeous. Definitely worth listen!


What can people expect from your show?

Well, it is cabaret, so it’s a fairly intimate experience. It’s a mixture of personal anecdotes and stories from Piaf’s own life, mixed with some really fantastic French music. A bit of time-travelling and there is a Parisian feel, but you’ll be back in time for dinner!


What is your favourite Edith Piaf song and why?

That’s a toughie! I really do love “Mon Dieu,” but I’m very much partial to “Hymne à l’Amour” (you’ll find out in the show). It’s simple and the lyric is by Piaf herself. The final line is actually etched on her grave at Père Lachaise.



Is there an Edith Piaf song you have chosen not to sing in the show and if so, for which reason?

Actually, there is. I don’t do “Je Ne Regrette Rien” in the show, not because I don’t like the song (I do!). It simply doesn’t fit in with my own story – I’ve always felt that regret was natural and very much human. I feel it’s something akin to empathy. I think we’ve all done something that has had undesirable repercussions for ourselves or others, it’s empathy and kindness that help us move past and onward (and hopefully not do it again!)


What is so interesting about Edith Piaf?

Her life – upbringing, career, talent, love life, and struggles and how she seemed to survive and embrace all of it. Something very inspiring in that, for me.


You trained at the Stella Adler Conservatory in New York City and hold a BFA in Drama and an MFA in Musical Theatre Writing, both from New York University. Where did your interest in music and in musical theatre come from?

I had a primary school teacher when I was 9-10 who felt it was his responsibility to teach his students about music, art, architecture, etc. It was completely off the curriculum and he was completely eccentric. I remember in the first week of class he handed out the libretto to Jesus Christ Superstar and we followed along with the record album. Most of the kids hated it, but I absolutely loved it!


Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just that I can’t wait to see folks there and I hope that I get to meet them after. It’ll be a good time!


There are only 2 shows of Johnny en Rose: Songs of the Little Sparrow at the Adelaide Fringe: Friday 15 February and Saturday 16 February both at 7:40pm. Tickets cost $20 (there are also reduced priced tickets available for Bank SA customers, children and concession card holders). You can buy your tickets here.


Do you like the songs of Edith Piaf?