Louise-Pitre_westmountmag

From Paris to Broadway
with Louise Pitre

Singer woos the crowd with her Piaf and other renditions

By Byron Toben

The Segal Centre’s Power Music, a one-night series presented in its studio space, drew a full house crowd to hear Canada’s Queen of musical theatre, Louise Pitre, belt out 15 selected songs on November 29.

Ms. Pitre was last seen here in April in the Segal’s terrific production of The Angel and the Sparrow, about the friendship between Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich.

Pitre, who played Piaf, was no stranger to that singer’s persona, having done so many times before. There is a boatload of fine singers in Quebec who include Piaf in their repertoires. Some of these whom I have reviewed include Claire Garand, Fabiola Toupin and Claudette Dion.

Toronto-based Pitre, who grew up in Montreal, certainly can head that list. Thus it was inevitable that her selection should include some songs associated with Piaf. La Vie en Rose (1947) was one actually written by the little sparrow herself. La Foule (1956) was translated into French for her from a popular Argentinean tune going back to 1936.

Ms. Pitre was last seen here in April in the Segal’s terrific production of The Angel and the Sparrow, about the friendship between Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich.

Other choices favoured famous composers, such as Leonard Bernstein, 100 Easy Ways (1952); Alan Menken, Somewhere That’s Green (1982); Stephen Sondheim, Send in the Clowns (1973) and Andrew Lloyd Weber, Memory (1981).

One commonality I found in Ms. Pitre’s delivery, no matter if the song was essentially sweet and tender, a certain rousing defiance, as in the Marseilles scene in the film Casablanca.

Then again, this was fitting as Edith Piaf began her career singing that song as a pre-teen to enhance her father’s street performance act.

Pitre supplemented her show with amusing anecdotes. One such was, while performing in English and French on a gruelling schedule of alternate performances, she lapsed into English for one number.

Another was, although not winning a role as Josephine in a musical about Napoleon, she was offered a role in the ABBA rock musical, Mama Mia, to which she replied “Nooo Way”, but she relented and eventually was nominated for a Tony for her Broadway performance.

This led to the inclusion of The Winner Takes It All (1980).

A very tender moment was provided by her rendition of the ever-popular Jacques Brel classic Ne Me Quitte Pas (1959).

The inevitable encore was, what else, the Piaf classic Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.

Throughout, Ms Pitre was impeccably accompanied by her long-time pianist Diane Leah.

The next Power Music series features the Vincent Rehel Ensemble on February 3, 2019.

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Feature image: Tom Sandler Photo

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Read also: Legends Dietrich and Piaf belt it out onstage


Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club.

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