nina-simone_westmountmag

Singer Nina Simone is
a hot item this month

Nadia Theobal sings the misunderstood diva at Le Balcon supper-club

By Byron Toben

Like Edith Piaf (deceased 1963) in my recent review, Nina Simone (deceased 2003) is having a hot April in Montreal. Death hath no dominion to these iconic gals.

Both had a one-night appearance at the increasingly popular Le Balcon and Piaf is the subject of a musical play, The Angel and the Sparrow at the Segal Centre from April 15 to May 5, while Simone has another one-nighter at the Segal on April 29.

Nadia Theobal portrayed her at Le Balcon, accompanied by four instrumentalists on piano, guitar and two percussionists. Malika Tirolian will essay it at the Segal.

The show

Nadia Theobal - WestmountMag.ca

Nadia Theobal – Image: courtesy of Nadia Theobal

Ms Theobal’s songs were packaged within a presentation entitled Misunderstood: A Nina Simone Celebration.

Ms Simone, born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, was a child piano prodigy and, like my own favourite singer of the 60s, Judy Collins, first trained to be a classical pianist.

Playing at a piano bar in Atlantic City to fund her studies, she was required to sing as well. This led to a studio contract and her 1958 debut album, Little Girl Blues. Some of her later hit standards were Gershwin’s I Loves You, Porgy and, after being featured in a Chanel No 5 perfume ad, My Baby Just Cares for Me.

As I am a big Jacques Brel fan, I was delighted to see her repertoire included Ne me quitte pas. Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood led to the title of this show. Deeply involved in the civil rights movement, she was condemned in the Deep South for her Mississippi Goddamn.

Her powerful voice was ably backed by a quartet of fine instrumentalists, Medad Ernst (piano), Joanna Peters (percussions), Ronny Desinor (batterie) and Pierre-Harry Erizias (bass).

These songs and others, such as Baltimore and To Be Young Gifted and Black, are also featured.

Simone, who took her stage name from French actress/activist, Simone Signoret, ended much of her later life abroad, in Barbados, Liberia, London and especially France, where she died at age 70.

Ms Theobal is extremely mobile and shimmies and shakes perhaps more than Ms Simone did, but with good showmanship.

Her powerful voice was ably backed by a quartet of fine instrumentalists, Medad Ernst (piano), Joanna Peters (percussions), Ronny Desinor (batterie) and Pierre-Harry Erizias (bass).

The venue

Le Balcon bills itself as a New York/Paris-style intimate cabaret offering both dinner and show. Based in the renovated Dawson Hall at the back of the St. James United Church on Ste-Catherine Street, halfway between University and Bleury, since 2016 after 8 years in the old city, it is sort of an intimate version of the much larger Rialto Theatre. Both often feature tribute or nostalgia shows along with option eats.

Visit lebalcon.ca for a schedule of upcoming shows.

Bouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre – WestmountMag.caFeature image: ninasimone.com

Read also: Edith Piaf lives again in Ma vie en rose and black


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

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