Sit Under the Paris Sky at the Butterfly Club this August
Under the Paris Sky is returning to Adelaide stages at the Adelaide Cabaret Fringe Festival this June.
The show stars singer Georgia Darcy, her wife Louise as Cécile, Georgia’s French maid, and, Simon Walters, pianist.
It was last performed at Adelaide Fringe in 2019 (read our review of the show here). We interview singer Georgia about the show.
Georgia, you’re bringing your wonderful show Under the Paris Sky to the Butterfly Club in Melbourne. Please tell us a little about the show and what people can expect to see.
Our guests will hear me sing beautiful, well-known and loved songs in French as well as newer ones that people will leave humming their tunes – they’re so catchy!
Every song has a story or a theme which I convey, sometimes using English touch points or with gestures. Some songs have content in both French and English, others you can follow because the character who sings them has already explained her unfortunate circumstances……!
We make French language songs accessible to those who love them but who don’t necessarily understand or speak French themselves. Guests will be able to browse a program I have put together upon arrival at the theatre before the show starts. It is designed to convey the theme and meaning of each song, again to help non-francophones to connect as deeply as possible to these songs.
It’s not all song either; some of the shenanigans that happen with the cheeky Cecile (played by my wife Louise Lawson) and with Simon, our scintillating piano accompanist, who’s coming over from Melbourne especially for this show, are hilarious!
Your show doesn’t only feature French singers from the past but features a contemporary artist, Zaz. How did you first find out about her and what do you like about her music?
Gosh I can’t remember exactly how or when I first discovered Zaz! Her first big hit was “Je Veux” back in 2010, which is the 2nd song in our show. She writes/co-writes most of her material and her style is sometimes described as “gypsy jazz”. I really love her music for many reasons. The messages in her songs are deeply philosophical and address what I find many of us are thinking and feeling right now.
“Je Veux” theme is, “don’t buy me stuff, I want love and connection, interesting conversations and new adventures, come join me!” “Le Longue de la Route” theme is “let’s look inward, clear out our baggage, join hands and create the world we want – we’re all in this together”. “Ni oui ni non” theme is that life is actually paradoxical, not logical – (something I experience and believe).
As a performer she is so authentic, relaxed; living and breathing her art – and we are taken along with her to a new place of connection and possibility. I hope to bring some of that to our guests!
You’re joined on stage by Cecile, a French maid, who may not be French or even a maid! Tell us a little about that.
Hmm yes. Well I wanted someone I could practice my French with at home and who wouldn’t love a maid? So I Googled “French Maids” and, well, got Cecile off the Internet. I was initially very excited, but it hasn’t quite been working out as I had hoped….I’m not entirely sure she is a real maid or even if she’s French! All I can say is anything could happen during the show……
The songs featured in the show are from different eras and styles. What informed your choices of songs appearing in the show? Do you find there is a thread that links them together?
Unlike other Cabaret shows I’ve done, where each song contributes to a narrative, these songs were not chosen for that purpose. I chose these songs for the emotional journey each one can take us on as well as to contrast the messages from the older, more traditional ones to the contemporary ones.
For example “La Vie en Rose” is an old love song that expresses the theme “I am happy because of you/because you are in my life”. Whereas the contemporary message throughout many of Zaz’ songs is “I take responsibility for my own happiness – I would love you to join me on the journey”. Of course, both are equally valid viewpoints, but somewhat different.
This is a new romanticism that moves away from making your beloved your main reason for happiness, to loving yourself, which quite frankly lets your beloved off the hook – which is a loving thing to do. Paradox again! “If you love someone set them free”.
Also, in line with wanting to keep French songs accessible to non-francophones, I chose some whose tunes will be very familiar and are well-loved. They even made a TV coffee commercial out of one of them!
So whilst the individual songs are not linked to each other as such, they do take us on an emotional journey together; joyful, passionate, tranquil, tragic, philosophical, hopeful, playful and sensual……so we experience them relative to each other.
How long have you been singing?
Hmm. I have always sung for fun and joy from when I was little. I discovered Liza Minnelli at 7 and thought I was her for a while…..I started singing Edith Piaf songs as a French student during high school. I have done some amateur musicals including “Les Misérables” which was life-changing. I started learning voice around 2010.
It wasn’t until I came to South Australia from Victoria in 2012, when I discovered Cabaret thanks to some very generous people who gave me the opportunity to try it. (They know who they are!) My first Cabaret show was in 2013 – that was the first time I sang for an hour, by myself, in public. I LOVED IT!
Since then we have done about 6 different Cabaret shows in Adelaide and Melbourne, including touring to Avignon, France. We are planning to take Under the Paris Sky to many more places!
What drew you to French chanson?
When I was studying French at high school, I discovered the legendary Edith Piaf and was excited to find I could understand bits and pieces of what she was singing. In those days it was on cassette tapes, so I had to keep rewinding them to relisten!
I was astounded by their power and beauty and often their pain. I found I loved to wrap my tongue, lips and throat around the French language whilst singing, even more than speaking; it just seemed to feel more sensual and intense.
French chanson so often has stories that explore nuanced feelings or insights. Through them one can get a glimpse of how people experience being human, especially during what I feel is a time where use of expressive, nuanced language is declining. We have a smaller vocabulary of more extreme words these days – and I miss the in-between emotions and metaphors that give varied colour and granularity to a story. I can still find this in French chansons.
What’s your favourite French song?
Oh gosh, what time is it?….haha that keeps changing. I can’t say because I don’t like to have a favourite. Is that an acceptable non-answer?
Where do you find inspiration? Do you have any French muses?
I’d have to say my current inspiration is Zaz herself, and I so want to learn many more of her songs, not just for their musicality but for their message. I think she is an important voice in the world.
How would you say Under the Paris Sky differs from other shows of French song performed in Australia?
Well of course I’ve not seen all the French song shows performed in Australia so I’ll have to just keep in mind those I have…all of which have been wonderful.
I’d say Under the Paris Sky delivers a rich French-language experience but remains light-hearted as it also has some comedy and theatre. We have tried to make this show very entertaining all-round.
I have been told by people who have a smattering of high-school French that my clear elocution enabled them to understand more French than they usually do, which is great.
Some may find our show much less informative or scholarly than some of the other shows that provide a rich heritage about the origins of their songs and delve into the story of the artists who made them famous. We tend to not do this much, although I do tell everyone a bit about Zaz. I let the songs just stand on their own, but ensure guests are following the theme.
Also, we are a small set-up musically with just piano accompaniment, although Simon builds in magical musical layers and his fingers never leave his hands! I think that other shows, such as the wonderful Louise Blackwell’s in the Cabaret Festival have a full band, so definitely a fuller sound. We hope to grow our instrument section in future.
You’ve also performed at the Avignon festival. Tell us a little about that experience. How did the French respond to the show?
The Avignon festival was such a BLAST! It was so very hot when we were there in 2015 and in the ancient city of the Pope’s Palace there is no aircon! Our make-up had melted off by the time we’d arrived at the venue.
I’d never seen such a huge gathering of a celebration of the arts. Something like 30 countries were represented, I think we were the only Australians! We did 13 shows. We were very smitten with all the marionette shows.
They were not all French people as the festival attracts people worldwide. However, they were mostly francophones. The audiences engaged with our show in an unexpected way. The show we presented was our first one Georgia with a G (based on many songs from “Liza with a Z”) and told my own story of musical influence and growing up gay.
Australian audiences had found it very funny and endearing, but the Avignon audiences may have missed some of the comedy in translation. Some wondered why I was telling my story given I’m nobody legendary. We found out later, that culturally, the French don’t expect a show all about somebody who is effectively “nobody” on the world stage. Perhaps I should have done “Evita!” Always learning…..
They did love us though and could not really understand that I was both Australian, lived in Australia and spoke French! We made many friends in Avignon and beyond.
Why should people come see your show at the Butterfly Club this year?
We offer Under the Paris Sky to entertain you – to marinate you in the sensuality of French chanson, to move you and make you laugh….but mostly to uplift you and leave you with music in your heart. It received 5 croissants from Matilda Marseillaise – don’t miss it!
We thank Georgia Darcy for this interview.
KEY INFO FOR UNDER THE PARIS SKY
WHAT: Under the Paris Sky
WHERE: The Butterfly Club, Melbourne
WHEN: 1-6 August 2022
HOW: You can purchase tickets to see Under the Paris Sky at the Butterfly Club in Melbourne via this link.