Tony nominee Christine Andreas discusses her Feinstein’s/54 Below cabaret series No Regrets and the influence of Edith Piaf

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Christine Andreas is no stranger to a successful career on the stage. She’s appeared  in My Fair Lady, for which she won a Janus Award and Oklahoma and On Your Toes for which he was nominated for Tony Awards for her performances. 

Andreas has captured the hearts of many for her rapturous stage presence and crystal-clear melodic vocals. Stage Door Dish caught up with Andreas about her intriguingly titled cabaret No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf, which ends its run on July 15 at Feinstein’s/54 Below.

When asked about her upcoming show, there is no doubt that Andreas has a special connection with Edith.

I love the title of your 54 Below show, No Regrets; can you tell me how this title came about?

It was actually not an original idea. It came from Carolyn Burke’s book titled No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf. It captures Edith’s life in a real and truthful way, it was as almost as if Edith was calling me to it.

What is it about Edith that drew you to her?

Edith has a nice and juicy story, it’s quite captivating. She grew up in the ghetto of France, in the early 1900’s, and she was abandoned by her mother.  Being raised by her grandmother, who actually ran a brothel, you could say she wasn’t given much of a chance from the start. She endured many different hardships, one of the biggest ones was she went blind at a young age. This was also about the time that she started singing on the streets of France. Her voice would go through you and bring all of your attention to her. She was known as the street cat with a great voice. She had an awful beginning but turned out to be a brilliant, international phenomenon. She was the Coco Chanel with a voice.

Her voice is an art form and her art is simple and adored. It connects her music with her story. She was seen as an icon and she once got a ten-minute standing ovation, not even Garland or Streisand ever got a ten-minute standing ovation. It feels important to share her story, put it out there in front of a younger crowd, even an order crowd. She was a sensation.

Her story can affect you more than you can imagine. She wanted people to know that when you want to give up, give up on life itself, you need to find something that will help you. Push you. She became a star and since she endured so much in her life, people were able to humanize her, make her seem more real and accessible. She lived a life of hardships and pain but she pushed through that pain to become a sensation.

Do you feel you have a special connection with Edith?

I feel the need to help tell her story because she’s drawing me to her, she was unique and had such drive. When I was doing My Fair Lady I could have freaked out over Julie Andrews and copy her every move. But I didn’t want to be Julie Andrews, I wanted to be Eliza. Your ideas are worthy and you need to believe in your own thing. Make everything your own.

Edith contributed to that. I was in awe of her singing and I’ve been singing her songs for years. They inspired me and her words color your voice in a unique way. I felt her chasing me, calling after me to sing her songs and it makes you care about what you’re going to write about. I wrote 3 shows in 3 years and while I was writing, I put Edith in the room and she showed me how much of a raw and earthy performer she is.

What’s the message you hope people gain from attending your 54 Below show?

When you find an artist who has power, you want to put it out there. You want to showcase them. Young people usually have a hard time finding who they are, but Edith knew. Edith was a survivor. She slept on the pavement, while she was earning her wages, and people stopped to listen. It’s important to connect to the people listening to you perform. She was caring, funny, a hard worker and she’s someone who you would want to have a meal with and she wanted to be a good friend to everyone although, she was very bossy, people listened to her. They took her advice and criticism and make the corrections. She was the type that if she took a liking to you, she would help craft you. She didn’t know class, race, age or any other type of discriminatory feature, she just knew talent.

Music became the whole world to her, her sound became the whole world. She survived blindness, poverty, prostitution and this was who she was. She believed that the harsher you are with yourself, the harsher you are with the world.

It all comes back in a circle if you want to make art stop what you’re doing and make it.

What are you most excited for about the show?

I don’t want to showcase someone who doesn’t know who they are and I didn’t want to do Edith originally but it’s almost as if she was calling out to me. She had a resilient heart and I want people to get a sense of who Edith was. That’s what I’m excited for. We all have our own unique thing that gives us a spark and that’s exactly what Edith had. She had that something.

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