Since 1993, The Butterfly Club has been one of Melbourne’s leading, full – time performance venues.
For almost twenty – five years, the space has staged more than one thousand new shows, hosting everything from stand – up comedy and game nights to improvised farce. It has also jump – started the careers of Tim Minchin, Eddie Perfect, Britni Leslie, and Caity Fowler, as well as featuring established stars such as Amanda Harrison, Jemma Rix and Kurt Phelan.
This intimate space works best as a showcase for cabaret, because artists and audience members may connect as one. The biggest challenge for any performer is, away from the pyrotechnics associated with large-scale musicals as back-up, if they can step up to the plate alone.
Piaf and Aznavour: Songs From the Pavement is a fascinating memory piece which recently played at the club for a strictly – limited, six performance season. This high-concept tribute is written by Hugo Chiarella. With an impressive resume that includes stage, cabaret, television, song and writing credits, Chiarella is also a rising star of Australian musical theatre. Recently, he starred in both the national and international touring companies of Les Miserables. Prior to these engagements, Chiarella was in Fiddler On The Roof, and was the writer/lyricist for Guilty Pleasures (a critically-acclaimed solo turn for Angelique Cassimatis).
The show is performed by Evan Lever , with strong direction by Gary Young, and musical arrangements, musical direction, and elegant piano accompaniment by Stephen Gray.
Featuring a running time of seventy minutes, Songs From the Pavement is an imaginative tease, exploring both the professional relationship and alleged romantic possibilities between two Parisian legends, Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour. Without giving too much away, Lever brings their torrid tale to life, by weaving a dozen of the pair’s greatest hits, together with an engaging and well – paced, anecdotal narrative.
Fans will thrill that Songs From The Pavement includes such iconic pieces as ‘Non, je ne regretted rien’, ‘Padam Padam’, and ‘She’. Further, Lever adds a delightful air of authenticity to the evening, switching between singing in English and French with carefree ease.
Playing both Piaf and Aznavour, Lever reminded me somewhat of Paul Capsis as the Emcee in Cabaret and as Quentin Crisp in Resident Alien. In Songs From The Pavement, he simply floats between both genders, merging male and female characteristics into one. Like Capsis, Lever too, is always present and in the moment.
Songs From the Pavement is as much a showcase for Piaf’s and Asnavour’s legacies as it is for Lever’s, Young’s and Gray’s combined talent. In particular, Lever, possessing a rich, vocal quality similar to Elvis Costello, with this emotive set list, modulates his singing gift where needed.
Further, by dressing in clothing typical of a post-war busker, (black work pants held up at the waist with a thin leather belt, and suspenders covering a white tailored shirt), Lever, the performer, reinforces the show’s relaxed, night club vibe.
Props, such as a drawing room chair, a stack of books, and a side table stocked with liquor, all add to the period’s time-capsule effect. Further, fluid lighting cues track Lever’s movement from one side of the raised stage to the other, with seamless ease.
Finally, it has to be said The Butterfly Club is the perfect venue for this kind of material, giving the overall experience an extra dimension of sequestered exclusivity. Many times during the show, Lever seemingly escorted the audience on a journey to another world.
Songs From The Pavement works brilliantly as a stand – alone venture, and could potentially also, as an integral part of any performing arts or cabaret festival. Here’s hoping it makes a return season very soon.