Review: Remembering Paris Correctly. ‘April in Paris’ at Feinstein's/54 Below With Floanne.
Thomas Burns Scully
- OnStage New York Critic
NEW YORK NY - Paris. Synonymous with romance, music, the 1920s, art, life, free-spiritedness, existentialism, strong philosophy, good writing, simple beauty, good wine, cups of coffee, sex that’s somehow artistic, and a lot more besides. We all know Paris, even if we haven’t been there. Of course, in the past couple of years, Paris has also become the new face of victimization. We all experienced the Facebook tricolorization of “Je Suis Charlie” and “Je Suis Paris”. Most of us knew where we were when we found out about both, in the same manner all historically symbolic tragedies ask us to recall. Lucky for Paris, they have a long history of overcoming unwelcome invaders, be they ISIS, Nazis, or even the British. The indomitable joie de vivre of the city endures and thrives in spite of whatever militant force with disappointing genitalia attempts to do to them. With that in mind, I invite you to read about ‘April in Paris’, a benefit cabaret for ‘Strength to Strength’ (A charity benefitting the victims of terror) at 54 Below, featuring the wonderfully talented, Floanne.
Feinstein's/54 Below is a New York City treat that I had yet to experience until last week. Sure, I’ve done cabarets before, I help run one (On The Spot, every Monday at 8pm at the Broadway Comedy Club, onthespotnyc.com), but this was my first time at 54 Below. It’s one of those places that even seasoned, cynical locals still talk about in approving tones. Its beautiful gilded walls, immaculate place-settings and warm ambience immediately make you feel like you’ve walked in to Sinatra’s America. You might think it odd, then, for a Franco-Centric benefit to be held there, but banish such thoughts from your head immediately. Floanne’s musical offerings, running the gamut from Cole Porter to Brigitte Bardot felt as naturally at home in this midtown cellar as Elvis did in bluejeans.
Floanne’s show conjured up the spirit of Paris as only a pretty cabaret-ist with a charming accent can. Her setlist included old favorites like ‘I Love Paris’ and ‘La Boheme’ whilst also mixing in obscurer pieces of opera, and lesser known, less nightclubbish faire. In the manner reminiscent of a Godard starlet, she drew the audience in, whilst gently showing off her impressive vocal range. Throughout her set she peppered the air with anecdote and banter, talking about Paris, her material, infusing light humour, and even a little call-and-response. She is an excellent performer, with a voice that knows no bounds and a superlative command of her own charm, presence and sensuality.
Her band are a solid group of performers: Dan Furman on piano, Ray Parker on bass and Todd Isler on percussion. All of them are seasoned musicians. Scarce a beat was missed and few to no notes were out of tune. However, the audience was never left in doubt that, good as the band were, the night was not about them. It was not even about Floanne. No, the gifted songstress was always careful to bring the evening’s spotlight right back to Paris. And the way she did it was probably the best part of the evening. She was able to do it without forcing the specter of guilt in to the room, as many benefits are prone to do. Everyone knew why they were there, that this was a charity to aid victims of terrorism, but rather than parade photos of victims and reeling of death counts, Floanne read from Parisian book of love and rejoiced in the bohemian spirit. In a phrase: the evening wasn’t a downer. It was uplifting, positive, and fun, as well as raising money and awareness. An all around success.
If you are interested in contributing to ‘Strength to Strength’, you can find details on their website: stosglobal.org. To follow Floanne and keep up to date on upcoming shows, you can find her on Facebook (As Floanne), on Twitter (@floanne) and at her website (frenchtalent.com). For more information on 54 Below, see there website (54below.com).
This review was written by Thomas Burns Scully, a New York based writer, actor and musician. His work has been lauded by TimeOut NY, the New York Times, BAFTA US, The Abbey Theatre Dublin and other smaller organizations too numerous to mention. His writing has been performed on three continents. He is generally considered to be the thrifty person’s Renaissance man.
Follow him on Facebook (as Thomas Burns Scully), and on Twitter (@ThomasDBS)