- New York Theatre Critic
Once again, a stage at 59E59 welcomes the wonderful Jessica Walker to Brits Off Broadway with her new show “All I Want Is One Night,” a somewhat bio-musical about the openly lesbian French chanteuse Suzy Solidor who opened her own nightclub La Vie Parisienne in the 1930s. Solidor’s claim to fame erupted from a publicity stunt to be recognized as the “most painted women in the world.” She posed for some of the most celebrated artists of her time and the only stipulation for sitting was that she be given the painting to hang in her nightclub. She survived the Nazi occupation but was convicted as a collaborator and had to leave France after the war. She traveled to the states to continue her career and ultimately returned home in 1960 to settle in Haut de Cagnes in the south of France, running a bar in her basement and eventually opening an Antique shop. This is where the peevish, elderly Solidor is found in 1980, dressed in an Admiral’s uniform to conceal her now unflattering figure at the start of the performance.
It is somewhat of a memory play as she tells the story of her youth and transforms into the sexy, bawdy cabaret singer, clad in an elegant gown, flirting with the audience, as she engenders them with provocative lyrics. Ms. Walker certainly captures the intriguing beauty of the chanteuse and deftly delivers each of the eight musical numbers intoxicating the audience with her pure, seductive soprano vocals. This is all well and good but what is missing is the guttural passion, husky timbre and vulnerable vibrato that were trademarks of Solidor and very similar to Piaf of the same era. The portrayal does not seem dark or tough enough and quails a sweet buoyancy that contrasts with the bold, crusty Solidor who tells the story. The bits of bio are not enough to reveal the complex character or paint a clear picture of her daring and incendiary escapades.
The supporting cast (Rachel Austin and Alexandra Mathie), play multiple roles adequately but are not given enough presence to develop real or interesting characters, which leads to some confusion as to their emotional relationship to Solidor. Kate Ashton’s lighting design creates a Bohemian mood for the quasi cabaret setting of tables with red tablecloths that is overcrowded, unnecessary and produces terrible sight lines for the audience. The musical numbers are the core of the production and there should be more, perhaps with a verse or two sung in the original French language to enhance the ambience and support the character’s personality.
The sixty-five-minute production is an interesting evening of entertainment that shines a glimmer of light on the fascinating chanteuse but does not qualify or succeed at being a bona fide piece of theater.
ALL I WANT IS ONE NIGHT
“All I Want Is One Night” is written by Jessica Walker, with music director Joseph Atkins. It is produced by Jess Walker Music Theatre, in association with Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester. Joining Jessica Walker are cast members Rachel Austin and Alexandra Mathie. Lighting design is by Kate Ashton and the production stage manager is Sofia Montgomery. Production photos by Carol Rosegg.
“All I Want Is One Night” runs for a limited engagement through Sunday, July 1st at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues) on the following performance schedule: Tuesday – Friday at 7:15 p.m.; Saturday at 2:15 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:15 p.m. The single ticket price is $25.00 - $35.00 ($24.50 for 59E59 Members). Tickets are available by calling Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or online at www.59e59.org. Running time is 65 minutes without intermission.
Photo (L-R): Rachel Austin, and Jessica Walker in “All I Want Is One Night.” Credit: Carol Rosegg.