Le Devoir.com 

Sylvain Cormier
Monday, March 27, 2006

"Que fais-tu là, Petula?" asked the song in 1965, the story of an English ghost, Mortimer Peabody, at first resenting that Petula Clark had decided to adopt France, and finally finding himself under the charm of the beautiful Folies Bergères. This song has become the symbol of the career that Petula has had in both English and French since the early 60's (and her marriage to French producer Claude Wolff).

Her Saturday evening concert at Théâtre Maisonneuve de la Place des Arts, perfectly reflected this double life, just like any of the other performances she's given before in Quebec, where one can find side by side francophones from the "yeah-yeah" years (those who go " aaaah!" when she starts to sing COEUR BLESSÉ) and the anglophones who go for the Swinging London era (those who think that La Gadoue by Serge Gainsbourg is a strange song and wait for the International hits written for her by Tony Hatch, from MY LOVE to DON'T SLEEP N THE SUBWAY)

Evidently, these two groups of people make one audience, the one who longs for the marvelous, sparkling and lively Petula Clark. A show from an extraordinary "showwomanship". At 73, of which 64 were spent in the limelight -- Petula "The Forces Girl", sang for the troops in a bombed London! --, the little girl who became a very sophisticated lady, knows more than anyone else about British Music-Hall. An art that could be resumed by two words: professionalism and being natural! She has savoir-faire without really over doing it. Petula knows how to touch people (by softly talking about "her" song by Brel, Un Enfant, a gift from Jacques at the birth of her second daughter Catherine), she tells anecdotes ("I got to dance with Fred Astaire... I was terrified!"), make people laugh ("There is no silicone in this act! " she claims by pushing-up her brassiere). She easily rids herself of the small problems that occurred during the evening (such as a man who sang too loudly in the microphone and becomes a running gag) and, especially she knows which songs to choose from her immense and well-known repertoire.

As for the 43 songs on the program, one has to say that they were well harmonized. I am not too keen on medleys, but last Saturday they were well chosen and well integrated into the show (especially the one on the yeah-yeah years, from "Prends mon Cœur" to the irresistible CHARIOT) In fact all of them had a special place in the concert. The homage to Gainsbourg, the bouquet of excerpts from the musicals (the moving "Tell me It's Not True" from BLOOD BROTHERS, the impressive "With One Look" from SUNSET BOULEVARD), the new songs (the excellent "S.O.S. Mozart" written by Delanoé-Bécaud), the pop music from the 60's ("Sign of the Times", "Colour My World"), the big hits ("C'est ma Chanson", "Downtown"),the unfolding was magic with new up-dated orchestations. In one word after the show we were all spellbound by this two and a half hour long performance we attended. We even sang "Personne ne veut mourir"… until we got to the theater exit and the garage of Place des Arts.

Translation courtesy of Daniel Bédard