Mon Histoire en Chansons Francaises
March 4, 2022, 7pm
By Sarah Downs
Lane Bradbury loves everything French. And why not? Renoir, croissants, the Champs Elysées – what’s not to love? In her show MON HISTOIRE EN CHANSONS FRANCAISES (My Story in French Songs) Lane Bradbury has put together an eclectic combination of songs, from cabaret, to ya-ya to musical theater — some originally French and some translations into French – to create an unexpected evening of music.
Opening the show with “La Marseillaise,” to an inspired arrangement by Music Director Michael Roberts, which intertwined this stirring French national anthem with that of the U.S., set the tone perfectly. Ms. Bradbury and Mr. Roberts have made various interesting choices throughout the program, including a French version of “My Way” and some audience participation on the ya-ya tune “Charlemagne,” which people thoroughly enjoyed.
One of the bolder ideas was to sing the ABBA song “The Winner Takes It All” in French. What a difference a language makes – A Swedish song is translated into English and then into French, and with each translation nuances have subtle but telling effect. For instance, the English phrase “the winner takes it all” with its cold, imperious tone, becomes “Bravo, tu as gagné” (“Congratulations, you have won”) a far more personal lyric. Similarly, “On My Own” from Les Misérables, is more compelling in its original French (Mon Histoire) than it is in English.
Ms. Bradbury’s French accent is not very Francophone but she does make herself understood. More importantly, she clearly understands what she is singing. Some of the keys are too low. I assume this is to accommodate her singing almost entirely in her belt. It’s a shame though, since she does have a nice head voice.
Ms. Bradbury gives a particularly effective reading of the song “Three Bells,” which tells of the three moments in one’s life when the bells will toll for thee, as it were – birth, marriage and death. Ms. Bradbury took time to describe the song’s meaning, sharing a bit of her own story, and even more so in her interpretation of the lyric. She is a good actress, with a vulnerability which serves her well as a singer. Ms. Bradbury also uses her hands to great effect, in graceful gestures that reflect her dance background.
Jezebel, with its tango rhythms, gives Ms. Bradbury a chance to camp it up. In songs like “Aux Champs Elysées” and the cheeky “Le Chat de la Voisine,” made famous by the great Yves Montand, Ms. Bradbury was piquant and charming, without artifice. Petite, with her blonde hair pulled back simply, dressed in flowing bohemian dress, Ms. Bradbury performs with a sincerity that carries across the footlights.
No French cabaret would be complete without Edith Piaf. Ms. Bradbury and Mr. Roberts perform the iconic “Non, Je ne Regrette Rien” as a duet, in a refreshing choice that underscores the song’s quiet drama. One cannot help but be stirred up by the defiant lyric. Singer and accompanist are well matched in tone and temperament. Mr. Roberts supports and guides Ms. Bradbury but he never overplays.
In its interesting repertoire choices and Ms. Bradbury’s storytelling, this cabaret offers something different for audiences to hear. I would recommend a song list and, if possible, some translations of the less well-known songs at least, so people can follow along.