Torill was stunning in her 1994 revue, Rendez-Vous With Marlene. Now she is a poignant Little Sparrow as Edith Piaf, brilliant as five other women in Piaf's life. Directed as before by Jules Aaron (which seems a pairing made in theatre heaven) her performance in this self-created, self-written one-woman revue corroborates that Torill is a terrific talent of international dimension.
Sa Vie en Rose turns to an era when grief was not global and gargantuan but personal and private. Piaf suffers and, someone says, "wants everyone to feel as miserable as she does." But when she sings, nothing else matters. She lives to sing, and perhaps the same may be said of Torill, whose voice is a magnificent instrument: vibrant, powerful, and as expressive as her beautiful, mobile face, which she doesn't mind contorting into masks of comedy, tragedy, sometimes both at once. Her Piaf here is old and frail, hunched and shuffling in a homely black dress and shapeless shoes, but when she sings, hands fluttering like pinioned wings, she soars like an eagle.
We get a saucy "Milord" to begin, Piaf in gamine mood. Next, ugly duckling becomes glamorous swan with Torill glittering as Parisian chanteuse Marie Dubas (Piaf's idol) in a cloche-like wig of white feathers and gold leaf, a coq-feather boa floating about her slender figure in gold lame (Piaf would have liked to look like that). But Marie is mean-spirited. She contemptuously dismisses Piaf as a guttersnipe and whore. Marinette, widow of the Algerian world middleweight boxing champion Marcel Cerdan, lost love of Piaf's life, savagely attacks a loaf of bread and sausage roll as though she wishes it were her rival. Famed songwriter Margurite Monnot puffs on a cigar with sublime self-assurance, discusses her friendship with the singer who brought luster to her songs, and treats us to one of them.
Once more Torill incarnates Marlene, this time Dietrich in mannish mode in a handsome red suit, wearing a hat that casts shadow over half her face and transforms her into a Picasso painting. (Ever housewifely, she dusts off her chair before she sits.) In the penultimate vignette, Piaf's half-sister Simone Berteau is clownish, manic, comic verging on crazy.
Sergio Minervini, Torill's talented accompanist, dons a beret and gets into the act. Don Gruber's elegantly simple set is elegantly lighted by J. Kent Inasy. Thomas Rincker's sound and video design are award worthy, as are costumes and wigs by Mark Goff and Troy Hedrick. The show, I think, would profit from shifting and tightening of its final scenes, with "La Vie en Rose" as its rousing conclusion sure to bring audiences to their feet. First-nighters rose anyway to give Norway's Torill deserved tribute for reaching across the years, nations, mortality, to touch the heart of the urchin street singer who became a legend.