Review: 'Piaf' is Amador's greatest performance

Posted at 03/11/2013 7:20 PM | Updated as of 03/11/2013 7:20 PM
Pinky Amador as the French singer Edith Piaf. Photo from the Facebook page of Atlantis Productions.

MANILA, Philippines – Now this is how you celebrate a career milestone.

Actress Pinky Amador marked her 30th year in the business by giving the performance of her life as the French singer Edith Piaf in Atlantis Productions’ opening salvo for 2013.

Amador, who is more known to TV audiences as the villain in the top-rating daytime series “Be Careful With My Heart,” richly deserved the enthusiastic standing ovation during the opening night of “Piaf” last Friday at the RCBC Plaza in Makati.

Practically onstage for the entire duration of the play, Amador commanded the stage with determined focus and aching passion as she tackled Piaf’s troubled life from her early days as a street singer and prostitute to her dying years as a tortured superstar dependent on sex, drugs and alcohol.

In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Amador said she had wanted to play Piaf for 25 years after she was cast as a bit player in a Repertory Philippines’ production of the play with Joy Virata in the title role.

It is definitely worth the long wait. While Amador had always displayed a natural talent for the stage – recall her performance in Rep’s “Agnes of God” early on in her career – she hasn’t had a role as challenging as this one.

And she gave such a fully committed performance that she practically disappears in the role, deteriorating right before our eyes, as she embraced Piaf’s crude, foul-mouthed arrogance while carrying the singer’s heavy emotional baggage of grief and despair, as well as hope.

Her nervous meltdown that ends Act One after the love of Piaf’s life, the boxer Marcel, dies in a plane crash is already worth the price of the ticket. Her singing has never been this resonant, powerful yet highly emotional, an acting performance in itself.

Uneven ensemble

Amador’s performance is so spellbinding that it more than makes up for the play’s shortcomings, starting with Pam Gem’s own revisions of the original play, cutting down its length considerably. Many details about Piaf’s life were left unexplained, creating a highly unflattering portrait of the singer as a sex-starved, self-destructing diva.

And since the other actors also take on multiple roles, it often gets confusing to keep track of the many characters in the play – not to mention the cacophony of accents given that some actors chose to take on a foreign twang, while the others did not.

Director Bobby Garcia also had an ensemble, composed of veteran and younger actors, that was uneven with some of the newer actors coming across as tentative, although TV actress G Toengi certainly had that mysterious allure as the film legend Marlene Dietrich.

Pinky Amador as the French singer Edith Piaf. Photo from the Facebook page of Atlantis Productions.

But the set, designed by Faust Peneyra, was just gorgeous, as it covered the entire stage with run-down French doors, with just iron-wrought chairs and simple rolled-in props to set the various scenes.

Coupled with Martin Esteva’s evocative lighting design, the stage was definitely a knockout, worthy for Amador’s tour de force performance.

“Piaf” runs until March 23 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City.