SMT Brings Legendary French Chanteuse to Life in EDITH PIAF ONSTAGE

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Leslie Fitzwater set to play Edith Piaf role for the last time in newly expanded show.

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Skylight Music Theatre brings Leslie Fitzwater to the stage for her final rendition as the iconic Edith Piaf  in Edith Piaf Onstage January 25 – February 10  in the Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center (158 N. Broadway, Milwaukee WI).

Fitzwater embodies Piaf in this captivating evening of song and story that includes some of Piaf’s most well-known songs such as “Hymn to Love”, “Milord” and “La Vie En Rose”. Piaf’s stormy life was paralleled only by her iconic music. Overcoming an impoverished childhood and successfully fighting a murder charge that threatened to end her budding career, she rose to be the highest paid female performer in the world.

Both Fitzwater and the show have a long history at Skylight. Leslie first created a Piaf revue for Bastille Days in 1987. The following year, in 1988, the first Skylight version of Edith Piaf Onstage, which now incorporated biographical storytelling about Piaf, saw it’s World Premiere. A success with audiences from the start, the show was performed again in 1989 , revived for Skylight’s Studio Theatre in 2006 and had an encore run later that same season.  Now, after cancelling last year’s show due to Fitzwater’s health, Skylight is thrilled to bring back this storied favorite, one last time, in an expanded version for the Cabot Theatre stage.  The new version includes four additional songs , an added scene and a 4-piece orchestra of piano, accordion, bass and percussion.

The music is especially important to this production.  Piaf was very particular about the songs she sang, insisting that they fit her, that she had an emotional connection to each song. She would often work with composers to shape the song to her liking.  Likewise, Music Director, Paula Foley Tillen, transcribed the new orchestrations from original recordings of Piaf to ensure that the richness of the music translated perfectly to the Cabot Stage and that the orchestra, with Tillen on piano, could accurately capture the authentic sound of Edith Piaf’s storied performances.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to bring Leslie back to Skylight’s stage for her final performance in this role and share the timeless music of Edith Piaf. I think Milwaukee audiences will be surprised at how much of the music they recognize from this truly iconic singer whose classic songs like “La Vie en Rose” and “Non, je ne regrette rien” have been ingrained in popular culture for so long, “ says Bill Theisen, Skylight’s Artistic Director.

CREDITS

Written by …………………………………………………………………………..Leslie Fitzwater

Orchestrations by …………………………………………………………………Paula Foley Tillen

 

PRODUCTION TEAM

Stage Director & Choreographer……………………………………………… Jim Butchart

Music Director……………………………………………………………………….Paula Foley Tillen

Set Designer…………………………………………………………………………..Rick Rassmussen

Costume Designer…………………………………………………………………..Shima Orans

Lighting Designer…………………………………………………………………..Holly Blomquist

Sound Designer………………………………………………………………………Gary Ellis

Stage Manager……………………………………………………………………….Jennifer Anderson

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association,

**Member of the United Scenic Artists

 CAST

Edith Piaf……………………………………………………………………………….Leslie Fitzwater

 

ORCHESTRA

Accordion………………………………………………………………………………Tom Knack

Bass……………………………………………………………………………………….Tom McGirr

Drums and Percussion………………………………………………………………Mike Lorenz

Piano……………………………………………………………………………………..Paula Foley Tillen


KEY BIOGRAPHIES

Leslie Fitzwater (Edith Piaf) – Leslie Fitzwater has been acting and singing professionally for 30 years and has performed with the Milwaukee Symphony, Racine Symphony, Florentine Opera, Skylight Music Theatre, Present Music, Milwaukee Dance Theatre and Milwaukee Choral Artists.  Leslie has had a multi-faceted career spanning opera, theater, music theater, cabaret, and mime, and her roles have been as diverse as Paddington Bear and Carmen.  While Leslie has played her share of well known characters such as Desiree Armfeldt (A Little Night Music), Golda (Fiddler on the Roof), Fraulein Schneider (Cabaret), Agnes (I Do, I Do), Irma (Irma La Douce) and Marmie (Little Women), her real passion is being in on the ground floor of new works.  Leslie sang in workshops for James Valcq’s enormously popular Spitfire Grill, she recorded selections from Josh Schmidt’s new musical based on Candida, and was in world premier performances of Dark Pony by Don St. Pierre, Songs of the Woman D’Este and Songs of the Portuguese by Sigmund Snopek III, and Ballymore (which aired on PBS) by Richard Wargo.

 

Jim Butchart (Director) – An actor, director and teacher for the past 35 years, Jim received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Professional Actor Training Program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1981. His directing credits include:  Woyzeck for Milwaukee Dance Theatre, Two Rooms for In Tandem Theatre, Green Eggs and Ham and The Big Brag for First Stage Milwaukee and two earlier incarnations of Edith Piaf Onstage here at Skylight. Jim’s acting career includes performing with Skylight in The Threepenny Opera, The Cradle will Rock, Coconuts and The Student Prince. He has also performed with: The Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Milwaukee Chamber Theater, Utah Shakespeare Festival, First Stage Milwaukee, Pheasant Run Theater, Equity Library Theater, Theater Tesseract and Theatre Gigante. Jim is Head of the BFA-Performance program at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he has directed over 50 musicals, operas and plays.

 

Paula Foley Tillen (Music Director) – Paula Foley Tillen has been a professional musician in the Milwaukee area for the past thirty-five years, acting as music director for many theatre companies in both Milwaukee and Chicago. Paula is director of music at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Waukesha, serves as musical director for the Musical Mainstage series at Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove, and is adjunct music faculty member at Pius XI High School. Paula is a founding member and composer-in-residence of the only professional women’s vocal ensemble in the Midwest, the Milwaukee Choral Artists. Several of her compositions will be featured in MCA’s March 2013 Memories concert. Her compositions and arrangements have been performed throughout the US and Canada, and can be found in the catalogs of Hal Leonard Publishing Co., Alliance Publishing Co., and Santa Barbara Music Press. She is the winner of the 2008 Joe Shepley Choral Composition Competition (Namasté Women’s Choir, LA, CA).


Edith Piaf Onstage
is generously sponsored by The Schoenleber Foundation. This production was also supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.

 

Skylight offers a free post-show cabaret performance that takes place in the Bar following every Friday and Saturday evening performance. The current Cabaret is titled the Esta Noches Cantamos and features Karen Estrada, Rana Roman, David Flores with Jack Forbes Wilson on piano.

 

Performances of Edith Piaf Onstage will take place January 25-February 10, 2013 in  the Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway in the Historic Third Ward of Milwaukee. Tickets are generally $22.50 – $65.50 (plus tax) and can be purchased in person at the Broadway Theatre Center Box Office or by calling (414) 291-7800 Monday – Sunday from noon – 6:00 p.m. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.skylightmusictheatre.org. Group, student, senior and other discounts are available.

 

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