Theatrical Review:
Bethany Jameson And Romano Viazzani In 'The Accordionist'
London Premiere At The New End Theatre,
27 New End, Hampstead, London NW3, Tuesday 5th April, 2011
The Accordionist

New End Theatre
27 New End, Hampstead, London NW3 1JD
Tuesday 5th April, 2011, 7pm

By and starring

Bethany Jameson
Romano Viazzani

A Vérité Productions Production
Directed by
Andrew Morton

The Accordionist runs from Tuesday 5th to Sunday 24th April 2011, with performances Tue to Sat 7pm and Sat & Sun 3pm
Tickets: £14, concessions £12
Online bookings or
Telephone 0870 033 2733

Date of Review: 2011/004/06

Photo of Romano Viazzani, Bethany Jameson
Romano Viazzani & Bethany Jameson in
The Accordionist - final scene at the Bike Shed
Theatre, Exeter

The Accordionist

Act One

Scene One - Escape from Jonathan

Scene Two - 15 years later at 'Madeleine's' Café Theatre

Scene Three - Next morning at 'Madeleine's'

Act Two

Scene One - Jacqueline's second chance

Scene Two - Towards the end of the show

Pre-recorded background music by Romano Viazzani using a Roland FR7X digital accordion

Songs In The Show
(All Edith Piaf songs arranged for accordion by Romano Viazzani)

Padam Padam (lyrics Henri Contet, music Norbert Glanzberg)
La Foule (lyrics Michel Rivegauche, music Angel Cabral)
L'Accordéoniste (lyrics & music Michel Emer)
Get Out Of My Face (lyrics Bethany Jameson, music Romano Viazzani)
Life Story (lyrics & melody Bethany Jameson, music Romano Viazzani)
I've Just Bought A Brand New Dress (lyrics Bethany Jameson & Andy Morton, music Romano Viazzani)
Separation (lyrics Mark Bird, music Romano Viazzani)
La Vie En Rose (lyrics Edith Piaf, music Louiguy)
Can We Take It From The Top (lyrics & music Romano Viazzani)
I Never Realised Your Smile Was Meant For Me (lyrics Bethany Jameson, music Romano Viazzani)
Tango For One (lyrics Bethany Jameson & Guillermo Rozenthuler, music Romano Viazzani)
Prelude No.2 in C minor (J.S. Bach, from The Well-Tempered Clavier)
Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (lyrics Michel Vaucaire, music Charles Dumont)
Parallel Universe (lyrics & music Romano Viazzani, w/additional lyrics Bethany Jameson & Andy Morton)
Milord (lyrics Georges Moustaki, music Margueritte Mannot)
Just Her Younger Man (lyrics Bethany Jameson, music Karen Street)
Bethany Jameson And Romano Viazzani In 'The Accordionist', New End Theatre,
27 New End, Hampstead, London NW3, Tuesday 5th April, 2011

Written by and starring Bethany Jameson and Romano Viazzani, The Accordionist is directed by no less than operatic director/producer 'wunderkind' and singer Andrew Morton.

Ms. Jameson is of course renowned as an outstanding bi-lingual (English and French) singer, cabaret performer and singer-songwriter, both with her three-piece band Dixie Chicks and solo. This is not the first time Ms. Jameson has collaborated with accordion maestro Romano Viazzani. In 2009, she devised and toured the successful cabaret style Piaf homage evening, On The Banks Of The Seine, with Viazzani.

Maestro Viazzani, principally a classical accordionist who studied with Frank Lilley and Professor Owen Murray, professor of accordion at the Royal Academy of Music, is renowned both as a composer and performer. At the London Accordion Festival in 2001, he premiered his Concerto For Accordion and Orchestra, Valceno, with the BBC Concert Orchestra under Nick Davies, as well as a Fantasia on Gigi Stok compositions. His numerous other engagements included a long stint with award-winning jazz band Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble from 2002 to 2007. He has appeared at major European and British opera houses and major concert venues, as well as having been broadcast on TV and radio in the UK and Europe. Viazzani's numerous credits also include the composition of soundtracks for TV and work with Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera and Grace Jones.

In 2007, Viazzani also released three solo accordion albums, which really constitute a triple album: Piazzolla - Ángel Suite/Bobiç - Liturgical Suite, Viazzani takes Stok, and Encore, all reviewed on this site.

After a successful run at the Lighthouse, Poole and the Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter, last night the music theatre piece The Accordionist received its London premiere at the New End Theatre, Hampstead, where it is scheduled to run for three weeks.

The intimacy of the little New End Theatre provided the perfect setting - theatre as it should be! The spectator is at once a member of a theatre audience and a fly on the wall.

The story of The Accordionist is summed up as one 'of desire, drink and dogged optimism.' But of course, that far from tells the whole story.

The Accordionist is the story of Edith Piaf tribute singer Jacqueline Lacroix (Bethany Jameson), her failed marriage to her hard-driving accordionist husband Jonathan (Romano Viazzani), their separation, Jacqueline's struggle with the demon drink and her ambition to be a cabaret singer in her own right rather than just a Piaf tribute singer, and her meeting with and teaming up with a younger accordionist (Romano Viazzani) who has long carried a candle for her and who ultimately provides her with the second chance she so desperately longed for.

But you don't really need to know all this - the plot is wonderfully accessible and easy to follow.

The action takes place at 'Madeleine's' Café Theatre and Jacqueline's dressing room, with minimal, almost abstract sets that suggest rather than impose their meaning and work beautifully. The lighting is also kept simple and again, more subtly suggestive than explicit and again works extremely well indeed. Set, lighting, and indeed sound designers J. H. Lawrence & Dennis Iliff, James Marshall, and Jim Cowdroy, respectively, and indeed the whole production team, ought to be congratulated on an excellent job for The Accordionist.

The acting by both Ms. Jameson and Viazzani is beautifully understated. Of course, acting should be second nature to any cabaret performer worth their salt, but is less of a requirement of the typical musician. However, Viazzani absolves himself remarkably well here.

Rather than straightforward dialogue, The Accordionist's action is conveyed in snippets of Jacqueline Lacroix's telephone conversations with the un-heard Madeleine (as well as with her mother), the occasional remark to the younger accordionist, and meaning-laden facial expressions and gestures by both performers, but above all through the songs themselves and their contexts. Viazzani's only speaking part is a brief, extremely well delivered monologue in Act Two. He also occasionally reacts to Jacqueline by means of a short musical phrase or two on his superlative classical accordion, a Beltrami CVP7.

From the opening scene with Padam, Padam performed by Jacqueline and husband Jonathan, who plays a red, musette-tuned Fisarmoniche Maga Ercole from 1955 (which was Viazzani's father's instrument) in contrast to the younger accordionist's black Beltrami, one immediately realises that a wonderful treat is in store.

Bethany Jameson's interpretations of Piaf repertoire are just stunning throughout. Where other performers frequently resort to exaggeration, Ms. Jameson achieves perfection through subtle under-statement. Her performance of this repertoire is brimming with authority, authenticity and engagement, and the audience could be forgiven for thinking themselves in the presence of the Little Sparrow herself.

However, Ms. Jameson's Piaf interpretations are far more than mere Piaf imitations. They also very firmly bear the stamp of individuality of Bethany Jameson.

The arrangements for accordion by Romano Viazzani are simply outstanding and flawless, as is his pre-recorded background music. His compositions for eight of the nine original songs in The Accordionist are exquisite and capture the mood perfectly. For two of these originals, Viazzani also wrote the lyrics, with equal effectiveness.

The lyrics for the other originals come mainly from Ms. Jameson, one in collaboration with outstanding Argentinean singer and singer-songwriter Guillermo Rozenthuler, while the ninth features lyrics by Ms. Jameson and music by accordionist Karen Street. All the lyrics of the original songs featured in The Accordionist are simply superb and fit the action to perfection.

Beyond that, the original songs also stand up very well to the Piaf songs, without overwhelming these or deviating too far from the genre.

Romano Viazzani's accordion is never less than perfection itself throughout, and neither is Bethany Jameson's vocal performance. Sometimes one can't help wondering if the use of microphones is strictly necessary, as her voice carries supremely well in a couple of songs sung off-mic, but their use is obviously more for dramatic effect than musical necessity.

The character of Jacqueline strikes as at once possessed of a kind of little girl vulnerability and driven by the persuit of her dream, with perhaps more than a hint of the neurotic, too. Husband Jonathan clearly is something of a cold fish, evidently annoyed upon discovering Jacqueline's having left him, greatly inconvenienced without otherwise caring one jot. In contrast, the younger accordionist strikes one as warm and caring, as well as firm and determined in his intentions to get Jacqueline on the straight and narrow and build a new career for both of them.

The musical performances in themselves are just gorgeous. As a piece of music theatre, The Accordionist not only works superbly well but is a real delight that is both fresh and refreshing. It is original and inventive, without ever losing its way into the avant-garde or experimental. A theatre experience that is not to be missed. The Accordionist is warm and deeply moving, combining the tragic with the comic with true panache. A real joy.

How all of this is achieved within the space of just about an hour is nothing short of astounding.

A must see!

N.B. - A CD of the music from The Accordionist will be available very shortly.

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