By Melanie Weir
A dark stage. One light shines on a pianist in a bowtie, who plays a graceful introduction. He pauses, seemingly annoyed. He resumes playing, but pauses again, even more annoyed. The sound of snoring.
Lights up on the source of the disruption: a tall, handsome man in a debonair suit “awakens” and begins singing in a beautiful rich tenor voice with an alluring French accent. Is the tone of the show set? Not quite yet.
After singing an opening number, the singer, Tangi Colombel, greets his pianist, Marcelo Pizzotti, with four kisses, two on each cheek. He explains that this is how the French greet one another, and approaches a woman in the front row to demonstrate. She ‑ shyly ‑ obliges. He then approaches the man sitting next to her with the same purpose. The man ‑ to the surprise of Mr. Colombel himself, it seems ‑ welcomes the greeting with open arms. The audience laughs, and Mr. Colombel begins singing again, this time with suggestive dance moves to boot.
That sequence sets the tone of the show, in a nutshell. Mr. Colombel’s charm and charisma are winning as he takes his audience through a set of French, English, and Spanish songs, interspersed with racy jokes and anecdotes about his own life, from growing up poor in a French town that he so affectionately nicknames “Depression,” to moving to Florida and becoming a gigolo ‑ ahem! No, not really: a French teacher to older women ‑ as well as acting and doing voiceovers for Spanish soap operas. Throughout the show, he never drops his lighthearted, sexually uninhibited demeanor, poking fun at his pianist and constantly reminding the audience to loosen up. As the laughter levels increased as the show went on, it seems he was successful.
This audience was perhaps more pre‑loosened than Mr. Colombel expected. As in the opening number, when the man he went to kiss opened his arms wide to him rather than being embarrassed and resistant, some of Mr. Colombel’s jokes that hinged on the audience being uncomfortable with his bald‑faced sexuality fell flat when said audience didn’t need to be eased into anything with humor. It seemed that he was a tad unprepared to improvise in the face of an audience participant who was as laid back as he was.
Still, a few flat jokes cannot override the fact that Mr. Colombel did an excellent job at taking a form that can sometimes seem generic and only moderately entertaining ‑ a one‑man cabaret ‑ and making it fun and enjoyable. His anecdotes brought humor, his audience participation sessions and impromptu French lessons kept viewers involved, and his saucy dance moves and jovial personality made a good time great.
It cannot be understated just how truly lovely his singing is. Mr. Colombel’s voice has an effortless, rich, classic tone that is soothing and enchanting to listen to, whether he is singing the phone book ‑ literally ‑ or crooning the French version of “My Way” (which is apparently actually the original). The French accent doesn’t hurt, and is definitely part of the charm that draws you in. But there is a reason this man is doing a cabaret performance: his voice is just downright pleasant to listen to.
“Pardon My French!” is a fun cabaret variety experience that anyone (over the age of 18) can enjoy. If you don’t know French, Tangi Colombel will walk you through it. If you do, it will only enrich your experience and help you appreciate inside jokes. If you’re in the mood for a lighthearted evening in which a charming, debonair bald man dances suggestively and banters in French and English in between beautifully sung renditions of standards, this is the performance for you. You’re guaranteed to leave the show humming “La Vie En Rose.”
“Pardon My French!”
Performed by Tangi Colombel
October 9 at 9 PM
Photo Creit: Courtesy of the Production
2019 United Solo Theater Festival
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
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MELANIE WEIR is an actor, singer and writer, and a graduate of Seton Hall University’s Theatre and Creative Writing programs. She has spent the past several years trying on several new theatre hats, including directing, playwrighting, songwriting, and editing, with the tight-knit group from her college program. She has also established herself as a freelance writer, and has been published on various blogs and websites, including Business Insider.