C’est La Vie

Book, Music & Lyrics by Gregg OpelkaC'est la vie bu gregg opelka evssnston, light opera works

Directed by Rudy Hogenmiller

Conductor & Music Director Jeremy Ramey

Produced by Light Opera Works

At Light Opera Works Second Stage

Come rediscover Gregg Opelka’s fabulous French-styled night club tunes

I first saw Gregg Opelka’s French cabaret show (then called La Vie Ennui) in 2002 at the Theatre Building Chicago. It had a 4 month run making it a surprised hit of that summer. Here is what I said in my review from 2002 when I first discovered Opelka’s show:

“La Vie Ennui (now renamed C’est La Vie) is a refreshingly new, witty, funny and slickly sophisticated musical featuring two superb performers and the author/composer as the piano player. This show is a spoof of French cabaret and a humorous homage to Edith Piaf, the most famous French cabaret singer of the 20th century.

c'est la vie by opelka

La Vie Ennui is set in 1950 Paris at Chez Leplee, a dirty, dingy, smoke-filled Cabaret, whose regular performers are a pair of fading chanteuses, Dominique and Fatiguee, and their accompanist, Jean-Paul-Pierre. The cabaret’s tyrannical owner, Henri Leplee, demands that his showgirls sing only the songs of their arch-rival Edith Piaf every single night. However, on this particular evening, Monsieur Leplee has been conveniently “detained” for questioning by the police. Free for one night to try out their repertoire, Dominique and Fatguee sing about their lives, their loves, their dreams and their dead-end jobs…in a charming way, as only the French can do.”

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Seeing Opelka’s trimmed and polished remount, now called C’est La Vie here in 2009, I was struck once again at the brilliance of Opelka as a tunesmith. This guy can write songs that aptly depict an era, a culture and a period style with an authenticity and a heart. Back for more are Dominques (Kelly Anne Clark) and Fatiguee (Jennifer Chada) as the down on their luck chanteuses who decide since the café owner isn’t there to sing their own songs for one night only. The result is a refreshingly original 90 minute one-act show filled with empathetic characters, loads of humor, and a hauntingly romantic, bluesy and very French score. Opelka’s show is extremely well performed by Clark and Chada with nice piano work from Jeremy Ramey. The variety of songs—all very French—lament lost loves and comment on life and the plight of the two characters.

This charming and heartfelt show is a rare treat—containing a pizzazz and an honest feel that’ll thoroughly engage you throughout. The songs are smart, sophisticated and sensational. Kelly Anne Clark and Jennifer Chada show their stagecraft and lovely voices. This show is fun!

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At Light Opera Works Second Stage, 1420 Maple, Evanston, IL, call 847-869-6300, www.musictheaterworks.com, tickets $24 – $39, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission.