|L-R: Joseph Atkins, Jessica Walker, and Alexandra Mathie in ALL I WANT IS ONE NIGHT. Photo by Carol Rosegg.|
It is no accident that Suzy Solidor lacks the name recognition of Edith Piaf or Marlene Dietrich; admittedly she was not in their class as a French chanteuse of the 1930’s and 1940s. And yet Solidor surely deserves greater recognition, not only as the openly bi-sexual, cross-dressing, flamboyant owner-entertainer of La Vie Parisienne, located in the first gay quarter of Paris and one of the hottest Parisian nightclubs of the time, but also as the “most painted woman in the world,” having had her portrait painted more than 200 times by such celebrated artists as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braques, Raoul Dufy, Francis Bacon, Man Ray, Erte, Jean Cocteau, and Tamara de Lempicka.
The illegitimate daughter of a charwoman, Solidor came to believe that her father, an attorney who had abandoned her, was really the descendent of an infamous French pirate, prompting her to sing of “the sea, sex and sailors” – that is, when she was not belting out even more erotic, Sapphic tunes. Consistent with her personality, Solidor catered to all comers, both heterosexuals and homosexuals, at La Vin Parisienne, and not only to French intellectuals and French entertainers but also to Nazi officers - which ultimately led to her conviction as a Nazi collaborator after the war.
Jessica Walker is an exceptional, multi-talented woman in her own right, as a playwright, translator, actress and singer. Not only has she brought Solidor to our overdue attention by penning All I Want Is One Night, currently being staged as part of the Brits Off Broadway program at 59E59Theaters, but in doing so, she personally translated Solidor’s songs from French to English and now is starring, as actress and singer, in this production.
Walker is superb in channeling Solidor’s persona and is very ably supported by the other two members of the production’s small cast. Rachel Austin portrays both Daisy and Giselle, the former being one of Solidor’s long-time lesbian lovers and the latter being her much put upon handmaid of her later years when Solidor was descending into an alcoholic abyss of her own making. Alexandra Mathie is even more versatile, playing five different roles including those of Bengt Lindstrom (the latest in the long line of artists commissioned to paint Solidor’s portrait); Tamara de Lempicka (who painted the most famous of Solidor’s portraits and who was another of her many gay lovers); Bambi (a flamboyant drag queen); and her long lost father.
And special mention must be made of Joseph Atkins, the play’s musical director without whose terrific accompaniment on the piano and accordion, the play may well have languished. I only wish there had been more musical numbers than the eight with which we were provided, for him to have accompanied.