NORTH HOLLYWOOD—The mainstage performance of “Charles: A Bio-Musical on the Life & Songs of Legendary Singer Charles Aznavour” came to life at the notable El Portal Theater, transforming the storied space into a nostalgic ambiance to highlight one of the most industrious and memorable singers in the world. The performance took place on Saturday, November 9.
Created, written, and directed by Taleen Babayan, the performance featured singer Maurice Soudjian, pianist Bernard C. Bayer, who portrayed a younger Aznavour, and Mariette Soudjian, who guest starred as Edith Piaf. Musicians Harout Soghomonian accompanied on guitar and accordion and Levon Ghanimian on bass.
The audience was intrigued by both the narrative story that unveiled little known details about the singer’s life, in addition to the live singing and instrumentation.
“This brilliant show provided great historical and cultural insight into an exciting era of French music,” said Mariette Tachdjian. “It’s a must-see as we discover and rediscover the great legend through stories and songs, alongside the spirit of Aznavour that was alive and present with us.”
The bio-musical debuted last October at Hollywood’s The Hotel Cafe in a cabaret-style setting that brought to the forefront the striking resemblance, vocally and physically, of its lead singer who always dreamed of embodying Aznavour.
“In a sense, I’ve been preparing for this role throughout my lifetime,” said Maurice Soudjian, who spent a considerable amount of time living, studying, and working in Paris, France. “It was a natural progression for me, since I’ve been passionately listening to and studying Aznavour’s captivating music for decades.”
In response to his performance, attendee Mark Olivas said, “Maurice blew my mind.”
“Bernard Bayer nailed the role of the younger Aznavour, especially with his skills on the piano, and Mariette brought another talented dimension to the show as Piaf,” said Olivas. “The show was genius.”
The concept of the bio-musical was based on primary and secondary sources – including Aznavour’s two autobiographies – to depict the artist accurately as the three dimensional figure that he was, as well as the rich life he led. Each vignette tied into the performance of one of his hit songs, from “La Boheme” to “Les Deux Guitares” to “La Mamma.” Highlighting the generational enthusiasm for Aznavour, singer-actress Mariette Soudjian performed Franco-English versions of “Emmenez-Moi” and “Hier Encore.”
“As a Diasporan musician, performing in this show was a historical learning experience, as well as one of personal growth,” said bassist Levon Ghanimian. “Aznavour’s music was not only a portrayal of love, but also a story of healing for a people who have suffered great loss.”
The son of Armenian Genocide survivors, Aznavour’s climb to becoming a chart-topping singer across the globe was one filled with determination, grit, and ambition. Born into an artistic family, Aznavour embraced his passion for music and led an acclaimed career – without ever forgetting his roots.
“I now see Aznavour in a different light, because of this up close and personal performance of amazingly talented artists,” said Gladys Saroyan. “I’m so happy that Taleen is enriching our community through these live theatrical plays and I just wish Aznavour saw the performance.”