HOLLYWOOD—His music became legendary. His journey to worldwide acclaim the touch points of the so-called American Dream. The son of Armenian Genocide survivors, with no formal education or musical training, Charles Aznavour went on to become one of the most popular singers in the world. His remarkable life, pitted with ups and downs, along with his most memorable songs will be on stage in Los Angeles this Fall.
On the heels of its compelling cabaret-style debut at The Hotel Café, “Charles: A Bio-Musical on the Life & Songs of Charles Aznavour” will perform on the main stage of the El Portal Theatre in the heart of the NoHo Arts District on Saturday, November 9. The theater is located at 5269 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601.
Written by Taleen Babayan, “Charles” traces key points in the musician’s life, charting the personal and professional struggles the singer faced on his climb to becoming an iconic award-winning entertainer throughout the course of his eight decade career in his beloved France and across the globe.
From his humble beginnings, to his perseverance as a working musician in occupied France during World War II, to overcoming crippling criticism, to his creative spark with Edith Piaf, the 90-minute show serves as an homage to his legacy as an integral member of France’s Golden Age of Music, while capturing the charismatic and shining spirit he embodied as a singer, lyricist, actor, diplomat and humanitarian. Based on Aznavour’s two autobiographies and a number of primary and secondary sources, his unconventional life emerges on stage in a unique narrative punctuated by live musical performances, which was praised by audience members at The Hotel Café debut on October 12.
“The bio-musical play on the life of Charles Aznavour is a deeply felt, heartwarming and inspirational experience,” said attendee Veronica Zorigian. “Taleen Babayan directs this play with grace and deep emotional capacity.”
Produced by Boundaryless Productions under the direction of Taleen Babayan and musical supervision of Harout Soghomonian, “Charles” features Maurice Soudjian and Bernard C. Bayer, who both portray Charles Aznavour, alongside Mariette Soudjian, who makes a guest appearance as Edith Piaf.
“Playing the role of Piaf has been one of the most enriching experiences I’ve had as an actress,” said Soudjian. “Singing her iconic chansons and ballads gives depth to the performance.” Soudjian will also sing two numbers by Aznavour in English, “Take Me Away” (Emmenez-Moi) and “She,” in reference to the multiple languages he recorded in to “modernize and make Aznavour even more relevant to the younger generation.”
The breadth of the bio-musical surpasses all generations and cultural backgrounds, similar to Aznavour’s intention of expanding the scope of his artistry – pushing boundaries and continents.
“The moment the music starts your heart becomes enwrapped in a beautiful and touching embrace of a pure masterful artist,” said audience members Gray Morell and Shane Rasmussen. “The performances by the talented and passionate cast are truly remarkable and this is a perfect tribute to a music legend.”
The story is also personal for the cast, allowing them to connect to the subject matter on a visceral level. Raised on the music of Charles Aznavour and other contemporary French singers, Austrian-born pianist and actor Bernard C. Bayer reflected on fond memories he shared with his father as they listened to Aznavour’s music together.
“I was excited at the prospect of embodying him and exploring his life, artistry and music in a more in-depth way,” said Bayer. “From the stage of The Hotel Café I could feel the love of Aznavour radiating toward me from the audience.”
Drawing on his real-life experience of seeing a captivating Aznavour perform live at the Greek Theatre, Bayer sought to “honor his legacy, no matter how daunting.”
“Being a part of this project is for me a deeply personal experience,” said Bayer. “It doesn’t just fulfill a lifelong desire to portray Charles Aznavour, but it also connects me to some of my most cherished memories with my family, memories to which he provided the soundtrack.”
Digging deep into the time period and nuances of Aznavour’s life, many unknown details are revealed, from his family life to his artistic influences to his insights on the French Chansons.
“It was a really innovative concept to introduce the side of Aznavour that most of us didn’t know about,” said Hannah Pollock. “Meticulously researched, this show portrays the beloved singer in different phases of his life and creative spirit through his most popular songs and music.”
Tying in the music of a “bygone era” to the present-day, Babayan’s aim is to stage a story filled with vivid imagery about a man who tackled the world head-on to make his voice heard, in more ways than one.
“Aznavour felt a calling from deep within and he was brave enough to pursue it despite the odds stacked against him,” said Babayan. “In doing so he made this world a little more cultured, a little more bold and a little more inspiring.”