MACLEAN’S REVIEWS

Will Monique Leyrac please come back...

We love you. The point is, in singing showbiz, Monique is simply unique

PENNY WILLIAMS April 1 1967
MACLEAN’S REVIEWS

Will Monique Leyrac please come back...

We love you. The point is, in singing showbiz, Monique is simply unique

PENNY WILLIAMS April 1 1967

Will Monique Leyrac please come back...

We love you. The point is, in singing showbiz, Monique is simply unique

ALL THAT A French-Canadian entertainer has to do to conquer Toronto is conquer the world first. Take the case of Montreal singer Monique Leyrac, an exciting second Edith Piaf born in the backwoods of Quebec. In recent years she has won two international song festivals and dazzled critics from Moscow to New York. But when she flew to Toronto last February to publicize her first concert in English Canada the city had never heard of her. When she left, however, the city was at her feet.

No wonder. On stage Monique looked a stunning 25 although she is actually close to 40. Dressed in a burgundy gown that slithered on the bias from low-cut bosom to her toes, she radiated the sort of sex appeal that arouses envy in Anglo-Saxon females and immoral longings in males of any race. And when she sang Gilles Vigneault’s haunting Mon Pays (“My country is winter, it is the sweet marriage of wind and snow”) shivers of empathy ran down even the most

English of spines in the audience,

Most remarkable of all, Monique’s formal training as a singer consists of one year’s breathing lessons. The rest of her dramatic impact is the product of long unrewarding years as an actress (she was a CBC radio performer at 13), a cabaret artist and a coffeehouse chanteuse.

Her conquest of English Canada began with a continuous round of newspaper interviews and TV appearances, winding up with a wildly incongruous press conference in the Quebec Room of Toronto’s Royal York hotel. The room itself was more Maria Chapdelaine than Quiet Revolution (the only flag visible was a Union Jack). And the guest list — Expo officials, French-speaking MPPs, the Toronto press corps and a priest — indicated a certain basic confusion on the part of the organizers. But Monique, bilingual and enchanting, put everyone at ease.

The publicity drive did its job. Ticket sales jumped in three days from eight percent to 56 percent. On the night of the concert 85 percent of the seats were filled and by the end of the show, the audience was on its feet shouting “Bravo” and “Encore.”

The English-language numbers were polished but superficial. Monique speaks the language well but hasn’t yet grasped the English mentality — if there is such an animal. In French however, everything was there — shrewdness and innocence, honesty and warmth. Her theme song might be Tout mais pas ça (“I’ll give you everything, but not that”). It had an emotional universality that makes nonsense of Canada’s cultural barriers.

“The more I travel, the more separatism seems a small problem,” says Monique. “Famine and wars, these are the things that change the world. Not separatism in Quebec. My province is too much closed in on itself.”

Monique’s traveling may take her to New York in the next few months. She’s considering a part in a Broadway musical “but I will not play the French girl.” With Toronto now her slave, a trip to other parts of English Canada is being organized. “Actually,” says Monique, “I’m just an actress who learned to sing.” Everything but that. PENNY WILLIAMS

PENNY WILLIAMS