As the official story goes, Veronique Chevalier is a French woman of aristocratic breeding whose career in ballet was cut short thanks to the errant fire of a cowboy’s pistol. Awaking from her unconscious state without the knowledge of her etoile past and her mother tongue, Mademoiselle Chevalier took to performing cabaret songs in French-accented English.
In truth, Chevalier, the daughter of a French mother and U.S. military father, was born in France and raised across the world. While moving through a string of 13 different schools, she learned that the best way to make friends when you’re constantly the new kid is to be the funny kid.
“I was always the class clown,” she admits. “That’s kind of building to what I’ve been doing all along.”
What Chevalier does is perform a mix of parodies, cover tunes, and original songs with a healthy dose of physical comedy. Try to imagine Madeline Kahn playing Edith Piaf and you might get the idea.
Chevalier’s career as a cabaret artist began when a foot injury effectively ended her study of ballet. Initially, she performed in plain English, but a gig at the Church of Scientology’s Winter Wonderland event five years ago, her first engagement after moving to Los Angeles, changed that.
“It was 38 degrees out,” she recalls. “Nobody was coming to hear me sing and the soundman kept messing up my tracks and it was kind of like a train wreck…I saw how absurd it was, so I just started singing in a French accent out of left field. I thought, why not? It was kind of fun and it felt good.”
One week later, Chevalier played her first paid gig as her Gallic counterpart and the crowd took to her. Since then, the Chanel-loving and escargot-loathing stage persona has successfully infiltrated the underground. From 2005 through 2006 Chevalier hosted the popular Red Velvet Vaudeville Variety Show, which featured performances from an assortment of colorful artists. Her Cabaret4Choice compilation CDs have been championed by cutting-edge music outlets like Internet station killradio.org. And “Vampire Surprise,” a tune about Dracula-warding garlic recipes, became a hit of 2007’s Halloween season.
“I jokingly call myself a closet goth,” says Chevalier, who received the gong of disapproval on the NBC program America’s Got Talent (she surmises that she would have been “bummed” if she hadn’t been gonged off the show). “I do have this spooky element to myself, but I don’t take it seriously, so I throw my comedy in with it.”
Chevalier recently finished recording a full-length album, but a release date is currently unconfirmed. In the meantime, she will continue charming audiences with purrs of “cherie” and cries of “mon dieu.”
“There’s something so exotic about being French,” Chevalier muses. “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.”
Veronique Chevalier plays at Club Good Hurt on January 21.