Review: Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris

Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris is all about the music and for those looking for more traditional musical theatre should probably look elsewhere.  But if you’re up for something a bit different you certainly can’t get much better, when done right, than this revue featuring the songs from the Belgium born balladeer.  And while not always successful, the Point B Theatre production currently on stage at the PAL Theatre, still manages to capture some of the eclectic mix of romantic cynicism and bitter disillusionment that permeates Brel’s music.

Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in ParisTechnically this group of young performers (Brandyn Eddy, Kathy Fitzpatrick, Michael Kovac and Erin Palm) are all accomplished singers, but Brel’s songs demand more than just a technical expertise.  With virtually no cohesive thread beyond Brel’s mostly dark and always passionate music, the job of the actors here is to breathe life into each of his songs and the characters who sing them.  This is no easy task as the actors must quickly move from song to song creating the pathos that weaves through each.

Particularly successful here is Erin Palm giving us the incredible “I Loved” in act one with a lovely Gaelic sensibility and the powerful “Marieke” in act two with its beautifully haunting mix of French, Dutch and English.  Palm also gets to lead the whimsical “Carousel” which, along with the first act closer “Amsterdam” featuring just the right amount of commanding melancholy from Brandyn Eddy, were the two definite highlights in the evening.

But where Palm may have singularly stood out, in the company songs like “Timid Freida” and the aforementioned “Carousel”, the quartet’s voices were simply magnificent, with the delicious harmonies allowing me close my eyes and savour their beauty.

Choreography duties here were split between Emily Fraser and Madeleine Suddaby with varying results.  Suddaby was most successful in the delightful “Carousel” where the dancing, along with Terrance Fraser’s lighting, brought a strong and complete cohesiveness to the song.

As I watched this talented group (who made our 2009 list of best shows with their production of Reefer Madness) I was thankful in knowing that shows like Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris are inspiring and reaching a new generation.

I’ll be first in line to see any of these young performers in another ten years time when they remount the show, as I get excited just thinking of the increased depth and understanding they will bring to Brel’s music.

3 out of 5 Stars Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris
PAL Theatre
17 – 26 June 2010

After its successful run of Reefer Madness! last summer, newly named Point B Theatre (formerly j.e. productions) is back with a taste of European flair with Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris directed by Maddison Popov and Brianna Wiens. It runs at the PAL Theatre at 8pm on June 17 to June 20, and June 23 to 26, with a 2pm matinee on June 26.  Tickets are $18 – $22 available online from Tickets Tonight.

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