JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN PARIS
Music by Jacques Brel
English lyrics and additional material by Eric Blau and Mort Shuman
Charing Cross Theatre, The Arches
Villiers Street, London WC2N 6RH to 22 November 2014
Mon – Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3pm
Runs 2hr One interval
TICKETS: 0844 493 0650
Review: William Russell, 18 10 14
Pleasant Underneath the Arches, but this isn’t where Brel is.
This is a stylish revue with a cast of four performing Brel’s songs, but somehow or other the essence of the man simply isn’t there. The last person I saw do Brel’s songs was Peter Straker years back at the Bridewell and he knew what he was doing. He was dangerous, exciting and charismatic.
The cast of this revival of the show devised by Blau and Shuman, all West End veterans, know what to do with a song, but not with Brel’s songs – although there is one glorious exception when Eve Polycarpou sings Ne Me Quitte Pas in French and almost stops the show.
Directed by Andrew Keates it all works smoothly enough, David Burt does an effective Funeral Tango from an in stage coffin and the songs remain the songs but to play a record of Brel singing them in the interval was unwise. He wasn’t the greatest singer, but when it came to singing his own songs he was in a class all his own.
There is a five piece band under Dean Austin, although maybe a little less brio would help. Sometimes musical directors at the piano seem to want to compensate for the lack of backup by playing terribly loudly.
The result is a harmless affair, pleasantly staged in which everyone does their stuff well enough. It may even introduce Brel to a new audience. But, talented though the cast is his material is really not what they are good at and, wherever else he may be alive and well and living, Brel is not living in the arches under Charing Cross station.
Director: Andrew Keates
Production Design: Chris de Wilde
Lighting Design: Mike Robertson
AV & Sound Design: Paul Gavin & James Nicholason
Musical Director: Dean Austin
Musical Arrangements: Eric Svejcar
Choreography: Sam Spencer- Lane