Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Carl A. Rossi


production conception, English lyrics and additional material by Eric Blau and Mort Shuman,
based on Jacques Brel’s lyrics and commentary
music by Jacques Brel

based on the Gloucester Stage production originally directed by Scott Edmiston

restaging supervised by Todd Gordon and Nicole Jesson
musical direction by Todd Gordon


Geoffrey P. Burns
Kent French
Merle Perkins
Kristen Sergeant


Piano … Todd Gordon
Percussion … Scott Nason
Bass … Mike Leggio

The Stuart Street Playhouse/2nd Stage is currently housing JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE & WELL & LIVING IN PARIS, based on Scott Edmiston’s acclaimed production which enjoyed two engagements last summer at the Gloucester Stage Company; this 1968 celebration of Mr. Brel’s French-into-English songs about love and life has held up very well, indeed --- it has survived Mr. Brel himself, who died in 1978. Five producers --- Jerome Rosenfeld, Frank Sugrue, Joan Fredricks, Tim Montgomery and Rita A. Fucillo --- acquired the performing rights and have set up shop in the former 57 Restaurant where they would like this BREL to run forever, making it a Boston institution alongside SHEAR MADNESS and BLUE MAN GROUP. Geoffrey P. Burns, Kent French, Merle Perkins and Kristen Sergeant are currently performing the BREL songs until the original Gloucester cast --- Leigh Barrett, Caroline deLima, Drew Poling and Eric Rubbe --- return from prior commitments.

You can’t go wrong with either cast; they make for some interesting contrasts. Eric Rubbe is at his best in staccato phrasing (his dry voice flattens whenever he tries to soar); Geoffrey P. Burns is more comical and has a voice with plenty of juice, if not subtlety. Caroline deLima is affecting despite being the designated “hot” one for the evening; Kristen Sergeant’s natural lusciousness --- all strawberry taffy --- frees her to concentrate on her songs though she goes off pitch when switching from operetta charm to anthem belt, i.e., “My Death”. Drew Poling has a rousing baritone with lungpower to spare: even his shouts, whispers and declamation come out as well-rounded melody (BREL as oratorio); Kent French’s voice is tighter, firmer and “of the people” (the trim, handsome Mr. French is also more convincing as a waterfront tough). Leigh Barrett’s natural high spirits make her sad songs even more memorable: when a dark cloud passes over the sun, how we long for it to smile on us again! Merle Perkins is more somber, wary; bruised by Life --- her upper register rings hollow; she is better in mid-range and when blending with the ensembles. Ms. Barrett stops the show by leading the others through the vertiginous “Carousel”, but her most treasured moment is the haunting “Marieke”; Ms. Sergeant is the current fire-catcher with her soft, lovely rendition of “Old Folks”.

The 57 Restaurant is the perfect cozy setting for JACQUES BREL, reinforcing what is by nature a cabaret act. May this production truly run forever and become an ever-changing showcase for Boston-based talent; established singers and newcomers, alike.

"Jacques Brel is Alive & Well & Living in Paris" (28 October-21 December)
Radisson Hotel Boston, 200 Stuart Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (800) 447-7400

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide