SHOWING : September 21, 2007 - October 28, 2007
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A romantic, cabaret musical revue
The Hertz Stage transforms into a chic bohemian Paris nightclub for a theatrical event like you’ve never before experienced at the Alliance. Sit back amidst the warm glow of candlelight, have a drink and lose yourself in the stunning music of Jacques Brel, one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th Century. This effervescent, funny and poignant revue offers a little something for the romantic in everyone.
Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris is part of Paris at the Woodruff. Experience the passion, the excitement and the joie de vivre of Paris without even leaving the country. Create your own personalized, French-inspired Paris at the Wooduff ticket package choosing from multiple events at the Alliance, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the High Museum of Art.
Why We Love This Musical
Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris broke box office records during its initial off-Broadway production and played to sold-out houses for more than four years. The recent off-Broadway revival similarly packed in audience members who come back three, four and in some cases ten times (We’re not kidding!). Something about this music transcends time and is as enduring and relevant today as when it was written half a century ago. From the ebullience of the song “Madeleine” to the soaring emotional power of the classic “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” the music of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris is something that, once heard, stays with you forever.
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
Directed by Susan V. Booth
September 21 - October 28, 2007
Running Time: 1 hr., 50 min.
(includes a 15 minute intermission)
Box Office: 404.733.5000
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Love and Death and the Whole D$%n Thing!|
Friday, October 5, 2007 ||
… The Seventies Flash …
It is fall, 1973, and I am love for the first time in my life. We are brought together by a common love of literature, movies, and the songs from “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.” She uses three of the songs for her senior Film Class project (remember Super-8?). The lyrics of “The Bulls” sneak their way into a tacky little stream-of-consciousness story I’ve written (From the Dedalus Neologism File: Pulchrimedusitude – an intimidating beauty that can turn a man to stone). When she splatters my heart across the horizon, I find myself living the lyrics of “Fanette.”
A year later, the execrable film version of “Brel” lands with the sound of something soft and smelly -- pretentious pre-MTV videos sung by the original off-Broadway cast, all of whom look like deer in headlights. The only good number is simple, Brel himself, brooding over his beer and singing “Ne Me Quitte Pas.” The number makes it into a Super-8 movie about obsessive love I make a year later. I keep on dancing through the nights and days.
… And The Eighties Bang …
Ten years after the fact, I have many friends, but no lovers. The memory of that heart-splattered landscape controls my life. I am directing a production of “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.” I am keeping it simple. Our Music Director, a professional drinker, goes off the wagon and the show collapses. I keep on dancing through the nights and days.
… And the Nineties Whimper …
My best friend (no more than that) is a woman who rejects Brel in favor of Aznavour. I’ve seen two productions of “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris,” both of which are terrible. In one, pretentious symbolism and sloppy research (miming machine guns while singing about Sacco and Vanzetti, for example) overwhelm the singers. In the other, the singers were just not good enough for the job. And still, my LP of the show skips from over-playing, my cassette of the show has melted from living in my car, and I haven’t yet bought into the CD revolution. Mort Shuman, translator of Brel’s songs, has joined Brel in death, that “old silver clock that waits for us all.” It seems no one is alive and well or living in Paris. But, I keep on dancing through the nights and days.
… And the Century Hangs …
I’ve married a woman who hates it that we don’t go dancing. We’ve started a family, moved to Marietta GA, and thrived. To my modified excitement, the Alliance Theatre has announced plans to produce "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris." To my extreme excitement, the production is better than a cold beer on a warm night. With a sweet explosion, this production erases the sour smell of all those bad versions I’ve suffered through (including my own aborted attempt). The Hertz Stage has been transformed into a Paris Bistro, complete with working bar. (I recommend the Chardonnay. You’ll be surprised by its tactics.) Sofas line the top wall and rose-colored chandeliers soften the mood. The show has been completely redesigned - songs have been dropped and added. Songs have been rearranged so that the action that ends one song smoothly segues into the next. These are the Brel songs I fell in love with in college, the songs of Love and Death and Death of Love and Love of Death and Aging and Growing and Lost Innocence and Found Experience and Judges Becoming Judged and Emotional Surprise and Lyrics the Strike at the Soul -- the whole panoply of life that can always be found in a surprising bottle of Chardonnay with pretzel-logic tactics. All four singers have their bravura moments - Craig Meyer trawling the audience with his “Bachelor’s Dance;” Courtenay Collins in one of the two miked songs, a reverb-heavy “Ne Me Quitte Pas;” Lauren Kling recovering from her own heart-splatter moment with “I Loved;” Joseph Dellger back behind the reverb mike with “Amsterdam.” Group numbers such as “Madeleine” and “Brussels” are sprightly and tightly choreographed. The three-piece band is low-key, on-key, and does not overwhelm the unmiked singers (Merde, I miss unmiked musicals!). As to the new songs, well, I adored “Girls and Dogs,” not so much “ça va” (though I didn’t hate it).
And the emphasis throughout is on the relationships, the sub-text between the singers, the unspoken unsung yearnings that are the real meanings of the songs and of the show’s ongoing popularity. This isn’t about symbolism or “deep meanings of life” - it’s about the ties that bind and tear our hearts.
There are two aspects of this play I cite in giving it a “perfect” grade, even though the critic in me has a short list of quibbles (a list that will remain my own). First - I know these songs better than any other music. They are the story of my past and my joys and the ache that dominated twenty-five years of my life. I have heard them a thousand thousand times. And yet I found the songs fresh -- I found new emotions and unconsidered interpretations and subtexts in most of them. Previously serious songs twinkled with new moments of humor. Previously light songs flirted with a moment or two of profound heartbreak. And one song, “Old Folks,” a song that I have usually found condescending, found new life by being put in the mouths of a young couple contemplating the many years they have ahead of them.
But, more surprisingly, (and, of course, on a more personal note), not once in the entire evening was I reminded of my “Fanette.” This is music that should provide an emotional link to that 1973 autumn. But the production left my mind focused solely on the show, on wishing my beautiful and patient spouse were there to share it with me. It is only now, in searching for a theme for this review, that I am reminded of the time I fell in love along with these songs.
In love with Fanette.
I have to call her Fanette.
You see, I’ve forgotten her name.
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
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