Monday, April 19, 2010

Jacques Brel is Alive at the Colony Theatre - and Doing Great

Jacques Brel
Jennifer Shelton, Zachary Ford, Eileen Barnett, Gregory Franklin
Photo by Michael Lamont

Four actors, five musicians, and a minimalist set are all that is needed to create the world of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. It is clearly all about the songs, and they are sung to perfection in the production currently playing at the Colony Theatre.

Director Jon Lawrence Rivera capitalizes on the reflective nature of the piece by placing his ensemble at a funeral – an appropriate setting for the introspection of love, loss and the injustices of life so often found in Jacques Brel’s lyrics. Together with musical director Brent Crayon, he creates a hauntingly beautiful evening.

The talented cast features Eileen Barnett, Zachary Ford, Gregory Franklin and Jennifer Shelton, all delivering thoughtful, heartfelt performances that never become heavy-handed. Their voices blend seamlessly whenever they sing in four-part harmony, and even though they are four distinct individuals, they often seem to move as one. The effect is mesmerizing.

Brel composed and recorded almost exclusively in French, however most of Jacques Brel is translated and performed in English, with the exception of “Le Diable,” “Le Moribond/My Last Supper” and “Ne Me Quitte Pas.” Eileen Barnett performs the French beautifully and “Ne Me Quitte Pas” will move you to tears.

Jennifer Shelton has a way of lighting up the stage with her smile. Here she is once again radiant; vocally clear as a bell throughout. Zachary Ford’s work in the show is both charming and poignant and his interpretation of “Next” is one of his best of the evening. Photos even reveal an uncanny resemblance to Brel. Gregory Franklin provides some of the show’s wildest moments in songs like “Jackie,” “Amsterdam,” and “Funeral Tango,” although he just as easily masters the simple “Fanette.”

Onstage musicians are Chris Mello (guitar), Jeff Novack and Oliver Steinberg (both on bass) and Emiliano Almeida (drums), led by musical director Brent Crayon on piano. Production concept, English lyrics and additional material is provided by Eric Blau and Mort Shuman.

For those new to Jacques Brel’s music, as well as loyal fans who have followed him for years, this production of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris is a welcome treat.

The show runs through May 9, 2010. For tickets and more information go to

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