Old-timers and Cleveland theater fans alike have a soft spot in their hearts for Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Produced by Ray Shepardson in the lobby of the State Theatre in 1973, the musical revue ran for 522 performances — not only providing some much-needed live downtown entertainment, but planting the seed that eventually grew into the revival of the Playhouse Square district, which is now the largest theater complex in the USA outside of New York City.
So no wonder there's a buzz about the fact that Jacques Brell is returning to Cleveland. The limited engagement is set for June 21 through July 1, at PlayhouseSquare’s Fourteenth Street Theatre. Jacques Brel RETURNS is a new "en cabaret" production featuring highlights from the original. It has been playing to sold-out crowds at the Triad Theater in NYC for more than a year.
The Cleveland production will feature Tony Award-nominee Robert Cuccioli (Jekyll & Hyde, Les Misérables) along with Cleveland natives Gay Marshall (most recently in town as part of the touring production of Les Cage Aux Folles) and Arlo Hill; the fourth role goes to Ereni Sevasti. Music director David Wolfson has Cleveland connections, too: he worked as an Assistant Music Director at the Cleveland Playhouse in the early 1980s and studied under David Gooding, the Music Director of the original Cleveland production of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.
The show celebrates songwriter Brel's timeless relevance and enduring passions. Translated from the French by American poet Eric Blau and lyricist Mort Shuman (Save The Last Dance For Me), the show is a diverse blend of ballads, tangos, boleros, rock anthems, and classics. Each song tells a story, examining themes of love, war, adventure, broken dreams, being young, growing old, and death...but never forgetting that life, with all its tragedies and complexities, is a pretty funny business. Among the crowd pleasers in the new show: “Carousel”, "My Childhood," "If We Only Have Love," "Ne Mes Quitte Pas," "The Bulls”," Next", "Amsterdam" and "I Loved."
Shows are set for Thursday and Friday evenings at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Ticket prices are $20, $39.50, and $50. Get them at 216-241-6000, or online at playhousesquare.org. — Elaine T. Cicora