Jacques Brel is Alive and Living in Paris
Jacques Brel is the third best-selling Belgium singer/songwriter with over 25 million albums sold. Despite dying back in 1978 his music has remained loved throughout the ages with artists like David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Mark Almond covering his work. The majority of his work was written and performed in French but over the years there have been many English translations.
This musical review show of some of his most well known songs, opened last night at the Charing Cross Theatre with an all-star cast of Gina Beck, Daniel Boys, David Burt and Eve Polycarpou. Some of my favourite songs were Brussels, Amsterdam and The Desperate Ones. One of Jacques Brels most famous songs Ne Me Quitte Pas was of course a highlight of the night and beautifully performed by Eve Polycarpou. Possibly one of the saddest songs ever written, in English it means Don’t Leave Me.
I would have liked to see some braver directional choices rather than playing it safe with a smokey french cafe feel (which goes so obviously well with the French music). Perhaps if the show looked more current and had some storyline to it, it would appeal to more people. This show deserves to do well and it probably will do because of the casting. Gina Beck has recently returned from America where she spent 9 months playing the role of Glinda on the US tour of Wicked. Prior to this she had spent two years playing the role in London as well as previously playing Christine in Phantom of the Opera. Her fan base will surely keep the seats filled for Jacques Brel and her fans will get to see her show her acting strengths here.
Daniel Boys was most recently seen playing Sir Lancelot in Monty Python’s Spamalot at the Playhouse Theatre but is probably most known for appearing in the BBC series Any Dream Will Do (Andrew Lloyd Webbers search to find someone to play Joseph in Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat). If you tune in to the Australian soap opera Neighbours you will hear Daniel singing the theme tune after he won an Australian television contest to sing the song. Daniel has a lovely voice and complements Gina’s tone in their songs together.
David Burt won me over at the end of Act 1 with his rendition of Amsterdam. Up until that point I don’t think the audience had been given enough of an opportunity to see what he can do but he closed the first half with a bang and was a great character actor to watch perform. Eve Polycarpou recently starred in the UK premiere of the critically acclaimed In The Heights at Southwark Playhouse. She perfectly embodied the feel of the show Jacques Brel, with her husky voice and rawness.
Jacques Brel is a great night out that feels more like a cabaret than a show. A very niche production that will rely on its star cast to draw in the punters. But once they’re in there, they are sure to have a great time.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo by Scott Rylander
Jacques Brel is playing at the Charing Cross Theatre until 22 November 2014.