The grandfather of virtually all contemporary singer-songwriters, the Belgian-born Jacques Brel (1929-1978) had a cultural significance across post-World War II Europe that was a precursor of elements of the Beatles, Bon Dylan and Elvis all rolled into one. When he stopped touring in the late 1960s, the void became an unlikely off-Broadway show and double cast album called “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” which was little more than a non-narrative revue of Brel songs translated into English. Such was the power of the songs, however, that the show and the album became cultural icons, despite the fact that the translations often had little to do with the French originals. That wryness and wittiness has been elegantly restored thanks to Western Michigan University English chair Arnold Johnson, who has been carefully translating Brel songs as a labor of love for years and who even produced an album of them. Using the same intimate male-female cabaret format that “Living” adapted, and making use of only a handful of the songs made famous in that show — “If We Only Had Love” becomes “When We’ve Nothing But Love” — the Theo Ubique Theatre Company treats each of these melancholy, poignant vignettes as if each is a world unto itself: which is course, each is. (Dennis Polkow)
This production is now closed.