Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris @ Zipper

Robert Cuccioli, Gay Marshall, Rodney Hicks & Natascia Diaz (photo by Carol Rosegg)

I sprained my pinky toe this week and gimped into Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris at the Zipper Theatre, and came out walking normally. I don’t know if you’ve been to the Zipper, but it’s in an old zipper factory and the seating is on car seats. Seating’s tight, sightlines are bad on the side and I had a very tall fellow in front of me, who insisted on bobbing his head side to side during the fast numbers i.e. Madeline.

I first was exposed to this show, and Brel’s music when I was 16 and a camper at Beginner’s Showcase). Playbill had an article about the production. Here’s what director Gordon Greenberg says:

…but his heart belongs to Brel, having encountered him at an impressionable age at Stagedoor Manor, the musical-comedy summer camp for teenage wannabe-out-theres that was featured in the film “Camp.” “It was the first show I ever did.

…This is where I was exposed to the show and got to fall in love with it. The insane Cuban man who ran our camp taught us his own version of it, but, more than anything, he taught us a respect for the music and lyrics and storytelling, which is what makes Brel so powerful.

Here’s to Jack Romano, that ‘insane Cuban man’, wherever he is.

The order of the numbers has been rearranged differently than the original version that starred Elly Stone, Mort Shuman, Shawn Elliott & Alice Whitfield. Le Diable (Ca Va) replaces Marathon as an opening. New numbers (but not new if you know Brel) include My Childhood (Mon Enfance) (there’s a poignant version recorded by Karen Akers), Ne Me Quitte Pas (sung thrillingly in French by Gay Marshall) and Songs for Old Lovers (Chansons de Vieux Amants).

The ensemble of Robert Cuccioli, Gay Marshall, Natascia Diaz and Rodney Hicks sang each song with the power, nuance and delicacy required of it. I agree with the Times‘ criticism of the amplification in this small and intimate theater – it wasn’t needed

It was an enchanting, heart stopping production. My friend said I was really funny and had a smile plastered to my face most of the night. I had tears in my eyes after Marieke. Apparently there will be a cast recording, since there was a signup list in the lobby for it.

Last night, I was ready to sit through it all over again. I hope it runs a very long time.

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