The musical revue that celebrates the life-embracing songs of the late Belgian singer-songwriter Brel is directed by Stafford Arima, the Canadian-born director who has found success in the U.S. (Altar Boyz) and London (Ragtime) in the past decade. Arima garnered an Olivier Award nomination for best direction, for his West End production of Ragtime.
Opening June 11, Jacques Brel plays in rep to Sept. 25 at the intimate Tom Patterson Theatre. In addition to Carver (Broadway's Parade and Kiss of the Spider Woman), Jacques Brel features Jewelle Blackman, Mike Nadajewski and Nathalie Nadon. The four vocalists are accompanied by a four-piece band. Musical direction is by Laura Burton.
Rick Fox, the Festival's director of music, has written new musical arrangements, "reconnecting the piece with its European roots," according to Stratford. The creative team includes scenic and costume designer Katherine Lubienski, lighting designer Steven Hawkins and sound designer Peter McBoyle, with musical staging by Todd L. Underwood.
Poet-singer-songwriter Brel's "compositions are honest reflections of the human condition," according to Stratford. "Often hailed as the European counterpart to Bob Dylan, he shares his profound insight on themes of love, life and death through the haunting melodies and lyrics of his work."
Arima told Playbill.com, "The Stratford Shakespeare Festival production of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris is in many ways a 'premiere.' The score boasts brand new orchestrations which breathe stunning new life into Brel's timeless songs; and we are exploring a new running order that has never been heard before. What makes this production so exciting for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival is that this is the first musical to be presented at the Tom Patterson Theatre. We hope that Jacques Brel... paves the way for more musicals to be presented in this intimate and unique thrust space." The production conception, English lyrics and additional material for Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris are by Eric Blau and Mort Shuman. The show is based on Jacques Brel's lyrics and commentary with music by Jacques Brel.
The 2010 Stratford Shakespeare Festival runs to Oct. 31, featuring As You Like It; Kiss Me, Kate; The Tempest; Dangerous Liaisons; Evita; Peter Pan; The Winter's Tale; Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris; For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again; Do Not Go Gentle; The Two Gentlemen of Verona and King of Thieves.
For more information, stratfordfestival.ca.