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Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris

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Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris
Original Cast Recording
MusicJacques Brel
LyricsJacques Brel (French version)
Eric Blau (English version)
Mort Shuman (English version)
BookEric Blau (English version)
Mort Shuman (English version)
BasisThe original French lyrics and French commentary by Jacques Brel
Productions1968 Off-Broadway

Regional productions
1995 West End
2006 Off-Broadway revival

2014 Off-West End

Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris is a musical revue of the songs of Jacques Brel. Brel's songs were translated into English by Eric Blau and Mort Shuman, who also provided the story. The original 1968 Off-Broadway production ran for four years and spawned international and regional productions, as well as a West End production and Off-Broadway revival, among others. A film adaptation was released in 1975.

In 2003, David Bowie included the cast recording in a list of 25 of his favourite albums, "Confessions of a Vinyl Junkie".[1]

Early productions[edit]

The revue debuted Off-Broadway on January 22, 1968[2] at The Village Gate Theater in Greenwich Village and ran for more than four years. Its original performers were Elly Stone, Mort Shuman, Shawn Elliott, and Alice Whitfield. The production was directed by Moni Yakim. The revue, consisting of around 25 songs, is performed by four vocalists, two male and two female. Brel contributed most of the music and French lyrics; English translations were provided by Eric Blau, Stone's husband, and Mort Shuman, a Brill Building songwriter.[3]

On September 12, 1968, the show opened at the Happy Medium Theater on Rush Street in Chicago. It would run until February 15, 1970 and was perhaps the cabaret theater's most successful production. Robert Guillaume, George Ball, Joe Masiell, Denise Le Brun, Alice Whitfield, and Aileen Fitzpatrick made up the original Chicago cast.[4]

The show enjoyed considerable international success. In 1968 Yakim directed a Canadian production in Toronto featuring Robert Jeffrey, Judy Lander, Arlene Meadows, and Stan Porter. In the 1970s, a production by Taubie Kushlick in Johannesburg, South Africa became the longest-running musical production in that country's theatrical history. A cast recording was released and is regarded as containing the definitive English-language versions of some of the songs. During that decade the show also enjoyed successful runs in Sydney, Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen.

In 1973, Ray Shepardson produced Jacques Brel in the lobby of the State Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio. It was intended to play for two weeks, but continued through 1975, with a 522-performance run that became the longest theatrical run in the city's history to that point. The production is credited as a major factor in the rescue and restoration of the theater and its adjacent venues, which are now Playhouse Square Center. In 1974, the revue was revived at the Astor Place Theatre for a limited run. In 1975, a film adaptation of the original production was released as part of the American Film Theatre series. The film included a few new songs.

Despite Brel's death in 1978, and his last years having been spent sailing around the world and living in Polynesia, the name of the show has remained unchanged.

1980s and later revivals[edit]

A production was presented at the original company of Equity Library Theater in New York City in 1985. It starred Louise Edeiken, Richard Hilton, Jan Horvath, and J.C. Sheets [5]

A 1988 revival served as the 20th anniversary production of the show at The Town Hall in Manhattan (and one night at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.). It was produced by Blau and Reuben Hoppenstein and was directed by Stone, starring Karen Akers, Shelley Ackerman, Elmore James and Kenny Morris.

In 1994 the show was performed in Dublin's Andrew's Lane Theatre and featured Irish actress and singer Camille O'Sullivan.[6]

In 1995 the show was revived in the West End, starring Michael Cahill, Alison Egan, Liz Greenaway, and Stuart Pendred. A cast recording of this production was released on August 12, 1997 with Jay Records.

In 2006, a production opened Off-Broadway at the Zipper Theater in New York City. While this revival used most of the Blau-Shuman translations, there were also significant changes: the order of songs was rearranged, numbers were reorchestrated, and some songs were dropped or added. The revival also included expanded staging and choreography. The production ran for more than a year. It was nominated for several awards including the Drama Desk, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle. It was directed by Gordon Greenberg and starred Robert Cuccioli, Natascia Diaz, Rodney Hicks and Gay Marshall. The role played by Hicks was later done by Drew Sarich, Jim Stanek and Constantine Maroulis. Ann Mandrella, the wife of Sarich, was an understudy. A cast recording by Ghostlight Records was released in 2006.

In 2008, a production starring Leigh McDonald, Tony McGill, Emma Yong and George Chan, ran at the DBS Theatre in Singapore. In 2010, a production ran at the Stratford Festival in Canada. It starred Jewelle Blackman, Brent Carver, Mike Nadajewski, and Nathalie Nadon. In 2014, the show opened for a limited run in London at Off-West End Charing Cross Theatre with Gina Beck, Daniel Boys, David Burt and Eve Polycarpou.[7] This production had a song list similar to the 2006 New York revival.[8]

In 2017, a new production opened at the Gate Theatre in Dublin directed by Alan Stanford and featuring music direction by Cathal Synnott, with a cast featuring Karen McCartney, Risteard Cooper, Stephanie McKeown and Rory Nolan.[9]

Musical numbers[edit]

Original Off-Broadway production[edit]

  1. Overture
  2. Marathon (Les Flamandes)
  3. Alone (Seul)
  4. Madeleine
  5. I Loved (J'aimais)
  6. Mathilde
  7. Bachelor's Dance (La Bourrée du Célibataire)
  8. Timid Frieda (Les Timides) tune also used in an Ovaltine television advert GB
  9. My Death (La Mort)
  10. The Girls And The Dogs (Les Filles et Les Chiens)
  11. Jackie (La Chanson de Jacky)
  12. The Statue
  13. Desperate Ones (Les Désespérés)
  14. Sons of... (Fils de...)
  15. Amsterdam
  16. The Bulls (Les Taureaux)
  17. Old Folks (Les Vieux)
  18. Marieke
  19. Brussels (Bruxelles)
  20. Fanette (La Fanette)
  21. Funeral Tango (Le Tango Funèbre)
  22. The Middle Class (Les Bourgeois)
  23. You're Not Alone (Jef)
  24. Next (Au Suivant)
  25. Carousel (La Valse à Mille Temps)
  26. If We Only Have Love (Quand on n'a Que L'amour)

Songs added for the 1975 film version:[10]

  1. The Taxi Cab (Le Gaz)
  2. My Childhood (Mon Enfance)
  3. The Last Supper (Le Dernier Repas)
  4. Song For Old Lovers (La Chanson Des Vieux Amants)
  5. Ne Me Quitte Pas, sung by Jacques Brel

2006 Off-Broadway revival[edit]


- An original cast album was released in 1968 by Columbia in the US and CBS in the UK. It featured: Stacey Boyle, Shawn Elliott, Mort Shuman, Elly Stone, and Alice Whitfield.

- A cast recording of the successful South African production was released in 1968 and is regarded as containing the definitive English-language versions of some of the songs. It featured: Jean Dell, Ann Hamblin, Ferdie Uphof, and Alain D. Woolf.

- In 1973 Playhouse Square released a double album featuring the Cleveland cast: Cliff Bemis, David O. Frazier, Providence Hollander, and Theresa Piteo.

- Atlantic Records release a double album of the film soundtrack in 1975, featuring: Shawn Elliott, Judy Lander, Joe Masiell, Joseph Neal, Annette Perrone, Mort Shuman, and Elly Stone.

- Ghostlight Records released a cast recording of the Zipper Theater Off-Broadway production in 2006. Included in the cast were: Jacques Brel, Robert Cuccioli, Natascia Diaz, Rodney Hicks, Gay Marshall, Michael Sommers, and Eric Svejcar.[11]


  1. ^ Bowie, David (20 November 2003). "David Bowie's Favorite Albums". Vanity Fair. No. November.
  2. ^ "VH1". Archived from the original on 15 November 2002.
  3. ^ "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris by Herbert Kupferberg". theatlantic.com. July 1968.
  4. ^ "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris Musical Lyrics". allmusicals.comginparis.htm. 24 May 2024.
  5. ^ "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris at Master Theatre 1985". www.abouttheartists.com.
  6. ^ "TLS - Times Literary Supplement". Archived from the original on 17 May 2011.
  7. ^ "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris Review 2014". londontheatre.co.uk. 8 June 2016.
  8. ^ "Theater review: 'Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris' at the Colony". /www.latimes.com. 14 April 2010.
  9. ^ "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris review: spinning in nostalgia". irishtimes.com. 2 February 2017.
  10. ^ "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris". 27 January 1975 – via IMDb.
  11. ^ "Search Database: Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris : CastAlbums.org". castalbums.org.
  • The Singer's Musical Theatre Anthology by Stanley Green and Richard Walters