JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN PARIS

Odyssey Theatre
Los Angeles

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A powerful and bold theatrical experience that was an overwhelming success off-Broadway, this revue of Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel’s songs pays tribute to his unique genius. Naughty, funny, dark and romantic, Brel’s songs brim with flair, attitude and European sophistication, retaining their edgy vibe over half a century after they were written. While Brel is no longer either alive or living in Paris, his legendary vision of romance, humor and moral conviction endures. July 1 through Aug. 27; Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm with three additional weeknight performances on Thursday, July 13; Wednesday, July 19; and Thursday, July 27; all at 8 p.m.. For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 or go to OdysseyTheatre.com.

Reviews

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"The production at the Odyssey Theatre in West L.A. is directed by Dan Fishbach and musical director Anthony Lucca, who performs with an amazing 4-piece orchestra whose melodic stylings add a touch of magic to the show which features Marc Francoeur, Susan Kohler, Miyuki Miyagi and Michael Yapujian in the cast, with energetic choreography by Imani Alexander and Dara Weinberg whose movements assist in bringing focus to both the joy and sorrow of Brel’s songs that brim with flair, attitude and European sophistication."

"JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN PARIS receives a first-rate mounting with a cast of powerful singer/actors, backed by a nimble four-piece musical ensemble, and directed and staged with ingenuity of movement that complement the Jacques Brel tales being performed. Although JACQUES BREL has no plotline, and the songs have no logical progression in their order, these 24 songs can each provide an entire show's worth of storyline in themselves."

"For all their strengths as individual performers, in the Odyssey's latest production of Jacques Brel is "Alive and Well and Living in Paris," it’s when they assemble into the show’s ensemble that the numbers flare to a stunning intensity."

"A top-notch quintet led by pianist Anthony Lucca plays Brel’s score with warmth and finesse, and the choreographers, Imani Alexander and Dara Weinberg, plus director Fishbach, do equally fine work in positioning and moving the hard-working singers around the stage during the course of this two-hour-long show."

"Brel’s songs all have meaning about life in them, and the performances by this outstanding group is like watching twenty-four individual musical skits in two acts. HIGHLY REOMMENDED"

"Ultimately, the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble’s Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris may have those unfamiliar with the Belgian legend, particularly younger audiences members, wondering why his songs still get sung four decades after his death, and Brel aficionados longing for voices that might make this crystal clear."

"The Odyssey’s production is perfectly pleasant, but director Dan Fishbach doesn’t put even a toe outside that proverbial box. It’s a missed opportunity. He’s got some performers that are clearly up to the challenge, who are like race horses frustrated at not being able to give it their all. Anthony Lucca’s musical direction, though, is a triumph. The four-piece band is excellent, and Lucca achieves absolute balance between the arrangements and the voices. The performers’ enunciation on the tongue-twisty songs is impeccable, and it’s also a treat to hear live voices without microphones."

"O my dear Odyssey, how you have fallen! Once a reliable venue for underseen classics and deserving new works, this venerable theatre is more hit and miss of late. Following on the heels the overcooked, indecipherable Kiss, Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris is directed with unrelenting timidity by Dan Fishbach. The material is strong, the actors are game, the band is wonderful. But what comes together on stage is a middling, forgettable production that left me thinking more about what could have been than what was. The closing number was quite stirring, however, and that and the air conditioning validated our decision to stay for Act 2."

"The production serves as proof that the haunting lyricism of Jacques Brel’s music and the insightful nature of his evocative, poetic lyrics can make this classic revue survive just about anything--and even eventually inspire director Dan Fishbach’s less accomplished, initially less magnetic cast to eventually soar to unexpected heights."

"It’s hard to pinpoint this live show’s form. It is not a traditional narrative drama or comedy with a character arc, plot points and the like – although a more discerning eye (and ear) than mine might find the songs, which sometimes seamlessly segue into each other, to be thematically linked. Nor is this exactly a concert, a revue or a cabaret arc. Perhaps this is one of the outstanding things about Alive and Well – like Brel, who became an international star despite his horsey face, it defies description. Is it a Brel? Is it a Play? No, It’s Super Minstrel! In any case, I can tell you what this show definitely is: Terrific! In the immortal words of that famous critic Tony the Tiger, “It’s Grrrrreat!” The performances are all nearly as flawless as they are poignant, and director Dan Fishbach admirably helms his toe-tapping, mellifluous ensemble. Like each Brel tune, one thesp is better than the next, and young Michael Yapujian, who just graduated from USC and mere days later found himself co-starring in this, his first professional gig, clearly has a bright future in front of the footlights and beneath the klieg lights."

"The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble production of “Jacques Brel…” boasts an ensemble of four singer/dancers — Marc Francoeur, Susan Kohler, Miyuki Miyagi and Michael Yapujian — who sing with urgent, powerful emotion songs of love and loss,...Imani Alexander and Dara Weinberg have given the cast plenty of busy, energetic choreography, which is executed with eager precision."

"Brel’s music is unique, and its rendering is tied both to Brel’s cultural and to his artistic backgrounds. French may translate into English, but cultural and artistic expressions are more difficult to duplicate. The Odyssey cast and crew have approached the task with heart and enthusiasm."

"Fishbach basically sets the stage and lets the performers do their thing. And the cast certainly is likable and technically assured."

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