Next Stage welcomes Jacques Brel and Main Street Arts to Putney

PUTNEY — Next Stage Arts Project will host the final performance of Main Street Arts' production of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris on Saturday, Jan. 16, at Next Stage's newly renovated theater in Putney. Showtime is at 7:30 p.m.

While not a household name in America, Brel's “literate and incredibly emotional songs” (New York magazine) became “part of the national consciousness of post-war Europe.” His music has been recorded by more than 400 professional recording artists, from Edith Piaf and Frank Sinatra to Judy Collins and Nirvana, and translated into more than 22 languages.

Europe's intelligentsia fell in love with songs such as “Carousel” (originally, “La Valse a Mille Temps”), considering it a three-minute musical meditation about life whirling and speeding out of control. The English version of “Quand on n'a que l'Amour” would become an early antiwar anthem in the United States during the Vietnam conflict and helped inspire the Beatles' song “All You Need Is Love.”

Brel caused a sensation in the late sixties when, at the height of his fame, he quit the stage and all but disappeared. For much of Europe it was as if Frank Sinatra and the Beatles suddenly vanished. Where had he gone? His English language translators, Eric Blau and Mort Shuman, tried to answer the question by incorporating his songs into a cabaret-style musical that became an award-winning standard of the Off-Broadway and regional stage.

Over the last few months Main Street Arts has taken Jacques Brel on the road, bringing it to a variety of locales from dinner clubs to theaters across the area.

According to Main Street Arts' Co-chair Kathleen Bryar, the idea of a starting a touring company was “somewhat of an experiment this year. Jacques Brel seemed like a natural fit to launch the project.”

MSA Managing Director Margo Ghia said the show is also intended to be part of Main Street Arts' planned outreach to other area cultural institutions.

“When we completed our renovation and expansion project, we wanted to go out into the community to celebrate that achievement. We also wanted to connect with the other wonderful area organizations and businesses that do so much for arts and culture in our area,” said Ghia.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates