Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris

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Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris is an American musical revue of the songs of Jacques Brel by Eric Blau and Mort Shuman.

The original text

All of the songs were translated from the French by Blau and Schuman, with the help of Brel himself.

The original show debuted Off-Broadway on January 22, 1968 at The Village Gate Theater in Greenwich Village.

It ran for four years and nearly 2 000 performances, and was turned into a film in 1975, with Brel himself making an appearance. The later off-Broadway revival in 2006 received rave reviews and award nominations.

Performance history in South Africa

1972: The show was first produced in South Africa by Taubie Kushlick in 1972, a production which became the longest-running musical production in South Africa’s musical history up to that date. It opened at the Chelsea Theatre in Hillbrow featuring of Jean Dell, Ann Hamblin, Ferdie Uphof, Alain D. Woolf, Irene Frangs and Robin Dolton. A cast recording was released later that year. Over time, other performers joined the cast, notably Gay Lambert, Joe Masiell (who had appeared in the New York production), and Sandy Layne. Lighting by Taubie Kushlick. Set by Zwi Fefer. Stage and lighting director Rita Ehlers. Theatre manager Norma Biaggi.

1975: A new production opened with two new cast members, Judy Page and Bruce Millar alongside Ann Hamblin and Ferdie Uphof.

2010: Directors Colin Law and Dean Roberts presented a new production of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris – based on the 2006 Off-Broadway incarnation of the show. (Source: [[1])

Translations and adaptations

A recording of the original South African show, entitled Jacques Brel is alive & well and living in Paris (MVN MVC 3541) was released in 1972.

The show was turned into a film in 1975, with Brel himself making an appearance.

1979: Kushlick created a new show Encore Brel using material that had not been seen in the original production; while some of these were Shuman/Blau translations, others were the work of Helen Austin, Herbert Kretzmer, Rod McKuen, Brian Rogers and others. The cast was Ann Hamblin, Laurika Rauch and Ferdie Uphof.

1983: Kushlick again created a new revue using songs from both her previous productions and titled it The Best of Brel. She directed it for PACT at the Pretoria State Theatre, before it moved to the Leonard Rayne Theatre.

1986: Kushlick staged The Best of Brel again.

A large number of other Brel-based shows have been done over the years, including shows by Danielle Pascal, ** and a new compilation, Back To Back To Brel was produced by Gordon Ross and Anthony Sarankin and ran at Grazies Theatre Restaurant in Randburg from September – November 1993. It too was an eclectic mix of Brel songs, some in English, some in French.

In the mid 1980s Bradley Mart, Brenda Radloff and Themi Venturas appeared in a show referred to as Jacques Brel, possibly An Evening with Jacques Brel, the opening show of the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre Bistro in Durban. (See Photograph - NELM Manuscripts - [Collection: FLETCHER, Jill]: 2005. 75. 19. 50)

A theatrical cabaret, Kissed by Brel, was directed by Geoffrey Hyland with Claire Watling and Godfrey Johnson at the National Arts Festival 2007.


Taubie Kushlick's Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris programme notes in 1972.


Photograph - NELM Manuscripts - Collection: FLETCHER, Jill: 2005. 75. 19. 50.

Cape Times, 13 August 2007.

Caroline Smart, History of Durban Supper Theatre, article first published in ArtSMart, 2007-07-22 (last edited : 2007-10-15)[2]

Personal e-mail correspondence from Anthony Sarankin, 18 August 2015.

Marq Vas's Southern African Music Collectibles website[3]

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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