An evening with the music of Jacques Brel (1929-1978) is hard to resist for theater and cabaret lovers. More than any other composer, his songs reach more deeply into my psyche, and my soul, than any others out there. So an evening with the Belgian composer’s music is always special. Between the songs, the performers shared tidbits about Brel’s life with the audience, and the source of his songs. He hated war and loved women, whether naughty and nice.
When Amanda McBroom and husband George Ball belt out the timeless songs of Brel you can’t help but wonder why it’s been so long since you last heard them. Best of all, their performance wasn’t a by-the-book revue like the original off-Broadway revue that introduced him to most of us in America. If you have heard his music it is likely due to Jacques Brel is Alive and Living in Paris which requires four singers and a small combo to be done right, but in many ways, this third appearance by Amanda McBroom in the Berkshires was better than that.
A songwriter herself, McBroom, along with her music director Michele Brourman, knows how to parse a lyric, and to make it come to life as if being heard for the first time. Some of her choices were tender and could break your heart (especially if you speak French). ”Don’t leave me”, (Ne me quitte pas) was given an authentic airing, not at all like the Americanized “If You Go Away” by Rod McKuen which was sung by Frank Sinatra and Barbara Streisand. “Don’t Leave Me” is both a lament and an anthem to undying love that has racked up at least 400 different recorded versions in 22 different languages. It is arguably Brel’s most popular song.