Jacques Brel: From Brookfield to Broadway (in Milwaukee)

The Wilson Center hosts a n intimate concert—something of a preview for the Skylight’s JACQUES BREL this January

Sep. 29, 2010
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There’s something really visceral about the work of Jaques Brel. The Belgian singer-songwriter had kind of an unremarkable voice, relatively speaking. . . but his best work so perfectly captured a very specific mood that almost anyone can relate to. Sit anyone down and have them listen to a recording of Brel’s and they’ll instantly picture a man singing by a piano in a smoky bar in Europe somewhere. It’s very wistful stuff.

The videos and recordings are universally available online, but they don’t really capture the full experience, . . . and if a live performance of the late singer’s work doesn’t have the right kind of intimacy, it lacks something. A 2008 Off The Wall production of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living In Paris used the intimacy of one of the smallest venues in town to achieve a nearly perfect atmosphere.

Next January, The Skylight Opera Theatre stages a production of Alive and Well in the relatively spacious venue that is The Broadway Theatre Center’s Cabot Theatre. A Keith Pitts set design and Jason Fassl lighting scheme under the direction of Ray Jivoff and Jamie Johns should go a long way toward developing the right mood for a solidly talented three-person cast including Alison Mary Forbes, Liz Baltes and Steve Koehler. 

Those who simply can’t wait until the January 28th opening of the Skylight’s Jacques Brel will have the opportunity to see the man’s work performed in Brookfield this weekend as the Sharon Lynn Wilson Center for the Arts hosts Chanson: Amanda McBroom Sings Jacques Brel. 


This Friday and Saturday (October 1st and 2nd,)  a recording artist with a very impressive voice sings Brel’s songs in concert for two somewhat reasonably-priced 8pm concerts. McBroom will be performing both concerts in the Wilson Center’s Dawes Studio Theatre. A standard cabaret-style set-up in the Dawes seats 142 . . . not exactly intimate by Milwaukee standards, but this could be a cozy evening for fans of Brel and/or McBroom. For me, the technical perfection of McBroom’s voice gives the music a vaguely antiseptic feel, but that could just be the synthetic feel of McBroom’s studio album, tracks of which can be found on McBroom’s website. A live concert performance with the extra depth of what will likely be sold-out audience will likely add considerable atmosphere. 

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