Modern theatre-goers have fallen into a rut. They sit down in their red velvet seats and expect a two-act performance that tells them a story. The University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point Department of Theatre and Dance intends to break those expectations through its performance of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, a 49-year-old musical revue.
The show, which opened Feb. 10 and will run until Feb. 18., features a cast of five men and five women. Each cast member sings solos as well as participates in group numbers.
The structure of the performance is through individual songs, written by the show’s namesake Jacques Brel. These songs, each three to four minutes in duration, tell their own stories but fit together to form the 90-minute performance.
Laura Paruzynski, a freshman musical theatre major, is an ensemble member in the show.
“Jacques Brel is a show that most colleges wouldn’t have the opportunity to take on because of its small cast, lack of script and its lack of popularity,” Paruzynski said. “But that is what I find so appealing about it.”
The show was chosen based on its unique dynamic and structure, as well as its fit for the current season and group of students involved.
“This show is unlike anything that has been done at UWSP,” Miles Yokom, freshman musical theatre major, said. “Since there is no dialogue, we have to convey all of the ideas and characters through our songs, which is difficult to do without spoken context.”
While the freeform style of Jacques Brel brings challenges, it also brings its own attributes.
“The coolest thing about this show is that it has no set place, time or characters,” Paruzynski said. “Our director, Mark Hanson, came into the process with the intention of creating something with the cast.”
Traditionally, musical revues have strong themes of satire.
Mark Hanson, assistant professor of theatre and dance and director of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, said this show doesn’t satirize but focuses on “the ridiculous and funny side of dark subjects” like love, war, sex, loneliness and childhood.
“Brel is sincere on the face of his songs,” Hanson said. “But his wit and charm can skew any subject matter.”
The messages of the revue come through the lyrics of each song.
“Every song Brel wrote has not only an intriguing melody but also thought-provoking lyrics,” Paruzynski said. “He wrote about the times in a way no one had before.”
Christof Krumenacker, sophomore musical theatre major performing in Jacques Brel, also spoke on the show’s music.
“With every new song comes an entirely new sound,” Krumenacker said. “There is so much variety in this show that if you don’t like one song, just wait for the next one because it will have an entirely new feel.”
Though Jacques Brel sets out to defy expectations, those involved in the production of the show hope that audiences will be open to what it has to offer in lieu of conventionality.
“Our hope for this show is to have our audiences leaving with more questions than answers, but it’s important to realize that there are no right or wrong answers,” Yokom said.
“Anyone who comes to see it should walk in with an open mind,” Krumenacker said. “We hope this show will have people talking about it days after and wanting to come and see it again. This show also requires the audience to create their own opinions as to what they think is happening in each song and in the overall performance.”
“I hope audiences leave the theatre having felt empathy or recognition with something in the show,” Hanson said. “We all go to the theatre to feel something and Jacques Brel is a master of putting emotion to the front of his songs.”
Tickets for this weekend’s performances are available for purchase at the Information and Ticket Office in the Dreyfus University Center.