Jacques Brel was a Belgian singer-songwriter whose ambient chansons caught the attention of Sinatra, Ray Charles, and Nina Simone, not to mention theater producers who’ve long crafted his work into popular revues.
A late-’60s Brel revue grabbed the public and stayed there, his story songs with ironic twists and shrieking climaxes gaining popularity along with fondue, haiku, and drizzly afternoons at outdoor cafés with floral-printed umbrellas.
The songs now pop up at the Triad in Jacques Brel Returns, where a talented cast — Robert Cuccioli, Tamra Hayden, Arlo Hill, and Ereni Sevasti, along with musical director Rick Hip-Flores — do persuasive versions of his hits, like “Marieke,” “If You Go Away,” and “Carousel.”
They throw themselves into their numbers, whether dry observational tunes or hopeful yelps for love and understanding.
They get so worked up that at Saturday’s performance, Cuccioli (Jekyll & Hyde) kept flubbing one of the twistier song’s lyrics, but it added spontaneity and he recovered well, admitting “This never happens!” then soaring with it.
No, Brel’s Weill-via-Rod McKuen-esque brand of dark whimsy doesn’t come off as fresh as it did when first discovered. (One song that references “fags” wasn’t so cute at all.)
But this is a perfectly fine fondue plate of it, and by the way, there’s no scripted patter at all. None is needed.