WMU News

Johnston translations of Jacques Brel praised in reviews

June 9, 2005

KALAMAZOO--A new musical revue of works by Belgian-born composer Jacques Brel, with translations by Western Michigan University's Dr. Arnie Johnston, opened in May at the No Exit Cafe in Chicago, and it has already received praise in a half-dozen Chicago area reviews, with specific note given in most to the contribution of Johnston's translations.

"A Jacques Brel Revue: Songs of Love and War" is a musical journey exploring the passion and intensity of love and war.

"And it is charming," writes Michael Phillips, theatre critic for the Chicago Tribune. Phillips compares the new show favorably with the popular 1970s revue, "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris." "In many instances, translator Arnold Johnston's lyrics to Brel's melodies," writes Phillips, "scan better than the English-language versions heard in 'Alive and Well.'"

The Chicago Reader has placed the show on its "highly recommended list," and "A Jacques Brel Revue" also has received praise from the News Star, Windy City Times, and Time-Out Chicago.

Songs include many new translations, as well as popular Brel pieces such as "Son of," "When We've Nothing but Love," "Don't Leave Me," and "Marieke."

Regular shows in the open run begin Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 general admission and $18 for senior citizens and students and do not include meals or beverages. Dinner service begins one hour before the shows, and dinner-show packages are available.

No Exit Cafe is located at 6970 North Glenwood in Chicago. Free parking is available at the Trilogy lot, two blocks north of the cafe. For reservations and more information, call No Exit Cafe at (773) 743-3355.

"A Jacques Brel Revue" features performances by Danielle Brothers, David Heimann, Amanda Hartley, Jane Roy-Bachman and Jeremy Trager. The review was conceived and directed by Fred Anzevino, with musical direction by Michael Miller, choreography by Steven Lee Weintraub, costumes by Orson Panetti and set design by Judith McCabe.

Johnston is chair of the Department of English and teaches in the creative writing program at Western Michigan University. His plays, and others written in collaboration with his wife, Deborah Ann Percy, have won awards and been produced across the country. An English-Romanian edition of Johnston and Percy's full-length play "Rasputin in New York" was published in 1999 and was performed to critical acclaim by the Whole Art Theatre in Kalamazoo and by Love Creek Productions at New York City's Theatre Row Studios.

Singer/songwriter Brel (1929-78) created and performed a catalog of literate, thoughtful and theatrical songs that brought him a large, devoted following in France. His audience eventually extended internationally, making him a major influence on English-speaking writers and performers including Leonard Cohen and David Bowie, while translations of his songs were recorded by a wide range of performers from the Kingston Trio to Frank Sinatra.

For information about his work on the songs of Jacques Brel, contact Arnie Johnston at <arnie.johnston@wmich.edu>.

Media contact: Thom Myers, 269 387-8400, thom.myers@wmich.edu

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