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: L to R: Daniel Robert Sullivan, Shana Dirik, Douglas Jabara and Jennifer Ellis.  Photo Credit: Gary Ng

: L to R: Daniel Robert Sullivan, Shana Dirik, Douglas Jabara and Jennifer Ellis. Photo Credit: Gary Ng

Gloucester Stage Company kicks off the 35th Anniversary Season on June 12 with Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, the internationally acclaimed musical revue of satirical and poignant songs by the late Belgian genius, Jacques Brel. Encompassing themes of joy and sorrow, love and loss, life and death, this compilation of Brel’s finest work celebrates the diverse complexity of the human heart. Often haunting, always vividly dramatic, sometimes funny, heart-rending and poetic, the songs of Jacques Brel have been recorded by countless artists throughout the world. The revue features Brel classics including Marathon, Madeleine, Mathilde, Amsterdam, Brussels, Funeral Tango, Carousel, If We Only Have Love and many others. Directed by Gloucester Stage Artistic Director Eric C. Engel with musical direction by David McGrory, the production features Jennifer Ellis from 2011’s Most Happy Fella,Daniel Robert Sullivan from 2013’s Dueling Divasand GSC newcomers Shana Dirik and Douglas Jabara.

Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris is based on Jacques Brel’s lyrics and commentary with all music by Brel. Eric Blau and Mort Shuman conceived the original production, translated Brel’s lyrics into English and wrote additional material for the production. Translator Eric Blau and translator/rock composer Mort Shuman were so inspired by Brel’s work they joined forces to adapt and assemble his songs into a stage production. Brel knew of Blau from reading his published translations and knew Shuman from working on English translations of his songs with him. Brel gave his approval and Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris was born. The powerful musical theatre piece was first premiered off-Broadway in 1968 at the Village Gate in New York City’s Greenwich Village where it enjoyed critical acclaim, SRO audiences and a record breaking five year run. Brel refused to attend the show’s world premiere due to his vehement opposition to American involvement in Vietnam. He first saw the production in 1969 and returned again in 1972 when the show played a sold out performance at Carnegie Hall in honor of its fourth anniversary. The highly successful revue was made into a film in 1974, revived in New York in 1981 and 2006 and is still produced all over the world.

Director Eric C. Engel is in his eighth season as GSC’s Artistic Director following two years serving as Producing & Associate Artistic Director and three years as a guest director.  Jacques Brel…marks the 25th production he has directed at Gloucester Stage. Recent GSC directing credits include Spring Awakening(recipient of IRNE (Independent Reviewers of New England) Awards for Best Director and Best Production of a Musical), Dueling Divas, The Norman Conquests trilogy of plays, and Nine Circles (originally directed for the Publick Theatre Boston).

Music Director David McGrory makes his GSC debut with Jacques Brel… His credits include Next to Normal at The Accessible Theatre; Camelot and Marry Me a Little with New Repertory Theatre and HPT 164: There Will Be Flood with The Hasty Pudding. A composer as well, he holds an Artist Diploma (piano performance),  from The Longy School of Music; a Graduate Diploma (piano performance) from New England Conservatory; and Bachelor of Music (performance) from The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. His debut CD, “Beethoven & Bizet: Variations,” was launched in 2012.

Daniel Robert Sullivan returns to Gloucester Stage Company. He made his Gloucester Stage debut in 2012’s Carnival and returned to GSC in 2013 for Dueling Divas.  On tour he has been seen as Tommy DeVito in Jersey Boys in Toronto and in the National, and International Companies. Off Broadway he has appeared in I’m Getting My Act Together And Taking It On The Road at the York Theatre; Rangoon with Pan Asian Rep; and What You Get and What You Expect with New York Theatre Workshop. Regionally he has been seen at Kansas City Rep, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Arizona Theatre Company, Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, Hudson Stage Company, Music Theatre of Connecticut, Oregon’s Broadway Rose, Theatre-By-The-Sea, and Virginia’s Barter Theatre. Mr. Sullivan is the author of a new theatre memoir: Places Please! (Becoming a Jersey Boy). A playwright as well, his first play, Prospect High: Brooklyn, has just had a developmental workshop at Roundabout Theatre Company in New York.

Jennifer Ellis is also returning to Gloucester Stage and last appeared there as Rosabella in 2011’s Most Happy Fella, a role for which she won the 2012 IRNE Award. Most recently, she appeared in The Secret Garden at the Stoneham Theatre.She has also worked at Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Central Square Theater, Speakeasy Stage Company, Lyric Stage, New Repertory Theatre and The Huntington Theatre Company.Ms. Ellis has worked often as an actor and narrator with the Boston Lyric Opera Signature Series.She attended Bridgewater State University and Circle in the Square Theater School.

Shana Dirik and Douglas Jabara make their Gloucester Stage Company debut in Jacques Brel… Ms. Dirik’s most recent appearances includeBloody Bloody Andrew Jacksonat The Emerson Center for the Arts and the Boston Premiere of Fiddlehead Theater’s production of A Little Princess. Douglas Jabara’s most recent credits include Herbie in Gypsy, Dan in Next to Normal and Javert in Les Misérables. A native New Yorker, Mr. Jabara also enjoys teaching voice and maintains a private studio in Manhattan.

Jacques Brel is widely considered one of the greatest songwriters who ever lived. He was born in Brussels in 1929 and studied commercial law in his youth before working in the family cardboard-merchandising business. But the Flemish bourgeois life did not sit well with Brel, and for a time he seriously considered leaving the family business to become a chicken breeder or a cobbler. Fortunately, Brel never followed through with these vocational aspirations. Instead, in 1953, he released his first record, a 78, with two songs backed by an accordion band. The release went largely unnoticed, except by the talent scout and director of a famous Parisian nightclub, Jacques Canetti. At Canetti’s invitation, Brel went to the City of Lights to perform some of his songs in the cabarets and music halls and the following year settled there permanently. In 1957, with the release of “Quand On a que L’amour” (“If We Only Have Love”), the songwriter began his legendary ascent. The song was wildly successful, and that same year, the head of Columbia’s A.R. department, Nat Shapiro, persuaded his CBS superiors to release an American debut. The next few years saw Brel’s marvelous output increase exponentially with the release of dozens of albums and singles. Interpretations of Brel’s songs began to appear on the American and British soundscapes, covered by such diverse artists as Frank Sinatra, the Kingston Trio, Ray Charles, Petula Clark, Barry Manilow, and even David Bowie. In 1974 Terry Jacks hit number one in the U.K. and the U.S. with his interpretation of “Le Moribund” as “Seasons in the Sun,” and Brel’s talent had finally and irrevocably made its international mark. “If You Go Away” is an adaptation of the 1959 Jacques Brel song “Ne me quitte pas” with English lyrics by Rod McKuen. Created as part of a larger project to translate Brel’s work, “If You Go Away” is considered a pop standard and has been recorded by many artists, including Greta Keller, for whom some say McKuen wrote the lyrics. By 1970, Brel’s music was as familiar to American radio listeners as any similarly inclined American songwriter. His songs had been recorded by Rod McKuen, Frank Sinatra, Al Hirt, Boby Goldsboro, Glen Campbell, Judy Collins, Johnny Mathis, Olivia Newton-John, Nancy Wilson, Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield, the Seekers, Al Martino, Jack Jones, and Scott Walker to name but a few. Brel made his final album in 1977, “Les Marquises,” which sold 650,000 copies on the day of its release and eventually sold over two million copies. The following year Brel died of cancer. He is buried on the island of Hiva-Oa in the Marquesas Islands, where in 1973 he had retired to the simple, tropical life of Gauguin.

Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris runs from June 12 through July 6. Performance schedule: Thursday, June 12 through Saturday, June 14 at 8 pm; Wednesday, June 18 through Saturday, June 21 at 8 pm; Wednesday, June 25 through Saturday, June 28 at 8 pm; Wednesday, July 2 at 8 pm; Thursday, July 3 at 7 pm; Saturday, July 5 at 8 pm; Saturday matinees at 3 pm on June 14, June 21, June 28 & July 5 and Sunday matinees at 4 pm on June 15, June 22, June 29 & July 6. No performance on Friday, July 4. For the 3 pm Saturday matinee on June 14 only, the ticket price is Pay What You Can. Following the 4 pm performance on Sunday June 22, audiences are invited to a free post show discussion with the artists.

Gloucester Stage is handicapped accessible. Ticket prices are $40 for all performances. Senior citizen & student tickets are $35 for all performances. A limited amount of discount tickets are available to Cape Ann residents for all Wednesday and Thursday 8 pm performances. For these performances only, Cape Ann residents can purchase discounted tickets for $20. Advance reservations are strongly suggested to ensure tickets at the discounted price.

Year round Cape Ann residents must identify themselves as such when making a reservation and proof of residency must be presented at the box office the night of the performance.

All performances are held at The Gorton Theatre, 267 East Main Street, Gloucester, MA. For more information and to purchase tickets, call the Gloucester Stage Box Office at 978-281-4433 or at

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