Santa Maria Sun / Art
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 18
One night with JacquesGale McNeeley and company present an evening to remember with the music of Jacques Brel
BY SHELLY CONE
Singer and performer Gale McNeeley believes there are times for entertainment as escapism and other times when entertainment should allow an audience to address life and all the wonderful, sad, joyous, heart-wrenching emotions it involves. With his latest show, A Jacques Brel Cabaret, he aims to run people through emotions they often don’t want to address, but which, McNeeley insists, aren’t good or bad—just a part of life.
Jacques Brel was a Belgian singer-songwriter of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. His songs are best known to audiences through Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, a revue, which continues to play to audiences around the world. His songs influenced musical artists like David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, and Rod McKuen and have been recorded by Ray Charles, Judy Collins, John Denver, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, and Andy Williams.
McNeeley has performed on Broadway, in regional theater, in movies, and on TV. He’s known locally as the creator of the political satires Pope the Musical and The Wizard of What. He tours America with his one-man show, Archy & Mehitabel.
McNeeley said performing a piece with Brel songs appealed to him because Brel is a troubadour who reminds audiences of the need for songwriters who translate universal emotions into song. The Santa Maria resident got the idea to bring the show to the Central Coast while he was in Paris in March.
“I get up usually before sunrise in exciting cities like that and I take walks around the city and I found myself singing Jacques Brel songs,” he said.
McNeeley first became familiar with Brel when McNeeley moved to New York to become an actor and saw Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. He said Brel’s work is captivating in that each song tells a story.
“The songs talked about life and death, how silly it is when young people are in love and how sad things can become when they break up,” McNeeley said. “It’s like he lives his whole life in one song. No wonder he died at 49.”
Local musicians Betty Faas on the piano and Chuck Osborne on the accordion will accompany McNeeley, who said their playing will provide beautiful textures to Brel’s songs, placing them solidly in the cabaret setting.
“[Faas] has a sensitivity to what I do,” he explained. “She follows me very well because I’m erratic as a performer: I’ll skip lyrics or change them because I forget them; the audience would never know, but she does. Chuck is a busy man around town: He’s taught music; now he’s got a jazz band. His accordion can play so many different sounds it’s like magic.”
McNeeley encouraged his regular fans to come to sample this show, predicting they’ll leave as a fan of Brel’s.
“I think … my audience, who is used to seeing mainly comedies, should know it’s going to be a change,” he said. “They’ll come away from it feeling like they’ve lived through it all.”
Arts Editor Shelly Cone feels like she’s lived through it all every day. And now she needs a nap. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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