Ellie Stone’s version of this Jacques Brel song from the Off-Broadway play was mesmerizing, but here Geraldine Turner amps it up to the truly spooky and horrifying. And to think she recorded it *before* this week.
I wasn’t familiar with Geraldine Turner, but evidently she is a big musical theater star in Australia, kind of on a par with Angela Lansbury. She was the federal President of Actors Equity (MEAA) in Australia.
Jacques Brel works himself up into a lather singing about the Port of Amsterdam.
Sometime in the late 1960s, Mort Shuman and Elly Stone got together a quartet of performers and created a show comprised completely of Brel’s songs, translated into English by Shuman and Eric Blau. Titled Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, it played at a little cabaret in Greenwich Village and became an unlikely hit, winning awards and playing for four years and thousands of performances in revivals.
Shuman sang this song in the original show, and was very impressive, but it was nice to run across this video of Brel himself singing it. As I remember it, the show had a cast album consisting of two LPs, which as far as I know was a first for the time.
The Original Cast of Hair at the 1969 Tony Awards with James Rado, Lynn Kellogg, and of course, Melba Moore. The Fifth Dimension pop version had “Aquarius” as the lead-in, but the original show had the much more ominous “Flesh Failures” as the prelude to “Let the Sunshine In.”
The composer Richard Rodgers was lucky enough to work with two of the greatest Broadway lyricists who ever lived: Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II. Likewise, those two lyricists were lucky enough to work with Rodgers.
But to my mind, the most beautiful piece of music that Rodgers ever wrote was not the product of a collaboration with either of those two men. It was the glorious “Carousel Waltz,” written as the prologue for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. More than an overture, it set the tone for the entire play. In my favorite incarnation of the play, the 1994 revival, directed by Nick Hytner and designed by Bob Crowley, it was the backdrop for a pantomime showing the tough lives of the New England mill factory girls. As the final work bell sounded, they were set free from their enforced factory drudgery to explore the wonders of the Carousel, even as it was being built piece by piece onstage by actors playing carny roustabouts. Truly a stunning theatrical moment.
The recording above is the New York Philharmonic conducted by Richard Rodgers himself. It’s thrilling to hear with a full orchestra. So get out of bed this Monday morning and catch a ride on the carousel. Click on the grey triangle above to hear.