Review: Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers of the Night (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, 2017)

| July 18, 2017

 David Moreland, Neil Stratman and Jill Sesso star in Jacques Brel, Theo Ubique           
            

Jacques Brel’s
  Lonesome Losers of the Night

    
Songs by Jacques Brel
Conceived by Fred Anzevino 
   and Arnold Johnston
at No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood (map)
thru Aug 6  |  tix: $29-$34  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets    
     


    
  

Celebrating the trials of love and heartache

  

Neil Stratman, Randy Johnson, Jill Sesso and David Moreland star in Jacques Brel

    
Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre presents
    
Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers of the Night

Review by Lauren Whalen

Step into a lonely Amsterdam bar in 1959. What will you find? If you are the team behind Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers of the Night, the answer is: an openhearted bartender, two winsome soldiers and an enigmatic yet vulnerable sex worker. Sounds like the beginning of a joke, but with the Belgian songwriter’s score, the story quickly becomes more complex. Hearts are won, then broken. Childhoods are remembered, in all their fond, wild glory. Most of all, connections are made. Theo Ubique’s revival of its critically acclaimed 2008 revue is a perfect season closer, with comedy, drama and romance in spades.

Jill Sesso and Neil Stratman star in Jacques Brel's Lonesome Losers, Theo Ubique Cabaret TheatreBorn in 1929, Belgian singer-songwriter Brel became an international sensation by the time he was 30 years old. Brel was considered the founder of the modern “chanson,” or lyric-driven song, and his influence on English-speaking songwriters yielded the off-Broadway hit Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris in 1968. Though Brel died before he turned 50, his influence lives on. Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers of the Night was created by Theo Ubique Artistic Director Fred Anzevino and Arnold Johnston, a Michigan writer whose translations of Brel lyrics are regarded to be the most accurate.

Lonesome Losers of the Night is a short but powerful cabaret-style show with a loose storyline that is nonetheless nuanced and compelling. Because of their copious angst and narrative structure, Brel’s songs lend themselves well to this type of production. Though it’s clearly a passion project for both Anzevino (a devotee of Brel’s work) and Johnston alike, it’s never indulgent. Instead it’s both intimate and grand, even the tiniest moment magnified to high comedy or Shakespearean tragedy. Anzevino’s staging, as well as David Heimann’s choreography, are typical Theo Ubique-style, the singers making eye contact with the audience, sometimes practically in their laps. With some shows this can border on too much, yet here I welcomed the closeness as a perfect companion to Brel’s intensely personal lyrics.

Jill Sesso, Randy Johnson, David Moreland and Neil Stratman star in Jacques BrelJill Sesso, Neil Stratman, Randy Johnson and David Moreland star in Jacques Brel

Music director Jeremy Ramey (who also accompanies the singers with aplomb) is ideally suited for this production, guiding the powerful quartet of performers to wring every last drop of emotion from Brel’s notes and lyrics. They’re more than up to the task: Randolph Johnson’s Bartender has a voice and presence that will break your heart in one moment and crack you up the next. As the two soldiers, David Moreland and Neil Stratman turn to whiskey, women and song to soothe their troubled hearts, with vocal stylings that are at once rugged and angelic. And as the Woman, a lingerie-clad floozy who makes her living off of soldiers like these, Jill Sesso is a revelation. Her voice is soulful, her movement pure grace, and her character full realized, in all its gritty, humble glory.

This next season will be Theo Ubique’s last in the No Exit Café, before they move to a new space in Evanston. Anzevino and Ramey have created something wonderful in their small but mighty home: a company that thrives on showcasing a map of the human heart. Their abilities are on full display in Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers of the Night, a show that celebrates the trials of love, the many forms of heartbreak, and the hard knocks that make us who we are. There’s no doubt in my mind that Brel would be proud.

  
Rating: ★★★½
  

Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers of the Night continues through August 6th at No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood (map), with performances Thursdays 7:30pm, Fridays & Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 7pm.  Tickets are $29-$34 (students/seniors: $4 discount – all unsold tickets are $15 at door with college ID), and are available through Tix.com (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at Theo-U.com(Running time: 80 minutes no intermission)

David Moreland, Jill Sesso, Randy Johnson and Neil Stratman star in Jacques Brel, Theo Ubique

Photos by Adam Veness 


  

artists

cast

Randolph Johnson (Bartender), Jill Sesso (Woman), David Moreland (Man 1), Neil Stratman (Man 2), Jeremy Ramey (bar piano player), Tommy Thurston (u/s Bartender, Man 1), Samantha Mitchell (u/s Woman)

behind the scenes

Fred Anzevino (director), Courtney Crouse (assistant director), Jeremy Ramey (music director), Arnold Johnston (lyrical translations), Joshua Stephen Kartes (musical arrangements), David Heimann (choreographer), Mina Slater (production stage manager), Adam Veness (scenic design, photos), James Kolditz (lighting design), Katie Beeks (properties design)

David Moreland and  Randy Johnson star in Jacques Brel's Lonesome Losers, Theo UbiqueDavid Moreland, Neil Stratman and Jill Sesso star in Jacques Brel, Theo UbiqueNeil Stratman and David Moreland star in Jacques Brel's Lonesome Losers, Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre

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Category: 2017 Reviews, Extensions-Remounts, Lauren Whalen, Musical Revue, No Exit Cafe, Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, Video, YouTube

Comments (1)

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  1. NealR says:

    I can’t wait to see the show!

    I still remember Jill singing “He only wants one thing!” in Annie Warbucks, with a facial expression and arm movement I will never forget.

    How time flies. Or, as Jean Valjean put it:

    “The summers die, one by one
    How soon they fly, on and on
    And I am old, and will be gone…”