In fact, the show would really have benefited from more choral accompaniment. All of the ensembles — "Marathon," "Bruxelles" "Carousel" and "If We Only Have Love" — are much more satisfying than some of the thinner solos.
On a positive note, the Brel band is excellent, with Leigh Anne Gillespie on keyboard, arranger Yuchiri Asami on guitar, Rob Bowman on bass and Anjilla Piazza on drums. Gillespie in particular did some nice work on some of the quieter, more reflective songs. Angela Todaro's choreography is also fine in the ensemble numbers.
Technically, the production was a mess on Friday. Granted, it was opening night, but the lighting operator couldn't follow the singers, often leaving them in darkness, and the audio operator would occasionally forget who was singing and leave his or her microphone off. Worst of all, loud feedback started humming out of the speakers at the beginning of the second act and was never resolved. I felt sorry for the actors — who could surely hear how distorted the sound was — but soldiered on nonetheless.
The scenic design consists of an attic containing the mementos of a lifetime around which the actors wander, occasionally picking up items to examine them more carefully, but these bits of business often distract the viewer's eye, upstaging the performance of the one who is singing. And the exchanges of dialogue between songs, intended to set up the next number, are merely silly. Worst of all, "The Desperate Ones" has been excised from the show in exchange for a vinyl recording of Brel himself singing "Ne Me Quitte Pas," which isn't even allowed to play out in its entirety.
Certainly the technical problems will be worked out in subsequent performances, but unfortunately the absurd backstory and miscasting will remain. Jacques Brel runs at the MET Theatre, 1089 Oxford Avenue, Hollywood, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. until October 2nd. Tickets can be obtained here or by calling (323) 960-7740.