Here is an interview with Sam Ludwig in Part Two of interviews with the cast of MetroStage’s Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.
Joel: Why did you want to be part of the MetroStage production of Jacques Brel…?
Sam: Well, I knew the material and had always really responded to the themes mainly. What got me most interested in doing this production was the cast, creative team, and the opportunity to do an evening of unconnected material, which seemed like a nice change of pace and a fun challenge.
When were you first introduced to the music of Jacques Brel?
In my high school phase of listening to every well-known cast recording in the musical theater pantheon, I inevitably came across it. It’s just one of those shows that lots of people have a vague understanding of, but only the true fanatics actually seek out.
What is so unique about Brel’s music and lyrics?
I think the in-your-face nature of the subject matter combined with the obvious depth of feeling is what gives it its edge. He also was often quite brilliant at melodic phrasing which is I believe what gives it its theatrical nature; the song structures are complex, yet repetitive so they simultaneously make the audience have to pay attention, but feel relaxed.
What did you learn about Jacques Brel that you didn’t know before appearing in this production?
The thing I most got into was the performance style of the man himself. To me, no matter how good a production of this show is, (and we’re all incredibly proud of this one) theres something about Brel onstage, in his shirtsleeves, rapping with the crowd that is somehow impossible to fully recreate. Something having to do with immediacy probably. Everyone should definitely check him out on YouTube (after seeing it at MetroStage of course!).
What was the best advice Director Serge Seiden gave you?
Take a textual approach, follow what the songs are really saying and kind of let them just do their thing. It’s like doing Sondheim, you don’t need to really put a “spin” on it, it’s already there.
Tell me about your solos and what personal experiences you bring every time you perform these songs that help you convey the emotions and stories of these songs.
“Funeral Tango” is probably the only time in the show where I express a sentiment that might as well have come from myself. The thesis of the song is basically that we all die alone and therefore should not alter our lives or ignore our desires so that our families will be taken care of after we’re gone. Now that might sound harsh and I would not have felt strongly enough to write that in a song, but it’s philosophically very appealing to me.
If you could sing a solo that someone else sings in the show, what would it be and why would you like to sing it?
Probably ‘Jackie’ because I like the idea of childhood being the true perfection of life which can never be regained. Its also so rich and detailed, as well as kind of rambly, which I like. Musically also it’s a showstopper. I probably just want to be Bobby Smith is all…
You have all had a busy year on the stage. What were your two favorite shows and roles?
Well I actually have only had two roles this year but luckily they were both career highlights! I loved playing the Courier in 1776 at Ford’s this spring-that was an amazing production that allowed me to work with many of the most talented people (mostly men) in DC. And then there’s Jacques Brel which is an experience so amazing as to warrant this entire interview, so I don’t feel the need to elaborate more on it here.
What’s next for you on the stage after this production closes?
I will be moving up to NY and actually taking a break from acting to pursue songwriting.
Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris plays through October 21, 2012 at MetroStage – 1201 North Royal Street, in Alexandria, VA. Purchase tickets by calling 1-800-494-8497, or order them online.
Read Julia L. Exline’s review of Jacques Brel on DCMTA.