In Part 5 of a series of interviews with the Co-Directors and the cast of Creative Cauldron’s Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, we meet cast member Alan Naylor.
Joel: Where have local theatregoers seen you before on the stage?
Alan: I have been seen at First Stage as Dr. Parker in Batboy, at The Kennedy Center with the National Broadway Chorus, The Washington Savoyards, and other local theater and choral groups.
Who is Jacques Brel and what do you admire most about his work? How would you describe a Jacques Brel song?
Jacques Brel was a pillar of french popular music in the 60s and 70s. He was dubbed by some as the “master of the modern chanson”- a title he completely deserves. His music is both catchy and familiar, having been covered by musical greats such as: Neil Diamond, David Bowie, Scott Walker, and Edith Piaf. My admiration for his music, and especially his performances, centers on his ability to balance the stylistic elements of various cultures, the combination of beautiful melody and speech-singing, and a vary graphic and vivid poetic social commentary. His songs vary from quite melancholic to the frenetic, yet they always have a bite and hint of “snark” to them. You can be tapping your foot to a spanish tango and then dropped into a realization of personal, social, or political inequity with the turn of a single phrase.
What have you learned about Jacques Brel that you didn’t know before you started working on this production?
To be honest I was completely unaware of Brel before this project. Now however, I would happily program his music next to the greats of Goethe, Schumann, Schubert, Poulenc, Vaughn Williams, and other noted Lieder/melodie composers/poets.
There are 26 songs in the show. Which songs are the most meaningful to you and why?
“The Middle Class” stands out to me because it is a wonderful drinking and rabble-rousing tune that abruptly turns with the lyric to expose the hypocrisy that we are ALL prone to. It condemns neither side of the hypocrisy, but is simply an energetic song that can make an audience vulnerable and then open their eyes to human nature. A fantastic use of art to communicate.
What have been some of the challenges you have faced learning your songs and your roles?
Words, words, words… The hardest part of the music in Brel is staying on top of the VERY wordy songs that simply fly by. My fellow cast members and I have spent countless hours writing out the lyrics to songs over and over to try and make them flow without thought. Songs go by so quickly there is absolutely no breaks to think of the next lyric.
What do you admire most about your fellow cast members? Which one of his/her performances is your favorite and why?
This cast has been wonderfully supportive of each other. We have all had moments of dropped verses, made up rhymes, and downright ‘la-la-la-ing’ during our struggle to master the language. But someone has always been backstage to reassure and prod the rest of us to that next number.
What do you want young audiences to take with them after seeing you perform in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well… at Creative Cauldron?
I would most like young audiences to take away a knowledge of the depth and complexity to even the most seemingly simple tune or verse. Art does not have to be unnecessarily technical, complex, or virtuosic. But it does need a point of view and an unapologetic display of that perspective. It is not about production value, but about communication. Don’t be afraid to look at past works of the “song” repertoire from the Renaissance up to the 21st century. You never know when a particular artist’s perspective will engage or challenge your own.
Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris plays through October 26, 2014 at Creative Cauldron- 410 South Maple Avenue, in Falls Church, VA. For tickets, call (703) 436-9948, or purchase them online.
Jacques Brel is Alive and Well at Creative Cauldron: Meet Laura Connors Hull and Matt Conner.
Jacques Brel is Alive and Well at Creative Cauldron: Meet Katie McManus.
Jacques Brel is Alive and Well at Creative Cauldron: Meet John Loughney.
Jacques Brel is Alive and Well at Creative Cauldron: Meet Shaina Kuhn.
Read Kim Moeller’s review on DCMetroTheaterArts.