Peter Straker's BREL

Peter Straker has one of those recognisable faces ‘off the telly’ having been a regular on the original Dr Who and the 1985 series Connie. But Straker's also a man with a pretty successful music career spanning the 1970s, in which he released a clutch of singles and four albums – two of which were produced by close personal friend, Freddie Mercury. Straker was an original cast member in Hair and Phantom of the Opera; so this is a man of some pedigree when it comes to vocal talents. Here the Jamaican-born performer focuses his attention on legendary Belgian singer Jacques Brel. He spends an hour bringing back to life the classic songs such as 'Jackie', 'Amsterdam' and 'If You Go Away'. And the audience absolutely love it.

The show was performed with gusto and energy creating a real atmosphere in the room. He involves the appreciative audience, singling out a woman at the front to become his 'madame' for a song. He demonstrates Brel's struggle with alcohol and cigarettes during the musical interludes, and he tickles the crowd with some dance steps to accompany the comic lines. It's these parts of the show which are really quite effective.

But it's not without its problems. There are some minor timing issues, and my interest waned during some of the slower numbers; but perhaps the most obvious challenge for Straker is he really doesn't bear much resemblance to Brel. It's not helped that the clips of Brel are projected at the back of the stage – only highlighting the physical differences between the two men. However, the audience were there to see Peter Straker sing Brel songs, and judging by the profuse clapping and begging for more, they were very happy with what was delivered. And surely that is the point?

This is undeniably a show for Brel enthusiasts, and the audience reaction is a testament to Straker's performance. For me, an interesting take on the man and the music, although I did find the dissimilarities between Brel and Straker jarring at times.

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The Blurb

The British/Jamaican legend Peter Straker pays tribute to the brilliant Belgian singer/songwriter Jacques Brel in a multimedia show that spans Brel's life and incorporates a host of his songs.

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