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Elly Stone, 93, Distinctive Singer in ‘Jacques Brel’ Revue, Dies


She also began turning up in Off Broadway plays and musicals. And she met Eric Blau; according to the Martin Report article, Mr. Blau, an aspiring poet, had been hired to write a campaign song for a local candidate, and Ms. Stone was engaged to sing it.

In 1961 they worked together on a music-and-comedy revue called “O, Oysters!” Mr. Blau wrote sketches and lyrics. Ms. Stone was in a cast that included a young actor named Jon Voight, who in one song-and-dance number played President John F. Kennedy opposite Zale Kessler’s Nikita S. Khrushchev.

“O, Oysters!” used some music by Mr. Brel, who at the time was largely unknown in the United States, and Ms. Stone took a liking to his songs, incorporating them into her concerts. In 1966 she was part of a trio called One and Two Thirds that played Plaza 9, a cabaret space at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. Milton Esterow, reviewing the act in The Times, said, “They bring down the house with two numbers by the Belgian chansonnier Jacques Brel — ‘Carousel’ and ‘Marieke.’”

It was a foreshadowing of “Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well,” which Mr. Blau and Mr. Shuman had already begun developing. The show was an unusual theater piece, eschewing dialogue and plot and letting the songs — alternately comic, nostalgic, sorrowful and bitter — carry the audience through an emotional gamut.

Some critics didn’t get it. Dan Sullivan, reviewing in The Times, complained that the cast was no substitute for Mr. Brel, who by 1968 was becoming better known in the United States.

“As the next best thing to the star himself,” he wrote, “they offer us 26 of Mr. Brel’s songs, translated into English and sung by four attractive young Americans who try manfully to capture a style that proves, alas, an ocean beyond them.” Ms. Stone, he said, “tries to emulate the artless gestures of a Piaf, and looks like a salesgirl measuring yard goods.”

In a 1988 interview with Newsday, Ms. Stone summed up the critical reaction: “We got slaughtered,” she said. Audiences, though, came anyway and liked what they saw. “Word of mouth saved it,” she said.


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