2020-06-28 17:19:29 UTC
to forward this over:
Elly Stone, 93, exquisite chanteuse (Jacques Brel..Alive/Well...Paris)
Elly Stone, 93, Distinctive Singer in "Jacques Brel" Revue, Dies
She performed some of the most powerful songs in that show, which ran for
more than four years in Greenwich Village and became a theater staple.
By Neil Genzlinger June 27, 2020
Elly Stone, who was enjoying a moderately successful career as a singer
and actress when she jumped to a new level of fame in 1968 as part of the
wildly popular musical revue "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in
Paris," died on June 11 in Cuenca, Ecuador. She was 93.
Her son, Matthew Blau, said the cause was complications of endometrial
cancer. Ms. Stone had been living with her son in Cuenca.
Ms. Stone was one of the four original cast members of "Jacques Brel,"
a collection of songs by Mr. Brel, a Belgian, adapted and translated by
Eric Blau, Ms. Stone's husband, and Mort Shuman, a fellow cast member.
The show opened at the Village Gate in Greenwich Village on Jan. 22, 1968,
and ran for more than four years, then transferred to Broadway for a brief
run in September 1972. It was a true ensemble show, but Ms. Stone stood
out. She took the lead on many of its most moving songs, including "Sons
of and Marieke," both of which have since been covered by many
The revue became, and remains, a favorite of theater groups, professional
and amateur, in the United States and abroad.
"Not a day has gone by since the show's inception 47 years ago without
the show being played somewhere on the planet," Ms. Stone said in a 2015
interview with the Andrew Martin Report, a performing arts website.
Ms. Stone, who with the success of "Jacques Brel" became an in-demand
concert and cabaret performer, had a distinctive stage presence. Her
attention-getting voice came from a diminutive body - words like
pixie," "gamin" and "waif" frequently turned up in reviews of
her performances. Comparisons to Edith Piaf were common.
"Like the late French singer," Newsday wrote in 1972, "Miss Stone conveys
a throbbing intensity that contrasts vividly with her vulnerable
Early in her career she was known for comic songs. But by the time of
"Jacques Brel," and in her subsequent career, she had become a master
of wistful and sorrowful songs, honestly conveyed.
"Miss Stone," Robert Palmer wrote in The New York Times in 1976, reviewing
a performance at the Bottom Line in Manhattan, "is a theatrical singer
with a straightforward musicality that transcends artifice."
Eleanor Stone was born on May 30, 1927, in Brooklyn. Her father, Max, was
an entrepreneur, and her mother, Jean (Rosen) Stone, was an accountant.
She grew up in Brooklyn and graduated from the High School of Music and
Art (now the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and
Performing Arts) in Manhattan.
After an early marriage to Martin Birnbaum ended quickly in divorce, she
embarked on a singing career, although it got off to a rocky start - she
was booked at a resort hotel in the Catskills, and bombed.
"They didn't even pay me," she told The Boston Globe in 1970. "The
whole affair rankled, and I didn't sing again for two years."
But eventually she found some success as a folk singer with a comic side.
In October 1957 she played Carnegie Hall as part of an evening billed as a
"Folk Jamboree," sharing the bill with Sonny Terry, Earl Robinson and
others. The next year she was back at Carnegie with the popular musical
satirist Tom Lehrer. (A newspaper advertisement for the show read: "Tom
Lehrer Strikes Back!! Assisted in mayhem by Elly Stone."
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
"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.