by Debbie Tuma
One way to beat the winter blues is to snuggle up in a cozy seat and watch a theatrical or musical performance, and Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor is a great choice. Having seen three wonderful and memorable plays last summer, including “Fellow Travelers,” “Frost Nixon” and “Evita,” I decided to start this winter season with a fascinating performance by one of my favorite musicians, Alfredo Merat.
On December 8, he gave a one-man, hour and a half performance of “Jacques Brel,” in which he not only sang and played his guitar, but he also showed his keen acting ability. For those unfamiliar with Brel, who was born in 1929 in Belgium, Merat brought his character alive, sharing his own enthusiasm for Brel’s extensive songs and storytelling.
Having already seen the off-Broadway “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris,” I was curious to compare that with Merat’s one man show, and I found he did a good job of giving us a bit of Brel’s history, interspersed with many of his original songs. It was obvious that Merat was inspired by these songs, and he exuberantly shared his creative joy with the audience. Merat has an intense and contagious energy on stage… his singing is emotional and deeply felt, to the listener.
Having seen Merat perform throughout the Hamptons, at Baron’s Cove Restaurant and Lulu’s Kitchen & Bar in Sag Harbor, and also at the Montauk Music Festival, I was also curious as to how he would tackle the task of entertaining a live audience for almost 2 hours on stage. But it was obvious that Merat was intent on sharing Brel’s legacy…which included much more than just singing and song-writing—because Brel was also an actor, a pilot, and a boat captain. He was well-known in France, where he moved at age 24 to pursue a music career. Over the next three decades, he released 16 studio albums while touring Europe, New Zealand, Canada, Egypt and the Soviet Union.
Merat is well versed in different languages—he was born in Madrid, Spain and raised in France, where he played and composed music at a young age. He first heard Jacques Brel’s voice at age 15, on radio and TV, but he never got to see him live. Since he came to the states, Merat has been playing at many different venues, and when he first saw “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” he decided to begin his own rendition…His first tribute to the great Belgian singer took place in October of 2016, “Brel by Alfredo,” at Bay Street Theater.
At Merat’s December appearance at Bay Street, he expertly played the acoustic guitar, and he was accompanied by his full band of very talented members, including amazing sax, piano, violin and accordion players. He will continue to be seen at Lulu’s Kitchen & Bar, where he also played on New Year’s Eve.
Now in the New Year, Bay Street Theater will once again resume their line-up of great winter entertainment. With her success last year, Nancy Atlas, of Montauk, will be back doing her “Fireside Sessions” every Saturday night in January, with her Nancy Atlas Project Band, and also accompanied by different guests each night. Atlas has been performing her lively, fun shows throughout the Hamptons for many years, at numerous venues. On January 5, her guests will be piano man Henry Hald from the hit Broadway show, “Movin’ Out,” and paired with saxophonist George Cortez.
On January 12, Nancy Atlas will have guests Randi Fishenfeld, violin extraordinaire, and on January 19, with Eugene Chrysler on stand-up bass and Gene Casey of the Lone Sharks. On January 26, see Nancy Atlas with Danny Keane, Jonny Rosch, and the Fireside Choir. All these shows promise to be fun, festive, and will want to make you get up and dance!
All-Star Comedy returns to the Bay Street stage on January 18, with host and comedian Joseph Vecsey, and featured performances by Gary Vider of America’s Got Talent and Conan, and also the well-known Oscar Collazos.
Also on February 15, All-Star Comedy returns with Joseph Vecsey and guests Casey Balsham of Gotham Comedy Live and Sirius XM, as well as Ken Krantz of Gotham Live and other venues.
If you love movies, there is also a line-up called, “Friday Night Flicks,” followed by a “talkback” from special guests. On Feb. 1, there are two important environmental films being shown—“Straws,” about plastic pollutants, and “60 Minuets,” about health and toxic environments. On February 8, Bay Street is showing the classic, “Carnal Knowledge,” with a talkback by Jules Feiffer.
Other musical entertainment this winter includes The “Hoodoo Loungers” on February 2. Joe Lauro and his New Orleans-inspired band welcomes you back for their 10th Anniversary Concert, since they played their first show at Bay Street in the winter of 2009! On February 9, look for the special evening, “Home Again: A Tribute to Carole King.” And on February 23, look for the Tom Petty Tribute with “Damn the Torpedos.”
For Box Office and ticket info, call Bay Street Theater at 631-725-9500 or visit http://www.baystreet.org/.