Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's long-in-development musical Martin Guerre is finally headed for the U.S. A spokesperson for producer Cameron Mackintosh told Playbill On-Line (Jan. 12) that an American staging of Guerre would open at Minneapolis' Guthrie Theatre on Sept. 28, 1999. Possible tour dates to follow include Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Toronto. A Broadway bow is anticipated for March 2000.
Three was a charm for Martin Guerre this past November, when the show opened at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in a co-production between the Leeds-based theatre and Mackintosh. The third and latest production of the phoenix-like musical featured a rewritten libretto and new songs from Boublil and Schonberg, whose writing partnership has produced two of the most successful musicals of all time, Les Miserables and Miss Saigon , both produced by Mackintosh.
The play tells the story of the eponymous French peasant who returns to his family in 1551 after nine years fighting in the war. He seems a very changed man and, although his wife accepts him back, doubts about his true identity begin to emerge.
Martin Guerre first opened in July 1996 at the West End's Prince Edward Theatre but received universally bad reviews. Mackintosh invested £4 million to re-package the show which re-opened in November 1996. That year, it won the Olivier Awards for Best Musical and Best Choreography, and it ran for over 700 performances.
Despite its eventual success, Boublil and Schonberg remained unsatisfied with the result, believing it had been rushed and was not faithful to the material. "They felt they never managed to get Martin Guerre right," says West Yorkshire Playhouse artistic director Jude Kelly, who the pair approached about a new production. "They couldn't proceed as artists until they got it right." Mackintosh also commented: "We all felt that Martin Guerre had not found its final form, and I discovered Jude was of the same mind. She told me that she was totally supportive of giving the authors a chance to complete their vision."
For the new co-production, an impressive new creative team has been assembled. Martin Guerre is directed by Conall Morrison, associate director at Dublin's Abbey Theatre, with musical staging and choreography by Abbey Theatre's David Bolger, design by John Napier (whose productions include Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, Cats, Starlight Express and Sunset Boulevard), lighting by Howard Harrison and orchestrations by William David Brohn (whose recent productions include the RNT's Oklahoma! and the Broadway production of Ragtime for which he won a Tony Award).
The Yorkshire production earned vastly improved reviews. In response, Mackintosh has speedily proceeded with his usual program of world domination. Guerre production are already scheduled for Denmark, Israel and Sydney.
Exact tour dates for the U.S. have not been finalized. Casting for the Guthrie production is yet to be announced.
Martin Guerre will play at the West Yorkshire Playhouse through Feb. 13. --By Robert Simonson and Terri Paddock