Nashville, Tennessee has long been considered the music capital of America, so what better place to bring a couple of French composers and an English producer auditioning their Broadway-bound musical? The auditions, held April 26, are for "adult singers": a female belt voice, a strong young tenor and a high baritone leading man.
That the audition is an open call may come a surprise considering the notoriety of the project. It's Martin Guerre, the pre-Broadway U.S. tour of Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's long-in-development musical, produced by Cameron Mackintosh. The show is seeking a Bertrande, an Arnaud and, yes, a Guerre. Auditionees should be prepared to sing a showtune or contemporary pop number (thought rock, r&b, opera and jazz are not encouraged). Sign-ups are 9-10 AM at the Nashville Ballet, 2976 Sidco Drive.
Auditions have already been held in New York and Chicago, and there'll be a final one in Minnesota, in conjunction with the revised show's American premiere there. After the tuner's premiere at Minneapolis' Guthrie Theatre on Sept. 28, the production will travel to Detroit's Fisher Theatre and then to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. No specific dates have been set for the Motor City stop; the musical will play D.C. sometime in December, according to a Kennedy Center spokesman.
Mackintosh's spokesman, Marc Thibodeau, said two more tour dates will probably follow the Washington engagement. Seattle and Los Angeles have been mentioned as possibilities. Martin Guerre will then head for Broadway in late April 2000, presumedly just in time for Tony Award consideration.
* Three was a charm for Martin Guerre November 1998, 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.
Casting for the Guthrie production is yet to be announced.
-- By Robert Simonson, David Lefkowitz and Terri Paddock