Reviews for the newly revised Alain Boublil/Claude Michel Schonberg musical, Martin Guerre have begun to roll in.
* International Herald Tribune scribe Sheridan Morley, who already called the score a masterpiece, saw the show in its new form and raved even further: "There is no better way for the century and the epic musical to go out than in the blaze of glory and genius that is Martin Guerre. So negative were other reviews, and so shaky the early bookings, that [Cameron] Mackintosh has spent...three months with his entire cast and crew rebuilding about 50 percent of the show's book, lyrics and action. Why? Essentially perhaps because it did need some sharpening, clarifying and highlighting for those not prepared to work their way...through a complex narrative derived from the great French legend of the returning warrior who may well not be the Martin Guerre he claims to be."
Not all great musicals are overnight successes... How many of my colleagues who wrote disparagingly of Martin Guerre that it was `nowhere near as good as Les Mis [sic] now remember the pasting they almost all gave that just over a decade ago?"
"For all the rewrites," Morley continued, "Martin Guerre now boasts yet another lyricist, Stephen Clark, a graduate like his colleague Edward Hardy of the Stephen Sondheim masterclasses at Oxford University a few years back ... In an already classic and gigantic score, numbers have been shortened, heightened, polished and stressed like diamonds on a golden chain. Several sequences, including the climactic fire, have been moved around to give the second half the strength of something more than a trial of which we already know the outcome... A supreme score of anthem after epic anthem, heartbreaking in its eternal truth, breathtaking in its understading of theatrical greatness, stunning in its sheer stagecraft."
* Charles Spencer, Theatre Critic for the Daily Telegraph:
"You have to admire the sheer nerve of Sir Cameron Mackintosh," he wrote. "It takes a certain chutzpah to admit that a multi-million-pound musical isn't working and to relaunch it, four months after its original premiere, with all the noisy brouhaha of a traditional West End first night." "I must admit I thought Martin Guerre, which seemed at once ponderous and glibly hollow at its original first night, was probably beyond salvation. I now have a hunch that Mackintosh...mnight have turned a flop into a sizeable hit. I still have reservations, not least about the whole concept of overblown blockbuster shows like this... No doubt, however, that Boublil and Schonberg's Martin Guerre is now slick and dramatically involving, its best tunes (which I originally underrated) have a lush and yearning romanticism, and there are scenes of powerful emotion."
* Pete Clark, critic for the London Evening Standard:
"The strengths of the original production remain. This is a more musically interesting show than, say, Miss Saigon. Some of the big ballads, notably "Tell Me To Go, All I Know, and the title tune are wonderfully moving with just the right touch of the ham, while the ensemble numbers are carried off with great gusto."
"That said, the show does have weaknesses which are clearly inherent... The producers have not placed any great emphasis on leavening the humor -- with the sole exception of a trio of mordantly witty widows.... Nevertheless, Martin Guerre deserves to be recognized as a genuine attempt to put something intelligent and different on London's musical stage. For this reason, it is well deserving of a second chance."
* Daily Mail critic Shaun Usher:
"Heavy stuff, though well suited to a modern crypto-opera with much dialogue delivered and action advanced in song. Boublil's score, vaguely inspirational, yet not particularly memorable, is in key with the sombre sets and Old Master lighting. Martin or rather Mark II Guerre, easy to grasp, eye-filling and tuneful...is much the better for play-doctor Mackintosh's surgery."