French operettas-musicals of the 1920's seem to be very trendy this season. Last winter, Willemetz and Christine's Dede and Phi-Phi were revived at the Opera Comique and at the Theatre du Tambour Royal (both starring Philippe Ermelier). Now, a new production of Willemetz and Yvain's La Haut will get its Paris premiere at the Theatre des Varietes, July 10.
La Haut (Up There) was created at the Theatre des Bouffes Parisiens on Mar. 31, 1923 and was intended as a star-vehicle for Maurice Chevalier. La Haut has a book by Gustave Quinson and Yves Mirande, lyrics by Albert Willemetz and music by Maurice Yvain. Yvain started to collaborate with Willemetz in the early 1920's. Along with Charles, they wrote a song for French star Mistinguett -"Mon Homme"- made famous across the Atlantic under the title "My Man" and sung, among others, by Fanny Brice.
Set in the roaring 1920's, La Haut tells the story of Evariste who arrives in Heaven and is allowed to go back on Earth to see his merry widow once again. Husband, wife, lover, affairs: the plot of La Haut has its usual share of frivolous and fickle French characters and seems to confirm that Paris is definitely the city of ooh-la-la. The score of La Haut ranges from fox-trot to blues, and from one-step to waltz. Yves Cayrol and Bruno Conti are the musical directors of this production.
La Haut brings a French-British team together. The show is directed by British director David Gilmore, whose successful revival of Grease is still running in the West End. Gilmore has brought one of his collaborators, Terry Parsons, to design sets and costumes. Choreographer Marc Forno and lighting designer Jean-Michel Bauer are French.
Director-performer Jean-Paul Lucet (Barnum) plays Evariste. Completing the cast are Jacques Alric, Patrick Haudecoeur, Manon Landowski and Marcel Philippot. The French operetta craze might be more than just a one-season sensation. Next fall, a play by Labiche intercut with Offenbach's songs and a major revival of Phi-Phi should grace Paris stages.
For tickets and information on La Haut at the Theatre des Varietes, call 331 42 33 09 92. Starts July 10.
-- By Stephane Ly-Cuong