It seems like the winds are changing.
For a city of which has oft been noted for its lack of musical theatre , this season has been especially rich with two major new productions (Nine and La vie en bleu, even if both had short runs) and some hits from the past seasons still running or re-opening (Starmania, Le Passe-muraille, Les Annees Twist). One might revisit 1991, when Boublil and Schonberg's Les Miserables was produced in Paris, to find such an equally rich season.
Big budgets, small budgets, adaptations, creations, musical revues : all kinds of productions are currently being written, made or rehearsed on various Parisian stages. The two major trends seem to be either adaptations of American hits or musical revues which have been extremely popular recently. Upcoming adaptations are Menken and Ashman's Little Shop of Horrors, the classic Bernstein-Sondheim-Laurents-Robbins' classic West Side Story as well as MacDermot-Ragni-Rado's Hair (the latter production has just completed auditions for an early March opening).
Musical revues expected or rumoured this season are a new piece by Roger Louret (who turned his nostalgia compilation shows into huge popular hits) featuring songs of the 70's and 80's, a musical revue with songs about Paris, and a new show tentatively called J'aime la comedie musicale et c'est pas de ma faute (which means "I love musicals and I can't help it").
Playbill On-Line spoke with Philippe Bruneteau, a young performer who will star in Little Shop of Horrors as Seymour and in West Side Story as Riff. "It's two opposite characters and this is so interesting to play such different personalities." Little Shop of Horrors had its French premiere in 1986, adapted and directed by Alain Marcel. Marcel's adaptation and direction credits include Peter Pan, Kiss me, Kate and My Fair Lady. This production will use Marcel's French lyrics but will be directed by Belkacem Tatem and choreographed by Rachel Snow. Other performers featured in the show are Christian Abart (Mushnik), Suzanne Legrand (Audrey), Philippe Robert (Korin), Deborah Tanguy (The plant) and Gilles Avisse, Nathela Davrichewy, Christine Khandjian and Isabelle Turschwell.
After his Little Shop gig, Bruneteau will appear on the prestigious stage of the Casino de Paris for a new production of West Side Story. Bruneteau is very excited to play the role of Riff in this classic musical. "As a performer, you dance Robbins' choreography, you sing music by Bernstein and lyrics by Sondheim... More complete than that is rare to find," said Bruneteau.
This French production of West Side Story will be performed with dialogues in French and songs in English by a cast of 26 and an orchestra of 30 musicians. The show is adapted and directed by Daniel Thuann. The Jerome Robbins choreography will be recreated. This production will mark the French premiere of this classic musical. Prior to that, French audiences have been able to see the show in Paris, but performed by various touring companies, directly from the States. The last one stopped in Paris at the Theatre du Chatelet at the end of 1991 for a Christmas engagement.
Other lead roles will be performed by Olivier Houlez (Tony), Odile Samoel (Maria), Eric Nicolas (Bernardo) and Didier Caruso (Chino). A last-minute replacement is currently being sought out for the sassy part of Anita. The cast, as of press release, is mostly unknown to large audiences. "We don't need stars, the show is the star. All the generations know West Side Story. Some people have seen the film ten times. Everyone knows "Tonight" or "America"," said Bruneteau.
The classic musical opened on Broadway on Sept. 26, 1957 and celebrates this year its 40th anniversary. It seems like new productions of West Side Story are blossoming everywhere around the world in non-English speaking countries. Playbill On-Line correspondents have reported two new Spanish productions (one is currently running in Madrid and another one is opening next month in Mexico City) and a Chinese one which ran last June at the Central Academy of Drama of China.
Paris theatres seem to be willing to host more musical productions. "I think that we might have, in a few months or in few years, a French creation, with original music and book, because up to now, we have only done adaptations," says Bruneteau.
For tickets and information on La Petite Boutique des Horreurs at the Theatre de Menilmontant, call 331 40 30 91 95. Runs Dec. 26 to 30.
For tickets and information on West Side Story at the Casino de Paris, call 331 49 48 61 10. Runs Feb. 4 to 7.
-- By Stephane Ly-Cuong