Robert Hossein, star director, is mostly known in France for his big-budget theatrical epics, often exploring major periods of history.
Hossein is also known for having directed the very first version of Boublil and Schonberg's Les Miserables. That production was a hit at that time and surprisingly enough, the showtune that became a hit in France was not "I Dreamed a Dream" or "Do You Hear the People Sing" but the long version of "Little People" sung by the character of Gavroche.
Since then, Hossein hasn't directed another musical. This season, he returns to the musical theatre with La vie en bleu, a new musical based on the life of Pablo Picasso. There had been talk on this musical for five years. The project started in 1992 but only came to stage this summer in Monte-Carlo, produced by the Principality of Monaco itself to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the Grimaldi dynasty. La vie en bleu has then opened in Paris, Theatre Mogador, on Oct. 3.
This musical, more a pop-rock-opera than a Broadway style musical, has been written by Pascal Stive for the music and Jean-Michel Beriat and Raymond Jeannot for the lyrics. The three of them have mostly work as songwriters for French artists. Jeannot has written a hit for Petula Clark ("Le refrain de ma vie") but has also co-written the music of Boublil and Schonberg's La revolution francaise, the first rock-opera ever written in France. Stive and Beriat met each other while working on Rose Laurens' pop hit "Africa". Laurens has been noticed in France with that hit but theatergoers might remember her as being the first Fantine.
The cast of La vie en bleu is headed by Mario Pelchat as Picasso. Pierre Mayer alternates as Picasso at matinee performances. A few of the cast members come from Canada, like Mario Pelchat, Veronique Beliveau, Caro Blandin, Beaulieu and Stephanie Martin. Martin has portrayed with great acclaim the role of Eponine in Mackintosh's production of Boublil and Schonberg's musical. She created the role in Toronto and in Paris. When the show closed in Paris at the same theater where La vie en bleu is currently playing, Martin joined the London cast of Les Miserables. The Theatre Mogador has now became a landmark for musical theatre productions. In the last years, audiences have been able to see original French productions (La Legende de Jimmy, Starmania), world touring productions (A Chorus Line, My Fair Lady starring Richard Chamberlain, Hair) or French adaptations of Broadway hits (Cabaret, Hello, Dolly!).
A beautifully designed 2-CD set recording of the musical has been released by Trema (ref : TRE 710744), featuring the original cast except for the character of Dora Maar, sung by Elaine Rowan on the recording but portrayed by Alexandra Winisky on stage.
For tickets and informations on La vie en bleu at the Theatre Mogador, call 331 53 32 32 00.
-- By Stephane Ly-Cuong