If in August, Parisian theatre houses are usually dark while performers and theatregoers are out on vacation, September is one of the busiest months with many new productions opening. Eager musical theatre fans might want to know if the 1998-99 crop will reveal some jewels, or will it be just the same old (French) song?
The most awaited new book musical of the season is Plamondon and Cocciante's Notre-Dame de Paris, based on Victor Hugo's classic. This production, opening Sept. 18, will star Helene Segarra as Esmeralda, although Israeli singer Noa recorded the part on the previously released album. All the other singers to appear on the album will perform their roles on stage. The cast recording is already a hit on the charts and might bring younger audiences to musical theatre.
Another new book musical based on a famous French literature classic is La Dame aux Camelias, based on the tragic Dumas love story which gave way to Verdi's opera La Traviata and George Cukor's film, Camille. This musical version of La Dame aux Camelias is composed by Jean-Claude Petit, mainly known as a film composer, and written and directed by Jean-Luc Borg. Labeled a "popular musical drama," La Dame aux Camelias claims to be freely inspired by both Dumas and Verdi.
Other book musicals to reprise or tour this season are Plamondon and Berger's rock-opera Starmania and a German touring production of West Side Story.
Starmania will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year and will be performed at the Casino de Paris, after various engagements at the Palais des Sports, Theatre Mogador and Palais des Congres. West Side Story is brought to Paris by German producer Wolfgang Bocksch. No information is available on the cast as of press time, but as usual, it will probably be a company of American performers. The classic Bernstein-Sondheim-Laurents-Robbins musical will be performed in English. This is the third show to be brought to Paris by Bocksch this this year after two successful engagements of Fame and the male strippers show, California Dream Men. Paris wouldn't be Paris without musical revues. Roger Louret, who has directed two smash hits revues spanning the 1930s to the 1960s, is back on the stage of the Folies Bergere with a tribute to the 1980s, called La Fievre des Annees 80. His company is led by Barbara Scaff and Philippe Candelon and will reprise all the big hits of the 1980's and more. Showtunes will include songs from Les Miserables, Evita and Cabaret.
Jerome Savary, who directed the French productions of Cabaret (one starring Ute Lemper, the other starring Dee Dee Bridgewater), will pay tribute to a great French songwriter, Charles Trenet, whose world-wide hits include "Beyond The Sea" and "I Wish You Love." Savary's new revue on Trenet's songbook is called Y'a d'la joie and stars Michel Dussarat (Cabaret) and Sophie Tellier (Nine).
In other musical theatre related news, the Tap Dogs will be back in Paris this fall for a two-months engagement at Mogador. Early next year, Mogador will host Olivier Desbordes production of L'Auberge Du Cheval Blanc (The White Horse Inn). Desbordes won praises for his unconventional stagings of classic operettas and Mogador definitely confirms its position as a leading Parisian musical theatre. October 1999 will see the French premiere of Jerry Herman's La Cage Aux Folles at Mogador. Although the French audiences are extremely familiar with the original play and film, very few know that it has been adapted as a musical.
To conclude on a Herman touch, French Dolly Annie Cordy is currently celebrating her 50 years of career on the stage of l'Olympia, and her concert includes a couple of Herman songs, such as Mame's "It's Today" as an opening and closing number, and of course, "Hello, Dolly!" (for which she usually receives a standing ovation). These are sung en francais, of course, but other showtunes sung in English by Cordy include "All That Jazz," "Singing In The Rain" and "Over The Rainbow".
For tickets and information on:
Notre-Dame de Paris at the Palais des Congres, call 331 48 68 00 05. Starts Sept. 16.
La Dame aux Camelias at the Theatre Dejazet, call 331 48 87 52 55. Starts Sept. 8.
Starmania at the Casino de Paris, call 331 53 32 32 00. Starts Oct. 29.
West Side Story at the Palais des Sports, call 331 44 68 69 70. Dec. 3-Jan. 3, 1999.
La Fievre des Annees 80 at the Folies Bergere, call 331 44 79 98 98 or click here. Starts Sept. 22.
Y'a d'la joie at the Theatre National de Chaillot, call 331 53 65 30 00. Starts Sept. 27.
Tap Dogs (Oct. 22-Jan. 3, 1999), L'Auberge du Cheval Blanc (Starts Jan. 20, 1999) and La Cage aux Folles (October 1999) at the Theatre Mogador, call 331 53 32 32 00.
Annie Cordy at l'Olympia, call 331 47 42 25 49. Until Sept. 13.
-- By Stephane Ly-Cuong