On Feb. 28, Boublil and Schonberg's latest musical Martin Guerre had its closing night performance at the Prince Edward Theatre, London. This production, directed by Declan Donnellan, opened July 10, 1996, but received two major subsequent revisions. Martin Guerre never became a blockbuster, like Boublil and Schonberg's previous two musicals, Les Miserables and Miss Saigon, which are still enjoying successful runs on Broadway and in the West End.
Boublil and Schonberg have many fans worldwide -- who sometimes call themselves the "Bouberg's fans" -- and the closing night of Martin Guerre was definitely a special event for them. The final performance of this production of Martin Guerre was sold out, and one hour prior to the curtain rise, people were already queuing in the return tickets line, while die-hard fans -- some from Germany, Belgium or France, who had already booked their tickets long time ago -- gathered in front of the theatre. Some of them already had seen the matinee performance, but the biggest fans even added the Thur. 26 matinee and evening shows to their busy Martin Guerre schedule. Thursday performances have different leads in the cast, with Glyn Kerslake as Arnaud du Thil and Ma-Anne Dionisio as Bertrande de Rols, which real fans didn't want to miss.
For the final performance, the cast was as following : Hal Fowler as Arnaud du Thil, Jenna Russell as Bertrande de Rols, Michael Cahill as Martin Guerre, David Shannon as Guillaume, Andrew Norris as Benoit, Susan Fay as Madame de Rols, Don Gallagher as Pierre Guerre, Nigel Richards as Father Dominic, Ann Emery as Hortense, Sevan Stephan as Judge Coras, Nathan Harmer as Andre and Sarah Ingram as Catherine. At the end of the opening number, "Working On The Land", the audience delivered a warm round of applause. Many other ones would follow, especially for the impressive ensemble number, "Welcome Home", choreographed by Bob Avian, as well as for solos and duets like Arnaud and Martin's "Here Comes The Morning" or Bertrande's "When Will Someone Hear ?".
At the intermission, theatregoers gathered around Boublil and Schonberg, who were attending the show, to ask them to sign their programs. Act II began with an orchestral piece, giving the audience the opportunity to applause the orchestra conducted by Nigel Davies. Highlights of Act II include the ensemble number "The Imposters" which was particularly appreciated by the audience. As the orchestra hit the final note, the cast received an instant standing ovation and some of the performers, including leading lady Russell, couldn't hold back their tears. On behalf of the cast, Hal Fowler thanked the audience for attending the final perfomance of this production of Martin Guerre and invited Boublil and Schonberg to join them on stage, which they did, but no speech was made. The curtain fell and lots of teary-eyed fans gathered around the stage door to wait for the cast members.
It was the end of this production of Martin Guerre but it is defintely not the end of Martin Guerre itself. Playbill On-Line spoke to Claude-Michel Schonberg (read our interview) who told us that Alain Boublil and himself were working on a new version of Martin Guerre which would be closer to the intimate vision of the show that they originally had. This new production is set to preview in Leeds next November. -- By Stephane Ly-Cuong