Boublil and Schonberg have labored for months writing a new and (one hopes) better Act I for their West End musical Martin Guerre, which has reopened after a hiatus to put the rewrites into the show.
Their fans everywhere want to know: How is the new Martin Guerre?
Does it solve the show's problems? Is it now as powerful as the team's Les Miserables and Miss Saigon? What are the chances for world tours?
The critics weighed in with their opinions Nov. 11; here's a chance to add your opinion to theirs, and let the world know.
Write your review -- long or short -- and email it to Managing Editor Robert Viagas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reviews will be posted as they come in. Please include your town, and please note whether you'd like us to include your full e-mail address so you can receive responses. This is optional, of course.
Here are the results so far:
From Jeff Harbison (JTHarbo@aol.com):
I saw Martin Guerre in late November, shortly after its revision. The show itself has the same feel as Miss Saigon - it's no masterpiece but it has great drama and some very beautiful and moving scenes. There is a very heavy dose of forte full ensemble many-parted singing. Perhaps too much for some but I don't think there is such as thing as too much of such singing. It makes your skin tingle. One note about the revision. The tape (which was recorded prior to the revisions) has tempos that are much slower than the current product. The faster tempos are a great improvement. After seeing the newer version, some parts of the tape (eg the song with the three old wives of the town) are absolutely deadly to listen too. The bottom line is that the show may not be Les Miz but it is worth the price of the stall. (2/21/97)
I recently saw Martin Guerre in London. I did not see the original version. I thought the show was extremely moving and the music was wonderful. I think it is a more delicate show than Les Miz or Miss Saigon. However there are problems with it. The day I saw it there were several understudies in major roles. Iain Glen as Arnauld is wonderful but does not have a great singing voice. The understudy playing Martin Guerre did not sing or act well. Rebecca Cook who plays Bertraud at certain performances (an on the CD) was wonderful and is the heart of the show.
The overall problem as I see it is that the charachters are not fully developed. Martin marries and then is off. YOu meet Arnauld and then he comes to Artigat. They fall in love and then there is the trial. All of this happens so fast that it is hard get involved in the lives of the characters. For the show to be a success here I believe that there would need to be rewriting.
Having said all of that. I loved the show. It stayed with myself and the person I was with for several days. It is a beautiful show and deserved to be seen here. (2/21/97)
From Steven A Taylor:
From the moment that the new, revised Martin Guerre opens you know that your evening will be a memorable one.
Whilst the previous show contained many of the ingredients of a hit; gorgeous tunes, excellent dancing and a powerful cast; it was not enough to satisfy the critics or indeed, it would appear, a large portion of the British theatregoing public. The recent revisions now mean that we have a show that grabs you by the throat from the opening number and never once lets go until the final curtain call.
The main improvement to the show is the reformatted first act. Whilst still containing most of the fine tunes of the old show; the only notable casualties being Artigat, now replaced by Working On The Land and When We Were Young, cut prior to the show's original opening night in July; the whole of the first act now flows along more breathtakingly than before and therefore seems to match the second acts operatic feel in order to create a sense of completeness that was previously absent.
Thankfully, the lyrics have been radically re written and Edward Hardy's "pop" libretto is almost totally eradicated. Stephen Clarke, the new lyricist, has now replaced the repetitive verses laid down by Hardy and ensured that every piece propels the story further forward. For example, where we previously had Charivari; a five minute section with the sole purpose of demonstrating how the bad guy, Guillaume, and his cronies humiliate Martin; we now have the same tune re-titled Where's The Child. The new number involves the whole village and allows the audience to see just how long the village has been waiting for their "prize" and the resultant pressure that Martin experiences from all protagonists due to his lack of virility.
Stephen Clarke's new lyrics, whilst not always the most imaginative, are perspicuous, fit the feel of the piece perfectly and add so much to the story, you could be forgiven for thinking that you are watching a different show.
Bertrande's role in the show has been extended and this adds immensely to the tragic dimension of the show's finale. In the process she has also gained a wonderful little soliloquy reprise of Here Comes The Morning and an extremely stirring finale to her When Will Someone Hear?
Arnaud's death scene has been protracted to allow that little bit more audience manipulation and the re-vamped closing number now seems guaranteed to ensure that the audience leap to their feet as the curtain falls.
The score throughout defies anyone to not be bewitched by it's charms and may well prove to be Claud-Michel Schonberg's most enduring to date. The continual swelling of the orchestra, under the control of David Charles Abell, is guaranteed to send shivers down the spine and soften the hardest heart.
This new opening night performance was possibly the most power-packed that I have yet witnessed. All involved gave the best that anyone could have asked of them. From Matt Rawle's thrilling Martin Guerre, commanding the attention of the entire audience, through Iain Glen's honest-voiced, convincing love duets, Juliette Caton's genuinely affecting plea of When Will Someone Hear?, Michael Matus' compelling portrayal of the village fool and Jerome Pradon's accomplished hate mongering, culminating with his rousing I Will Make You Proud. Whilst the entire company sing beautifully in the choral numbers a mention must be made of their thrilling dance numbers and despite the length and the obvious strenuous nature of these routines, the cast never fail to convince the audience that they are having as much fun performing as we are watching.
All this effort was rewarded more than sufficiently by the audience's thunderous reaction. I am unable to recall a time when I have heard such screams, cheers and applause or seen a more spontaneous standing ovation and I can think of no occasion more worthy of this reverence.
Forget Phantom, Cats and all the other West End "hit" shows. There's a new kid on the block and to invest in a ticket to Martin Guerre is to be assured of an evening in musical theatre heaven. (1/10/97)
From Sarah Wright:
Martin Guerre, the new version. What can I say it is absolutely brilliant. Having followed the show from its first previews I feel a very special affinity with it, although I liked the old version very much the new one is fabulous. Claude -Michel has written a marvelous score and if I had to choose my favourite songs it would be a very hard choice as it contains many excellent songs but I would choose 'Here comes the morning' and 'Martin Guerre', The performances of Iain Glen, Juliette Caton, Matt Rawle, Jerome Pradon and Micahel Matus are excellent.
Although it is inevitable that it will be compared with it's predecessors of Les Miz and Miss Saigon, Martin Guerre stands up in its own right. It is as different from Les Miz as Miss Saigon was, without fancy special effects this is a musical about people's emotions. You see what Bertrande goes through in the seven years that Martin is away, the pressure from all around her and the struggle not to fall for the imposter 'Arnaud . Special acknowledgement must go to Micael Matus and his superb Benoit, the village simpleton with his beloved scarecrow Louison, who knows more than the villagers give him credit for.
Listen to the music and if you get the chance, go go go to see it : ) (1/10/97)
From Jena Casbon:
I absolutly love the overture. (1/4/97)
From George Patterson:
I saw MG Nov. 2, just days after its revamping. I was mesmerized and delighted and found Tunick's (orchestrations) and Avian's (choreographer) among its major assets, but it is a ravishingly beautiful production of an always fascinating story. Its only drawback is that it is the third prod. of this dynamic team and the critics are furious that they've done it again. Cam Mac is to be congratulated for taking such a huge commercial, not artistic, chance. When it comes to the states, it'll fare much better, critic-wise. (1/2/97)
From Steven Doggett:
I have seen both versions of Martin Guerre & want to say that the new version is fantastic. I found the story & music to be better than Miss Saigon. I have been gripped throughout the whole show on many occasions now & it just gets better all the time. (1/10/97)
From B.J. Segel, Port Hueneme, CA:
I saw it on New Years Eve. I have not seen Les Miz or Miss Saigon, so I had few preconceived notions of what to expect. The show is a disappointment. Everyone I talked to afterwards felt the same way; I did not encounter anyone who said they really liked it.
The music is pleasant but not memorable. The first act is much stronger than the second and obviously benefitted from the rewrite. They should apply those rewrite skills to the second act as well. Much of the staging is silly and amateurish--all that running around in the second act. The book is weak; too much is unexplained. How did Martin manage to survive when we saw him killed in battle? Why does he suddenly reappear when he does? Why is he such a jerk when he returns? The story, however, is intriguing. I would love to see what someone like Sondheim would do with it. Who is the real Martin Guerre? What is truth? What is justice? (1/8/97)
I saw the revised show only---not the initial version.
The show is a visual repeat of Les Mis. I found it un-involving, tedious and a major let-down of my trip. Most around me in the audience agreed.
Go see "Art"!!! An unexpected or planned treat! (12/9/96)
From Carol Theiler:
I saw Martin Guerre the day after it opened in July. They have deleted one of the most beautiful songs "Why Won't You Love Me?" sung by Bertrand. Otherwise your reviewers seem to be describing a show which drives home the same points as the original. Too bad the cast recording reflects only the revised version. (11/20/96)
Saw revised Martin last Thursday. Had not seen earlier version. I thought it had moments of absolute magic and real emotional power - a refreshing change after dreck like Jolson and Scrooge. However, its brilliance is not consistently sustained - the audience wasn't really hooked until Act II. Still, it deserves an audience and an American production. Had it opened in the shape it's now in, I can't believe it wouldn't have been a hit. (11/19/96)
From Karam: (email@example.com):
Although I felt the rewriting improved the show musically...something is simply missing from this production (be it the cast, music, lyrics, story) that keeps it from reaching the standards of Les Miserables. (11/12/96)
I saw Martin Guerre Nov. 2 and was amazed and astounded by its hugeness and clarity. It is a ravishingly beautiful opera. It shall be around as long as Les Miz or Miss Saigon. (11/4/96)