After Broadway-Bound American In Paris, Théâtre du Châtelet Flirts With Sondheim's Passion

By Mervyn Rothstein
22 Oct 2013

Jean-Luc Choplin
Jean-Luc Choplin
Photo by Denis Lacharme-Théâtre du Châtelet

Jean-Luc Choplin, director of the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, talks with Playbill.com about his upcoming production of the musical movie "An American In Paris" and the possibility of presenting Stephen Sondheim's Passion in Paris. 

PARIS – Jean-Luc Choplin may soon be crowned the French king of American musical theatre.

Choplin, the director of the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, has brought many American musicals to his Paris stage in recent years, with a focus on the work of Stephen Sondheim, all in English with French surtitles. Last week, it was announced that he is venturing to Broadway, with a first stop in Paris, by co-producing a new musical version of the Oscar-winning 1951 MGM movie "An American in Paris," with music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin.

And this week, sitting in his conference room near the Seine, Choplin said that he is thinking of presenting another Sondheim musical, the 1994 Tony Award-winning Passion, at Châtelet in the 2014-15 season.



"I am flirting with the idea of Passion," Choplin said. "It's such a great score — probably one of Sondheim's best, though they're all great. I will start a discussion with Sondheim about it. I already sent him a message. He is excited about the idea. It's just the beginning — but yes, it's in my plans for the 2014-15 season."

Châtelet has long had links with Broadway. It presented Show Boat in 1929, two years after its Broadway premiere. Under Choplin, its presentations of American musicals have included West Side Story, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Candide, Carousel, Show Boat again and Sondheim's A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park with George. This season it is offering the return, in December, of My Fair Lady, as well as new productions of Sondheim's Into the Woods in April, and Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I in June.

An American in Paris is to begin at Théâtre du Châtelet in November or December 2014, with a planned move to Broadway in spring 2015. The co-producers are the Pittsburg CLO (Van Kaplan), by special arrangement with Elephant Eye Theatrical (Stuart Oken, Michael Leavitt and Five Cent Productions), and the creative team includes a veritable list of Tony-winning Broadway all-stars. The director and choreographer is Christopher Wheeldon, making his Broadway directing debut; the libretto is by Tony nominee and Pulitzer Prize finalist Craig Lucas; sets and costumes are by Tony winner Bob Crowley; lighting by Tony winner Natasha Katz; sound by Tony winner Scott Lehrer; and the Tony-winning Bartlett Sher is artistic consultant. The score will be adapted and supervised by Rob Fisher, widely known for his work for the Encores! revival series of Broadway musicals at City Center.

Choplin and his co-producers have emphasized that the show will have "new ideas" to make it somewhat different from the movie. "The musical has to be the movie, but it has be at the same time more than a movie," Choplin said. "It's a star movie about stars and dance, but there is no theatre without a great story, and we are working on a great concept with Craig Lucas."

 Continued...