'Mozart' epitomizes this relatively new trend
PARIS — Broadway- and West End-style musicals have gained ground in Gaul, expanding the fledgling market for French tuners with live musicians and a genuine dramatic arc.
French producers Dove Attia and Albert Cohen’s $10 million operatic rock musical “Mozart,” skedded for a September bow, epitomizes this relatively new trend.
After chronicling Moses in the “The 10 Commandments” and King Louis XIV in “Le Roi Soleil,” Attia and Cohen, godfathers of blockbuster Gallic musicals, have chosen Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as the focus of their show, which opens Sept. 22 at Paris’ Palais de Sports.
The biotuner will be staged by “La Vie en Rose” director and former musicvideo helmer Olivier Dahan and choreographed by Dan Stewart, who directed “Aida” in Beijing.
“We want ‘Mozart’ to look like a Broadway musical with a sophisticated storyline, a talented director, a real choreographer and a live orchestra,” Attia says. “We’ve done everything we could to optimize our chances of making the show marketable on an international level.”
Per Attia, the show’s music will blend classic rock-style songs composed by Attia, Olivier Schultheis and Jean-Pierre Pilot with Mozart’s compositions.
The duo has partnered with Virgin 17 on the advance release of the “Mozart” album, in order to brand the show and start building buzz months before it opens.
Since the 1980s, the French have boosted their own brand of musicals with large-scale, concert-type shows featuring a succession of songs with minimal narrative thread. Some, including “Starmania,” “Notre Dame de Paris” and “Le Roi Soleil,” were hits in France, particularly among young auds.
However, those tuners showed limited potential for travel, unlike the more story-driven shows of Boublil and Schonberg, “Les Miserables” and “Miss Saigon,” which found international success. But those global hits failed to nurture much of a trend back home.
Gallic auds have had more exposure to traditional scripted tuners since 2005 with the arrival of Stage Entertainment, an Amsterdam-based musical production shingle that specializes in Broadway shows.
After acquiring two famed venues in the French capital, Les Folies Bergeres and the Mogador Theater, Stage Entertainment imported “Cabaret” and “The Lion King” to Gaul, immediately drawing healthy crowds.
“France is not yet a mature market for Broadway musicals like Spain or Germany, where we have 20 theaters, but it has a strong potential,” says Stage Entertainment topper Sandrine Mouras. “French folks are showing a real interest for musical entertainment.”
“We need to emulate Broadway shows like ‘Miss Saigon’ or even ‘Hairspray’ that can be popular and mainstream, but also raise contemporary issues,” says French stage director Olivier Benezech.
Benezech co-helmed the French-language version of “Grease,” scoring a hit with the ’50s-era tuner where its original English edition had tanked in 2002. The Gallic makeover played more than four months in Paris , and is mulling a return season later this year with a national tour.
“We’re struggling to find our public,” says Alain Sachs, who recently directed “Je m’Voyais Deja,” a Broadway-style tuner assembled around Charles Aznavour hits. “But we’re on a mission to elevate the musical genre in France.”