PARIS — One of brightest stars of French culture, late songbird Edith Piaf, is the inspiration behind “Les Amants d’un jour,” a Broadway-style musical set to bow in Paris, with aspirations of moving beyond the French stage.
“Amants,” explain producers Elisa Dubois and Bruno Predebon, was envisioned as a departure from big-scale shows featuring recorded music like Dove Attia and Albert Cohen’s “Mozart,” which have dominated the market for stage musicals in France for more than a decade.
“The tastes of French audiences have evolved over time, and today, people are eager to see Broadway-style shows with talented comedians and musicians performing live,” says Dubois, who created Paris-based shingle Musicals a year ago to produce shows with a strong international potential. She also founded the private investment firm Ingenius, which aims to finance and brand each stage production via the creation of luxury goods and other products.
Adds Predebon, who exec-produced numerous French musicals, notably “Ben Hur” and “Notre Dame de Paris”: “We’re following what ‘Mamma Mia’ did with ABBA’s scores, integrating Piaf’s most famous songs, notably ‘Padam,’ ‘Non je ne regrette rien’ and ‘La Vie en rose,’ into an original storyline.” “Mamma Mia!” sold 600,000 tickets in Paris from September 2011-September 2012 — 20% of all theater admissions in the city during that time.
Over the past few years, Gallic auds have proven they have a taste for all kinds of tuners, with producers such as Stage Entertainment delivering traditional Broadway hits including “Lion King” and “Sister Act” to healthy French B.O. “Sister Act” has sold more than 150,000 tickets sinsce its September bow, while “Lion King” has moved more than 1.3 million ducats in its three-year run.
And while the producers are distancing themselves from Dove and Attia’s big-scale model, they’re emulating a similar music-based marketing formula to help build buzz. The model seems to be working: Since launching pre-sales in mid-September, “Les Amants” has sold 11,000 tickets ranging in price from €19 ($24) to €99 ($126).
The company will be releasing an album of the musical and hosting a free concert in Paris on Dec. 3, nine months ahead of the show’s opening, and has scheduled a series of previews across 10 cities in June.
Inspired by the characters in Piaf’s “Les Amants,” the upbeat stage musical is set in 1957 Montmartre, and centers on the romance between two young lovers, Marilou (played by Claire Perot, whose credits include stage tuner “Cabaret” and film “Point Blank”) and Pierre (Jerome Pradon, who plays Sam in “Mamma Mia’s” French stage adaptation); rounding out the cast are Benoit Marechal and Florence Coste.
The producers have enlisted a topnotch team in behind-the-scenes key roles: the show will be helmed by Jean-Louis Grinda, who directed the French stage adaptation of “Singin’ in the Rain,” which won a best musical Moliere Award; while Jean-Claude Ghrenassia, who topped EMI’s Blue Note label from 2005 to 2009, serves as artistic topper.
Produced with a $7.6 million budget, the show will roll out next September at Paris’ Bobino theater, where Piaf gave her first and last concert. It’s backed by high-profile sponsors, notably Fnac, the French equivalent to Barnes & Nobles, commercial network M6 and leading radio station Europe 1.
The artistic challenge of “Les Amants” is to give Piaf’s songs a modern edge and contemporary appeal, while staying true to the singer’s spirit, Prebedon says.
Musicals and Ingenius are already prepping their next musical production, this one based on the life of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who inspired the “Sissi” trilogy of the mid-1950s. Ingenius will launch a brand of cosmetics and accessories that will be integrated into that show, which is scheduled to open in 2015.