Broadway buys into French formula

Gallic musical 'Mozart' to be adapted for Rialto run

PARIS — While French films and TV skeins often spur international remakes, homegrown musicals seldom travel beyond the Gallic border. Dove Attia and Albert Cohen, who have produced five shows that have sold more than 7 million tickets domestically, are poised to change that.

The duo have licensed “Mozart, l’Opera Rock,” their most successful production, to nearly all major territories, including the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Canada, U.K., Australia and New Zealand.

In France, the $7.8 million show — which chronicles the life of the composer with a pop-rock score — played for three years, and grossed nearly $100 million from 1.5 million admissions. The soundtrack album has sold more than 750,000 units. Like Attia and Cohen’s other shows, “Mozart” is lavishly staged, featuring more than 400 costumes and large casts, and targets families and young, urban audiences.

Their new show, “1789: Les Amants de La Bastille,” bowed in Paris on Sept. 29, and has already grossed an estimated $12.3 million from sales of 190,000 tickets , as well as having shifted roughly 120,000 soundtrack albums.

Producers Gregory Young and Atanas Ilitch have acquired “Mozart” for all English-language territories, with playwright David Grimm (“Miracle at Naples”) and musical director Paul Gemignani (“The Mystery of Edwin Drood”) adapting the show for Broadway.

They admit some retooling is needed to fit the work to the expectations of U.S. auds.

“When the French write musicals, a lot of their songs are written like pop singles placed contiguous to each other, while on Broadway, it’s necessary to have a storyline and a semblance of relationship,” says Young, adding that Grimm has been bridging the period settings with a contempo sensibility.

One thing that intrigued Young when he first saw “Mozart” was that four or five of the songs got standing ovations even before they had been performed in a market that had not yet seen the show. He later found out those tunes had already topped the French pop chart. Young also was impressed to see that many in the audience came dressed as their favorite characters.

Such pre-show awareness is due to a business model that has proved highly effective for Attia, who overseas creative aspects, and Cohen, who handles business-related matters: They release the first single one year prior to a show’s opening, and bring out three more singles before it bows. The actual album comes out six months before a show opens.

Young and Ilitch are hoping for a New York bow in the spring of 2014.

Although they have to downsize the production for a smaller Broadway house — the French production, directed by Olivier Dahan, played the massive 4,000-seat Palais des Sports — the pair has licensed and acquired all the sets, costumes, staging and props of the original show for a possible touring rock opera if the musical is a hit.

“Mozart” isn’t the only show Attia and Cohen are grooming for global play. “Bastille” is presold to Arion Co. in South Korea, and, the producers say, has sparked interest from buyers in other territories, though they wouldn’t specify which ones.

Guillaume Lagorce, who’s been advising Attia and Cohen as well as negotiating the show’s worldwide licensing via his shingle GL Organisation, says the producers modeled “Bastille’s” narrative structure on Broadway tuners to make it more international, with a rock-pop score that can draw younger audiences than a typical Broadway tuner.

Attia and Cohen have also teamed with powerful media sponsors to promote and brand their shows. Leading French commercial network TF1 and radio station NRJ are co-producers on “Bastille.”

Next up, Cohen says, the duo are aiming to tie up with overseas partners to develop international co-productions.

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