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 Home > Features > Les Misérables, Starmania, Notre Dame de Paris
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  Les Misérables, Starmania, Notre Dame de Paris  
The worldwide success of Francophone musicals

Les Misérables (JPEG) LES MISERABLES / MIS remains one of the most popular musicals in the world. The adaptation of Victor Hugo’s famous novel made rich its creators Alain Boublil (music) and Claude-Michel Schönberg (lyrics). The story begins in 1815: Jean Valjean is in jail after having stolen a loaf of bread. He was released after 19 years but is soon spied by an ineffable policeman Javert. Jean meanwhile becomes a famous businessman, a notable loved for his generosity. When one of his workers, Fantine, is fired and left to die alone on the street, Jean is upset that no one informed him. As Fantine is dying, Valjean decides to rescue her daughter, Cosette from the nasty Thénardier who has been exploiting her for several years. Paris is at the dawn of a revolution in 1932: the miserable people are building the barricades. Marius, in love with Cosette, fights alongside the young Gavroche. Based on a classic novel of Victor Hugo, a double music album was written by Boublil and Schönberg in 1980: 32 songs were composed and sung by different artists like Michel Sardou, Adamo, Michel Delpech or still Rose Laurens. Everybody in France hummed « La faute à Voltaire » ou « Donnez, donnez ». The success was big and instantaneous. The first musical Le Spectacle started on September 17, 1980 in the Palais des Sports (Paris) for 107 shows. 500 000 spectators applauded Robert Hossein’s production. An English version was composed: the new musical debuted in London September 30, 1985 and on Broadway March 12, 1987 (for 6680 shows). Both continue to run today. Herbert Kretmer prepared the text’s adaptation: the triumph of the « Les Miz » was international. An English version was recorded for the album. In 1991, the London based musical version returned to France. It was once again a big success. Played in schools and in the countries all around the world, the show Les Misérables is one of the most classic musicals ever produced.

Miz official website

Starmania (JPEG) TYCOON (STARMANIA) A meeting between the French Michel Berger (music) and the Quebecois Luc Plamondon (lyrics) is the origin of the second biggest success in the History of the Francophone musicals. This franco-quebec project was first realised in 1978 with the musical recordings: Daniel Balavoine « Quand on arrive en ville », Diane Dufresnes, France Gall « Besoin d’amour », Fabienne Thibeault « Les uns contre les autres »/« Le monde est stone », Nanette Workman, René Joly, Claude Dubois « Le Blues du businessman »,... and the classic « La chanson de Ziggy ». This opera-rock musical tells the story of Monopolis, a modern capital city terrorized by a band called the « Etoiles Noires ». Its leader, Johnny Rockfort, works for a rich student called Sadia. When the billionaire Zéro Janvier starts his presidential political campaign he promises order and the creation of a fantastic new atomic world. Zéro is also in love with a sex-symbol called Stella Spotlight. Meanwhile, Johnny Rockfort is falling for Cristal at the Underground Café as she presents the TV program « Starmania ». Two forces fight, two dangers threaten the town and the world: totalitarianism and terrorism. The first show opened in 1979 at the Palais des Congrès in Paris with a production by Tom O’Horgan. The show continued in Quebec in 1980-81; and again in 1986-87. A new version appeared in 1988-89 at the Théâtre de Paris and then at the Théâtre Marigny with Maurane, Renaud Hantson,etc. The show toured in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg in 1990. A German version started in 1991, produced by Jürgen Schwalbe. The English version, called TYCOON and adapted Tim Rice, had its world premiere in 1992 : the album introduced Kim Carnes, Peter Kingsbery, Céline Dion, Tom Jones, Nina Hagen, Matt et Luke Goss, Willy Deville, Kevin Robinson, Ronnie Spector, Cindy Lauper with the song « The world is stone » (n°1 in USA charts). Lewis Furey subsequently proposed a new production which opened at the Théâtre Modagor in 1993 and in London in 1994. This incredible success motivated Michel Berger and Luc Plamondon to create a new project in 1986: a new musical LA LEGENDE DE JIMMY about the life of James Dean. This collaboration was interrupted by the accidental death of Michel Berger on August 2, 1992.

Starmania Website

Notre-Dame de Paris (JPEG) NOTRE-DAME DE PARIS is the result of the collaboration of Luc Plamandon (lyrics) et Richard Cocciante (music). The album was quickly a success with « Le temps des cathédrales », « Vivre » and « Belle », hitting n°1 in France during the summer of 1998. They sold 3 millions records. Also inspired by a novel of Victor Hugo, the story is one of love and Quasimodo’s secret feelings for the beautiful Esméralda. Quasimodo is in love with the bohemian girl; but she loves Phoebus, the fiancé of Fleur-de-Lys. Frollo, the priest of Notre-Dame cathedral, feels uncontrolled and violent desires for Esméralda: jealous, he steals Phoebus. The bohemian girl is found guilty, however. Yet Quasimodo frees her and takes her to one of the cathedral towers. He kills Frollo during the hanging of Esméralda. Quasimodo then dies near Esméralda’s body. The musical debuted in September 1998 at the Palais des Congrès (Paris) with a franco-quebec team: Garou (Quasimodo), Hélène Ségara (Esméralda), Daniel Lavoie (Frollo), Patrick Fiori (Phoebus), Bruno Pelletier (Gringoire), Luck Mervil (Clopin) and Julie Zenatti (Fleur-de-Lys). Gille Maheu was the producer. The show is also based on the story of Saint-Bernard Church‘s occupation by visa-less people (les sanspapier): this sad affair was a headline in the French newspapers. Notre Dame de Paris also ran in Montréal, Québec, Ottawa, Toronto, Las Vegas, and several other cities throughout the world.

Notre-Dame de Paris Website

  19 January 2006

Olivier Marteau
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