'Les Miserables' creators turn their attention backward

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

NEW YORK (AP) — Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, creators of the stirring musicals "Les Miserables" and "Miss Saigon," are once again reworking their show "Martin Guerre" and hope to put it in an opera house with its original ending.

The Tony Award-winning duo, who are being celebrated Monday with a star-filled concert at The New York Pops, tell The Associated Press that they are rethinking their third collaboration by going back to the original sparks of creativity.

"We are bringing back a kind of authenticity and emotion to the work, which is very gratifying for us," said Boublil, the lyricist and librettist. "Many opera houses now are welcoming serious musicals with heavy subject matter. We think that 'Martin Guerre' belongs there."

"Martin Guerre" tells the story of a 16th-century soldier in a religiously divided France who assumes another man's identity and falls in love with the man's wife.

It originally opened in London in 1996, won the Olivier Award for best musical and ran for over 700 performances. The show toured the U.S. for nine months, making stops in Minneapolis, Detroit, Seattle, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

It never landed on Broadway, in part, because super-producer Cameron Mackintosh thought it wasn't finished, and the pair has been tinkering with it for years. "Maybe it was not ready," acknowledged Boublil. Schonberg, the composer, offered another reason: "Maybe 'Martin Guerre' belongs to another world."

The duo is focusing on reworking the role of Guerre's wife — Boublil calls her "the person who drives the show" — and have unearthed their original ending in French, which was eventually abandoned for a less grim resolution.

"It was too sad. It was too operatic. It was too this, it was too that. And now it's back," said Boublil. Schonberg agreed: "We are still sure that it is the best ending that we can have for the show."

At the concert Monday, music from "Martin Guerre" and four other Boublil and Schonberg musicals will be performed by 18 guest artists including Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Patti LuPone, Norm Lewis, Montego Glover, Laura Osnes, Lea Salonga and Kyle Scatliffe, Stephanie J. Block, Jeremy Jordan and Hugh Panaro. The 78-piece orchestra will be augmented by students from Camp Broadway Kids and a chorus from Essential Voices USA.

Steven Reineke, the music director and conductor of the Pops, said he was a teenager when he first heard "Les Miserables" and played it nonstop. He leapt at the chance to honor the four-decade partnership of Boublil and Schonberg.

"To me, it's a dream come true," said Reineke. "The shows are wonderful. They speak to audiences all over the world. They've clearly struck gold here with this collaboration."

Panaro, the tenor who originated the title role in the U.S. tour of "Martin Guerre," will sing from that musical to honor the creators. He has also been in several "Les Miserables."

"They're family," he said. "I've known them since I was 23 years old when I played Marius in 'Les Miz,' back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth."


Online: http://www.newyorkpops.org