Broadway Musical Replacing French Operetta?

While the musical again breaks all theatre records in London’s West End, and booms away on Broadway, it is now also making unexpected headway on the Champs-Élysées.

Theatre du Chatelet  (Credit:  Wikipedia)

Theatre du Chatelet (Credit: Wikipedia)

According to Victor Tribot Laspière of France Musique “La Belle et la Bête” (Beauty and the Beast) is currently booked out at the Mogador Theatre in Paris, while “My Fair Lady” and “Le Roi et moi” (The King and I) have also enjoyed considerable success at Théâtre du Châtelet … and this despite their very Anglo-Saxon origins.

A recent report by France’s Ministry of Culture shows that musicals in Paris have of late enjoyed some unexpected success although still far from the records regularly achieved on Broadway or in London. More tickets to musicals were sold in the West End in 2013 than in any previous year on the back of hugely successful blockbuster shows such as The Lion King (now in its 15th year), according to the Society of London Theatre.

Helping spur French interest in the musical is a combination of several years of hard work by Laurent Valière, presenter of the popular France Musique radio show 42nd Street and Eurostar. Valière who plays extracts from famous musicals past and present including interviews often in English with the Broadway and West End writers and producers for his Sunday morning programme also stages a quiz which offers winners tickets and a Eurostar return to a show in the West End.

It is unclear how many of his French winners have seen the all-time record-breaking musical Les Miserables, based as it is on the French revolution, and now running for 28 years with some 65 million tickets sold.

Les Miserables by Vitor Hugo , stage adapation long runner in London n credit wikipedia

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo , stage adapation long runner in London
Credit Wikipedia

According to the Society of London Theatre, attendances at musicals were up by three percent in 2013 and 8.2m theatre-goers coughed up an average of 32 pounds sterling per ticket giving a total revenue for West End musicals of £355 million.  Jointly Broadway and the West End are reported to generate some € 2.5 billion a year in box office take and employ more than 41,000 people.

Paris theatres for their part sold some 2 million tickets to the Anglo Saxon musicals for a turnover of € 60 to 70 million. The huge difference is of course due to the number of theatres in London — 52 major outlets — compared to Paris, but also a difference in perception of this type of entertainment in France compared to the Anglo-Saxon world.

Differences says Xavier Dupuis, a lecturer in management of cultural organizations at the University Paris-Dauphine, who was responsible for the report (co-authored with Bertrand Labarre) commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, “Le renouveau du spectacle musical en France”, (The revival of the musical in France “) that are the legacy of the French operetta of the 19th century.

In this study, the authors also attempt to describe the different types of musical performances. On the one hand, the musical in French resembles a variety show and consists of a series of songs with the shows success based on the sales of the discs that result (Notre-Dame de Paris, Mozart l’opéra Rock) for example. On the other hand, the Anglo-Saxon musical is, according to the study, an application of the industrialization of production to a live entertainment show.

The purchase of the Mogador theatre in Paris by Stage Entertainment in 2005 has heralded the inauguration of the first theatre in Paris dedicated to Anglo-Saxon musicals some of which are enjoying resounding success. Among these the French adaptation of the Lion King –  Roi Lion (1.3 million tickets sold between 2007 and 2010). The show Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête) currently playing in Paris has had its run extended so great is the ticket demand. Occasional Broadway musical classics staged by the Théâtre du Châtelet and including My Fair Lady and The King and I have also been sell outs.

Story: Ken Pottinger

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