Broadway Melody – the Lerner and Loewe Songbook – Auguste Théâtre, Paris

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 22.03.38Broadway Melody – the Lerner and Loewe Songbook was performed at the Auguste Théâtre, Paris.

Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩

As part of the Broadway Melody series at the Auguste Théâtre, artistic director and performer Lauren Van Kempen and musical director pianist Mathieu Serradell chose to introduce the French audience to the masterpieces of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.

As opposed to the work of George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Leonard Bernstein which were the subjects of the previous shows, the work of Lerner and Loewe is comparatively unknown in France.

Even though, like the shows of Rodgers and Hammerstein, their musicals have roots in the European operetta tradition, only one has been done in France (My Fair Lady of course!).

Before its last large-scale revival at Châtelet a few seasons ago, this musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion had been out on tour many times, translated into French by Alain Marcel. Their musical Gigi, despite its obvious French roots, has never been staged in France.

It was a very good idea, however, to start off this evening with numbers from that very musical, based on the novella by Colette and well-known from the 1959 movie directed by Vincente Minnelli.

The second selection, from Brigadoon, also rang a bell to the movie-going public because of the Gene Kelly movie of 1954, also directed by Minnelli.

The next offerings – Paint Your Wagon and Camelot – were less familiar to the public, but were well served here by the winning, singing quartet composed of Elisa Doughty, Scott Emerson (recently seen in 42nd Street at the Châtelet), Maxime de Toledo (curently in the Portrait of Dorian Gray) and the indomitable Lauren Van Kempen.

Serradell also devised some brilliant arrangement for ‘They Call the Wind Maria’ from Paint Your Wagon and ‘The Lusty Month of May’ (Camelot).

The evening aptly concluded with an extensive selection from My Fair Lady with Van Kempen’s talent shining particularly in ‘Show Me’ and ending with a beautiful quartet arrangement to ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’.

The comments and translations of musical historian Jean-Luc Jelery were always funny and to the point. A reprise of ‘Paris is Paris Again’ from the stage version of Gigi was a well-chosen encore to a spirited evening.

True, some of Lerner and Loewe’s works are now a bit dated in some respects. As Jelery said, a modern audience would expect spectacular fighting in a musical about King Arthur nowadays and not just an emotional triangle!

That’s why Camelot could hardly be mounted today, but in an age where melodies are sometimes hard to find in contemporary Broadway scores, these guys could certainly write a tune.

Patrick Honoré

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