Les Choristes continues at the Folies Bergère, Paris until 18 June, before touring.
Star rating: two stars ★ ★ ✩ ✩ ✩
Julie Andrews herself wanted to buy the rights to the French movie 2004 Les Choristes (based itself on the 1945 movie La Cage aux rossignols) for a mere $10,000, but was denied. So much the better for her because this piece is no Sound of Music.
Based on the 2004 French of the same name (itself based on a 1945 film La Cage aux rossignols), Les Choristes is playing at the famed Folies Bergère in Paris.
The production tells the uneventful story of Clément Mathieu (played by Jean-Louis Barcelona), who in a backwards country town (literally named ‘The Bottom of the Pond’) forms a chorus at a boarding school for delinquent boys in 1949.
The main song, ‘Vois sur ton chemin’ (‘See You On the Way’) catches the audience’s attention while it lasts, but the other songs barely register.
As for the sets, they are limited to two: the classroom and the schoolyard. The amateurish flames of the fire on the boarding school building, along with video projections of Mathieu’s words, try their best to reflect the emotions experienced by this unemployed and failed musician, who reluctantly accepts a position as a guard at the school.
Child labour laws are strict in the world of performing arts in France, but director Christophe Barratier (also director of the film) and his producers manage despite these constraints to get a full chorus of children onstage every night.
In a wink to The Sound of Music, Les Choristes puts the singing kids front and centre, performing, in addition to the songs from the movie, six new numbers written just for the show. But somehow these additions only make the piece feel six times longer.
In spite of all the youth onstage, Les Choristes doesn’t emit much youthful energy. The kids are often out of harmony and sync, and their voices fail to carry even halfway through the theatre. An orchestra, or at least a pianist, is sorely missing too.
After the Paris run at the famous Folies Bergère, the show will tour extensively in France. It looks likely to find a huge audience, thanks to the popularity of the movie.