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“Notre-Dame” from Paris to New York: behind the scenes of a success

At the corner of Columbus Avenue and 63rd, our hexagonal chauvinism reaches its peak. Ahead of us, the David H. Koch Theater proudly displays this month’s program: ““Notre Dame de Paris”, the must-see pop-rock hit”. The class. In the lobby, a small crowd proudly poses for photos, orders drinks and eye candy in the souvenir shop, where “I Love New York” has become “I Cloche Notre-Dame”.

In France, we would smile. Here, it’s “so chic”. “We really wanted to see the show,” said a Polish couple living in Staten Island, who were celebrating the young woman’s birthday with poor white wine. “We miss Europe. In Poland, we read Victor Hugo at school, we know his work well and we like French musical comedies. I liked “Romeo and Juliet”, do you see what it is? » How can I tell you, madam , that “Loving” is our national anthem, as is “Lighting the fire” by Johnny.

At the David H. Koch Theater on June 23.

© Eva Sakellarides

Enough talk, it’s time to see what’s going on behind the scenes. Only, for this, it is already necessary to find the troops. Between the elevators, the stairs and the endless maze of spiral corridors, it’s not that simple. We pass in front of a closed box, we hear the sound of the piano like a female voice ringing in the distance. It seems that we have finally reached our destination. At the refreshment station – heard a pot and three madeleines in a wicker basket – Jay, previously created as Clopin, talks to Daniel Lavoie, our national Frollo. “I’m going to make myself a ginger and honey tea, do you want one?” he said. “It’s a great luxury,” replied Lavoie, teasingly. It will be one of the rare times we will hear Molière speak.

“Notre-Dame de Paris” trained its team on their journey

Like any major world production, “Notre-Dame de Paris” trained its crew during their travels. Because if, from Gaul, we are not aware of it, the spectacle inspired by the work of Victor Hugo has largely invaded the world. Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, Russia, Taiwan, Singapore, Belgium, Japan, Turkey, United States… It has been exported everywhere. “In Asia, the success is crazy, it’s full all the time, specify Jay, former poetic lover who appeared on the show for eight years. In France, it does not have the same dimensions, besides the public is more difficult than us. They play “Notre-Dame” mainly in French with subtitles, tests with foreign languages ​​were not conclusive.

Behind Luc Plamondon (center) and Daniel Lavoie (left), part of the troupe in Central Park.

© Eva Sakellarides

“Luc Plamondon’s words are too nuanced to translate faithfully,” says Daniel Lavoie, the troupe’s only original interpreter. Two countries are exceptions: South Korea and Italy have translated versions and have even surpassed France in terms of the number of performances (respectively 850 and 1,000, compared to 750 here).

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Fleur-de-Lys evolves from naive to animal, and you must manage to make the change understandable in just three songs.

Alyzee Lalande

On the floor below, Angelo Del Vecchio, alias Quasimodo, is in full preparation. His character is one that needs more work. It takes her twenty minutes to put on her hideous blood red wig and thirty minutes of makeup to make her look ugly. The discussion alternates between the miraculous remedies to preserve his voice and the role of Phoebus. “He’s the big poor guy of the story, don’t we agree? Jaime Bono, perfect as an indomitable Esmeralda, nods.

On his side, a hairdresser arranges the golden hair of Alyzée Lalande (Fleur-de-Lys), which we saw mainly in “Grease” in Mogador. “The duality of my character is interesting. Fleur-de-Lys evolves from naive to animal, and you must manage to make the change understandable in just three songs. »

Angelo Del Vecchio, alias Quasimodo, in full preparation.

© Eva Sakellarides

Another touch-up or two and off we go behind the scenes. Placed at the back of the space, the bells of the cathedral, larger than life, wait patiently, silently. While, on the beds that furnish the merry brothel where the incorrigible romantic Phoebus takes Esmeralda, some artists stretched out. “Ah, we make the most of them! they joke.

To the left, the chairs in a circle each have a name. On the records, piles of clothes and shoes on the ground. So everyone can change quickly during the show. Here, there is no dresser. The team is the same since 2017, some have been there for longer than that, they know the song, no need to give them any assistance.

People like to see the same thing again, it reassures them that nothing has changed. And, above all, it’s always a positive show!

Daniel Lavoie

Especially since some changes have been made since the premiere in Paris in 1998. The costumes of the police have been modernized but the rest is identical. The original series is still running, it is now in Albania. One in New York, its carbon copy, has resisted since 2016. Minimalist, it is still more than 8 meters high and requires a lot of organization to be set up and moved, so the need for several sets. This lack of change can be explained, according to Daniel Lavoie, by two factors: “People like to see the same thing again, it reassures them that nothing has changed. And, above all, it’s still a positive show!”

Lavoie was 49 when he first lent his character to the Churchman torn between his faith and his desire for Esmeralda the Gypsy. “I was going through an existential crisis, this show gave me a taste for the stage. He remembers the first performances and the “collective hysteria” around the Cast. “Thousands of people were waiting for us at the exit every evening , it was too much. »

Gringoire (Gian Marco Schiaretti) and Fleur-de-Lys (Alyzée Lalande), accomplices behind the scenes.

© Eva Sakellarides

He leaves us to put his head in place, the show is about to begin. In the first notes of “Time in the cathedrals”, the nostalgia is immediate. “The world has entered a new millennium,” intoned Gringoire. After that comes “Les sans-papiers”, “Gypsy”, “La cour des miracles”. These well-heard pieces are given to a second generation. Even “Belle”, sung more or less in tune in all the tele-hooks in France, triggers some thrills.

We don’t call it a comedy but a musical show, because we don’t tick all the boxes in the genre.

Daniel Lavoie

Hats off to Luc Plamondon and Richard Cocciante for these timeless lyrics and melodies. The topic is also more topical than ever (immigration, racism, protests, police violence), as is the scene that accompanies them. Using this towering wall to create modular nests, sometimes a prison, sometimes a cathedral, and allowing acrobats to cling to it reveals a rare simplicity and ingenuity. The same observation for the choreography of Martino Müller, whimsical and deliberately rough, which does not age a bit.

“The form is monolithic, it is a recital of songs, furniture and choreography”, describes Daniel Lavoie. “We don’t call it a comedy but a music show, because we don’t tick all the boxes in the genre. No dialogue for example. That’s why we’re not on Broadway,” explained the producer, Nicolas Talar, cut off by a tall, concerned man, notebook in hand. The question seems important…

There is no room for improvisation

Play here rhymes with anxiety. Not that the caliber has problems to fill up – the two passages of “Notre-Dame” in the Big Apple were great success – but you have to juggle with the “unions”, the local unions. The contracts are very sharp, every break is very regulated, which leaves no room for improvisation if there is a small hiccup.

Absolute aberration for our French minds: the French technical team must be there full time and full, but not allowed to touch anything; he is only there to explain to the local technicians what to do. “After a while, we learned to work together, it is more fluid, but it is still more complex than with Asia … We have a reputation for rebels, which does not help us,” says the producer.

In New York, Victor Hugo’s work seems more alive than ever. Like the French revolutionary spirit, obviously.

In Paris (Palais des Congrès) from November 15, then on tour.

© Dr

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