Two Frenchmen, an idea and a blank piece of paper. That’s how it started. Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg have written some of the world’s favourite musicals with Les Misérables and Miss Saigon especially, achieving phenomenal worldwide success and winning many awards.
Their very first musical was La Révolution Française, which played in 1973 and only in France. Les Misérables, in its original French version, premièred at the Palais Des Sports in Paris in 1980, before being reworked in English and brought to London by Cameron Mackintosh in 1985. Miss Saigon followed just four years later, and opened at London’s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Their next musical, Martin Guerre, had a somewhat chequered history and was rewritten several times, having its latest reworking at Newbury’s Watermill Theatre in summer 2007. The Pirate Queen is an exciting new musical which opened on Broadway on 5 April 2007, but, after receiving very mixed reviews, it sadly closed after only 85 performances. However, it’s sure to emerge again elsewhere one day to a kinder reception. Their next musical Marguerite, has been written in collaboration with the renowned French composer Michel Legrand and Herbert Kretzmer. It is a much smaller scale musical than their previous ones, beginning with a six month run as part of the new Theatre Royal Haymarket Launch Season.
Boublil and Schönberg’s musicals have pushed back the boundaries of what was considered possible or even desirable in a musical, changing forever the public perception of what a musical is. They have taken the genre and reinvented it. They’ve captured the hearts and minds of people all over the world, and Les Misérables alone has been seen by over 54 million people. Boublil and Schönberg are musical dramatists with a mastery of the through-sung form that allows them to tackle serious subjects with an epic dimension. Their shows deal with individual stories set in a historical context at a moment of crisis, and handle themes that are at once universal and personal to every audience. They create multidimensional characters that the audience really cares about and invest them with recognizable truths with which the audience can identify. Their musicals are hugely entertaining but they also demand a high level of emotional engagement from the audience. They make us laugh and they make as cry and that’s part of the reason why we love them so much.