It’s Bastille Day– time to celebrate all things French! We’ve looked over the Tams-Witmark catalog, and it turns out we have a wealth of wonderful musicals set in France.
From AMOUR to VICTOR/VICTORIA, here are eleven Tams musicals (plus several honorable mentions) that are très très français!
AMOUR – This charming and whimsical 2002 romantic fantasy, featuring a score by Michel Legrand, is based on a beloved French short story written by Marcel Aymé in 1941. Set in Paris shortly after World War II, AMOUR concerns the meek and unassuming Dusoleil, a beleaguered and love-struck clerk who inexplicably develops the ability to walk through walls. A Parisian Robin Hood, Dusoleil begins stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. The Broadway production starred Malcolm Gets and Melissa Errico. The French production of the musical, titled Le Passe-Muraille, won the Parisian equivalent of the Tony award, the Prix Molière, in 1997. Paris… Michel Legrand… Molière … what could be more French than that?
CAN-CAN – And the answer is… CAN-CAN! Cole Porter’s smash hit explores the lives of showgirls in the Montmartre dance halls of the 1890s. With songs like “C’est Magnifique” “Allez-Vous-En,” and “I Love Paris,” plus a whole lot of skirt-lifting can-can dances, this show may be the French-est of them all.
CARNIVAL – Based on the 1953 film Lili, this Bob Merrill/Michael Stewart gem opens with a character named Jacquot singing “Love Makes The World Go ‘Round” while playing the concertina. The delicate romance between a naïve girl and an embittered puppeteer plays out against the backdrop of the “Grand Imperial Cirque de Paris.”
DEAR WORLD – This musical adaptation of Jean Giradoux’s The Madwoman of Chaillot takes place in a Parisian café and in the underground tunnels of Paris just after WWII. Angela Lansbury won her second Tony for playing the Countess Aurelia, and the show’s score – featuring glorious songs like “I Don’t Want To Know,” “Kiss Her Now” and “I’ve Never Said I Love You” – is considered by many to be one of Jerry Herman’s best.
DU BARRY WAS A LADY – In this playful Cole Porter farce, a washroom attendant, Louis Blore, dreams that he is King Louis XIV, and the object of his affection, a nightclub singer named May, is the king’s paramour, Madame DuBarry. The original Broadway production, starring Bert Lahr and Ethel Merman, introduced the songs “Well, Did You Evah?” and “Give Him the Ooh-La-La.”
FIFTY MILLION FRENCHMEN – Another Cole Porter classic, this show follows the gambling exploits of American millionaire in Paris. The tuneful score from the composer extraordinaire features the song “Paree, What Did You Do to Me?”
GIGI – Based on the novella by Colette, this Lerner & Loewe classic is set in Paris at the turn of the 20th century. Young, awkward Gigi is groomed to become a courtesan, but instead charms the dashing bon vivant Gaston Lachaille, and matures into a poised young lady. The score includes the title song, “I Remember It Well” and “Paris is Paris Again.” The film version featured three French stars: Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jordan, and Leslie Caron. The 2015 Broadway revival featured Vanessa Hudgens as Gigi.
IRMA LA DOUCE – This musical is French through and through! It premiered at the Théâtre Gramont in Paris in 1956, but was translated into English and opened on Broadway in 1960. The show, a comic romance between a Parisian prostitute and her penniless lover, features songs like “Valse Milieu,” “Sons of France,” and “There Is Only One Paris for That.”
ROBERTA – This 1933 tuner from Otto Harbach and Jerome Kern is set in the glamorous world of elegant Parisian fashion. Star football player John Kent inherits Roberta’s, an exclusive dress shop in Paris, so he moves to France to manage the business. The show, which introduced “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” starred a young Bob Hope in his first leading role on Broadway.
SILK STOCKINGS – Another Cole Porter musical set in Paris! Loosely based on Ninotchka, SILK STOCKINGS tells the story of a Russian envoy who must manage three fun-loving Soviet agents in Paris. Songs include “All of You” and “Paris Loves Lovers.”
VICTOR/VICTORIA – Paris in the Jazz Age! In this Blake Edwards comedy featuring music by Henry Mancini and Frank Wildhorn, chanteuse Victoria Grant poses as a man in order to achieve fame as a female impersonator. Complications ensue when a gangster falls for her/him. Songs include “Paris By Night” and “Le Jazz Hot.”
CABARET – Maybe this one’s a stretch. But the opening number is partly sung in French! (“Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome…”)
CAMELOT – Sure, the mise en scène is Medieval England, but Lancelot is French, and he sings a song called “C’est Moi.”
THE DESERT SONG – In this Romberg/Hammerstein operetta, Moroccans rebel against French colonial rule.
GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES – Lorelei Lee sails the Ile de France to become a performer in Paris.
LITTLE ME – Fictional diva Belle Poitrine goes from rags to riches, and travels to France to pursue her lovers, noble Eggleston and Val du Val.
LORELEI – The heroine of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES is back on the Ile de France!
THE THREE MUSKETEERS – Rudolf Friml’s operetta takes us back to 17th century France, where young d’Artagnan joins the Musketeers of the Guard under King Louis XIII.
THE VAGABOND KING – In this Friml operetta, 15th-century poet and thief François Villon woos King Louis XI’s cousin Katherine De Vaucelles, becomes “king for a day,” and defends France against the invading forces of Burgundy.
That’s our list. Happy Bastille Day, everyone– Vive la France! (And while we’re at it… Vive le théâtre musical! N’est-ce pas?)