BWW Review: MICHEL FOR EVER at Théâtre De Poche
A year after his critically acclaimed Berlin Kabarett in the same Théâtre de Poche in the Montparnasse neighborhood, Stephane Druet and his partner in crime Daphné Tesson are paying a well deserved tribute to their idol: The great Michel Legrand.
What And the World Goes Round did for Kander and Ebb and Side by Side for the master Sondheim Michel For Ever is doing for Legrand, conveying his spirit much better than the big concert tribute at the Grand Rex last April, which featured his instrumental compositions to the neglect of his songs. This jewel of a musical revue is much more than just a catalogue, thanks to some clever staging by Stéphane and Daphné and imaginative Fosse-style choreography by Alma Devillalobos, not withstanding the climatic lighting by Christelle Toussine and costumes by Denis Evrard, which fit perfectly in the Demy/Legrand universe.
Cleverly written, the slim narrative of two couples gathering with a piano player (Benoit de Mesmay) and a bass player (Jean-Luc Arramy) to jam around Michel's repertoire is true to the bohemian spirit of the travelling players of Les Demoiselles de Rochefort. It weaves together some surely-to-be, if-not-already, canonized Michel Legrand songs, including some rarely heard ones such as and "Oum le Dauphin" and "Sans Toi" from Cléo de 5 à 7 by Agnes Varda.
Michel's body of work is impressive and versatile, from his movie music, to his jazz compositions, to his famous singles such as "Le Cinéma" for Claude Nougaro, which opens the show, "Ca va! Ca va!" from Serge Reggiani, and of course "Ma Première Chanson" and "Papa Can You Hear Me", written for Barbra Streisand and hilariously portrayed by the wonderful Mathilde Hennekinne. Together with the equally excellent Emmannuelle Goizé, they are perfect successors to Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac in "La Chanson des Jumelles", whose creative process is here humorously and joyfully depicted.
Gaétan Borg, seen in Legrand's Les Parapluies de Cherbourg at Chatelet, and elsewhere in Sunset Boulevard, Avenue Q, and Mama Mia!, is a capable song and dance man. And Julien Alluguette, alternating with the great dancer Sebastian Galeota from Berlin Kabarett, is a charming singer-actor.
The four of them work wonders together. They share sparkling chemistry, especially in the Peau d'Ane medley and the stunningly arranged counterpoint mixing of "Un Parfum dans le Monde" from the Claude Lelouche's movie Les Uns et les Autres with "La Chanson de Delphine" from Les Demoiselles and "La Valse des Lilas" and "L'Adieu" from Les Parapluies. This divinely harmonized medley is the high point of the hundred-minute one-act show, together with the two most famous of Legrand's songs "The Summer Knows" from the movie Summer of 42 and "Les Moulins de Mon Coeur", beautifully sung in alternating French and English lyrics, from the movie The Thomas Crow Affair.
"Sweet Gingerbread Man" is another amusing song, but missing is "What are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?".
A heartfelt hommage from its two auteurs, Michel For Ever is one of the very best pieces of musical entertainment of the season in Paris and we hope it will help instill in the French public a deeper appreciation of perhaps the greatest, most versatile (and best known abroad) French composer. For those who missed this delightful revue, it will be back at the Théâtre de Poche the 29th of August.