Interview: Nathan Guichet on Directing the Madonna Musical HOLIDAYS at L'Alhambra

A Madonna Juke Box Musical in Paris

By: Oct. 23, 2023
Interview: Nathan Guichet on Directing the Madonna Musical HOLIDAYS at L'Alhambra

In the sub-genre of the juke box musical that doesn’t tell the story of the star from whose oeuvre the songs are taken, but rather works those songs around an original story, comes Holidays, on the heels of several predecessors like Broadway’s Mama Mia and Jagged Little Pill.  The fact that it premiered in Toulouse and opened in Paris right before the tour of the icon herself makes it more of a curiosity.  But why not? 

With a budget of only 1$ million, as compared to the 14$ million budget of the excellent but comparatively short-lived Jagged Little Pill, Holidays certainly has a future, especially due to its intimate scale and small cast, where people would have expected an extravaganza in the style of the icon’s own concerts. 

Interview: Nathan Guichet on Directing the Madonna Musical HOLIDAYS at L'Alhambra The four-woman cast is strong indeed, with Juliette Behar, recently seen in the musicals Oliver Twist and Jack the Ripper, and a strong contestant for the role of Fantine in the brand-new production of Les Misérables at Chatêlet next year, as Louise, the pink-adorned leader of the pack. Fanny Delaigue, seen as Maggie in Résiste, the recent France Gall musical, and in Grease at Mogador, plays the ruthless Veronica, who made it big in New York, one of the few hints at Madonna’s life, her beginnings when she quickly graduated from back up to Patrick Hernandez (“Born To Be Alive”). Her secret love interest is the homely Suzanne, played by the vocally strong Anna Ka, seen in The Dance of the Vampires, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and We Will Rock You as the Killer Queen. But the best vocals belong to Nevedya, seen in Saturday Night Fever in both France and Quebec, who delivers a show-stopping “Papa Don’t Preach.” Is the name of her character, Nikki, a reference to Niki Haris, one of Madonna’s longtime backup singers and dancers, or is it purely incidental? 

At a fast-paced 90 minutes, Holidays benefits from climatic lighting by Frédérick Doin, a single set design by Justine Mélisse, period costumes by Nicolas Richard, efficient choreography by Cécile Chaduteau, sharp dialogue by Gaétan Borg, and musical direction by Eric Melville, even if there’s sadly no band on stage.  

Let’s hear what the book writer and director Nathan Guichet, aptly assisted by Christopher Lopez and Laura Dupont, has to say about his baby.


What other musicals inspired you to make this one out of the Madonna songbook?   

First, I was inspired by Madonna's concerts. Six the musical was an inspiration too. That musical needed no more than 6 artists on stage to tell a story. 

What were Madonna's recommendations when she gave you green light? 

Respect is the most important thing when using songs from an artist. Don’t distort the songs and words, don't make a parody of them, and respect the artist. I was vigilant, but I decided not to tell her own story but to show the influence of her music on fans. It was simpler to bring to stage as a musical that way. 

Why did you decide on a four-characer all-female cast, with no ensemble? 

It's a story of friendship that happens behind closed doors, in the childhood home of one of the characters. It was an intimate story about the reunion of 4 childhood friends after 14 years apart. The book doesn’t need other things. 4 talented artists on stage give us as much energy as 20. 

Did you build the story around the songs you wanted to use, or did you choose the songs according to the narrative you wanted to tell? 

The story for me is at the center of the creation. The characters and their relationships existed for me long before the songs were selected for the story. Then I could see that certain songs were magically written for it. I chose my favorite Madonna songs from the 80s and 90s. Everything seemed logical to me, as if two complementary universes met. 

Did you deliberately choose to not include the more controversial parts of her body of work, notably material dealing with sexual liberation from the Erotica album? 

I dealt with a lot of things that seemed essential to me. And it all translates, thanks to the lyrics of Madonna's songs. Aspects of Madonna’s life and fantasies found in Erotica weren’t central to the story I wanted to tell. My story takes place in a childhood bedroom. Was it important to be fairly appropriate about that? 

Why did the show originate in Toulouse? 

I’m among three producers who believed in this show, and one of us, Stéphane Pontaq, is from Toulouse. Stéphane, who had already produced his first show in his hometown, wanted to honor his city, and we all agreed. The audience was fantastic, we couldn't have dreamed of a better premiere.

Are you planning to bring this show to other parts of the world, and translate the book into English? 

Yes, absolutely, it's really one of my objectives. It's a universal story, which can speak to audiences from the four corners of the world. An English version is already in preparation. 

Is the show more targeted to Madonna fans, or is it aiming, on the contrary, to initiate younger generations to the work of The Queen of Pop? 

I identify 3 target audiences. First, Madonna fans will be delighted with the tribute paid to her; the inclusion of songs specific to each character and her situation will impassion fans. Second, nostalgists of the 80s and 90s in general will be dazzled by the selections; the scenography and numerous references to the era (Walkmans, period calendars, VHSs, 45 rpm records, audio cassette players, etc.) are accompanied by record breaking hits from those years. Third, musical theater fans will be interested, whatever their generation. 

Everything is brought together in this show: artists mastering the 3 disciplines of singing, dancing, and acting, because, yes, this is real musical theater with strong characters and character. The choreography by Cécile Chaduteau is effective and serves the work well, and the musical arrangements anchor the pop hits in a spirit that is very much musical comedy 

Thanks to that, every generation can find interest in the show, so young audiences can discover or rediscover the successes of the Queen of Pop too.


Holidays, which is currently selling out, is booked at l’Alhambra until the end of January before touring. 


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Patrick Honoré runs the magazine and has been a musical theater critic for 15 years, sarting as the French Musical Corespondant for the paper edition of Musical Stages in London... Patrick Honoré">(read more about this author)


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