Review: AL CAPONE at Folies Bergère

An American Gangster in Paris

By: Mar. 03, 2023
Review: AL CAPONE at Folies Bergère

Just when the Broadway flop Bonnie and Clyde is about to come back to the West End for the 2nd time, trying to build a popular hit off a cult following, a new musical about another famous criminal, Al Capone, one of the most infamous personalities from America's prohibition era, arrives in Paris.

Review: AL CAPONE at Folies Bergère Producer Jean-Marc Dumontet and writer-composer Jean-Félix Lalanne have chosen not to recount the first Scarface's biography but to create an original story around Capone's relationship with Probation Agent Elliot Ness as an excuse for a double star vehicle for Roberto Alagna and Bruno Pelletier. Despite its efforts to depict a forbidden love between Ness and Capone's sister Rita, played by Kaïna Blada, this made-up story fails to soar to the heights of a musical like West Side Story, nor does it convey the historical importance of these figures or even find a coherent tone. It feels like an odd mixture of fantasy, tragedy, and soap opera, falling short of being truly engaging. Same for the score: It lacks the flare for melody of a Franck Wildhorn (Bonnie and Clyde), though it works better when sticking to the jazz-era Charleston mood than when trying to be more modern, creating an uninteresting and disjunctive feeling of anachronism, not helped by the smoothless mix of live musicians and recorded tracks.

The highlights of the piece are the soliloquies that showcase the vocal prowess of opera star Alagna, whose fan base this production is heavily targeting, assuming they won't care about his limited acting abilities! The duet between Capone and Ness is the climax of Act 2, and well-trained and talented alternate Bastien Jacquemart (Hairspray, Fame, Into the Woods, and Raoul in the ill-fated French version of Phantom of the Opera!) raises it to the level of genuine musical theater.

As the female lead, French popstar Anguun, who plays the gangster's moll Lili, lacks power vocally. In supporting roles, Blada as Ness's love interest and Thomas Boissy as Capone's pal fair a lot better. Eric Chevalier's set design and David Belugou's costumes are up to the task and respectful of the period, but the saving grace of the show is the polished and inventive choreography by Caroline Roëlands (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Follies in Toulon, and Cole Porter in Paris at Châtelet), who does what she can with what little dance breaks the material allows for.

Clearly counting on the popularity of Roberto Alagna, this show will sell well for fans of opera who will be happy to see him in a musical and will thus be introduced to the art form of musical theatre, even if not at its best.

Playing at the glamorous, legendary Folies Bergère until May.


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From This Author - Patrick Honoré

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... (read more about this author)


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