Review: ZAZIE DANS LE METRO at Maison De La Culture d'Amiens

An original French musical

By: Mar. 29, 2024
Review: ZAZIE DANS LE METRO at Maison De La Culture d'Amiens
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The very first original musical produced by la Maison de la Culture of Amiens, my (and President Emmanuel Macron’s) hometown, is in many ways a delightful surprise. Based on the somewhat controversial novel by Raymond Queneau and its 1960 film adaptation by Louis Malle, Zazie dans le Métro is refreshingly irreverent, succeeding in transporting us into the Paris of the of the late 50s, where cabaret was everywhere alive, which makes Reinhardt Wagner's songs feel strangely natural, not advancing the plot but rather enhancing it much in the tradition of Kurt Weill, notably in the Threepenny Opera.Review: ZAZIE DANS LE METRO at Maison De La Culture d'Amiens  

Zabou Breitman’s adaptation and direction capture the quirky, surreal universe of Queneau, her funny, provocative lines, playing with 20th century slang to create funny and sometimes poetic associations. Wagner’s score draws inspiration from jazz and the pop music of 50s’ France, the lyrics brimming with vulgar wit, exemplified by the titular character’s solos “Politesse mon cul!” (“Politeness, My Ass!”) and “Faire chier les mômes!” (“Piss the Kids Off!”). 

In its colorful depiction of a dark milieu, Zazie also conjures up the very first French musical to have an international journey across the Channel and the pond, Irma la Douce, penned by Edith Piaf-composer Margeurite Monnot. This new musical, Brietman’s second venture into the genre after Poil de Carrotte at the Opéra de Montpellier in 2019, surely deserves the same fate as its neglected predecessor!

The lighting by Stéphanie Daniel, costumes by Agnès Falque, wigs by Cécile Kretschmar, and inventive choreography by Emma Kate Nelson (Chatêlet’s own Lina Lamont in its 2015 production of Singin’ in the Rain) make up for a visual technicolor feast. 

The cast is also the cream of the crop of French musical theater, with the ever-excellent Franck Vincent (Fiddler on the Roof, Sunset BoulevardMy Fair Lady, and Sister Act) as Uncle Gabriel, naturally developing into a full musical number in the style of La Cage aux Folles the fact, merely hinted at in the novel, that he was a drag artist in Pigalle. Gilles Vajou (Singin’ in the Rain at Théatre de la Porte St Martin and Kiss Me Kate at Mogador) is equally remarkable as Charles, as are Jean Fürst as Marcel/Marceline, Fabrice Pillet as Trouscaillon, and Delphine Gardin as Mado Ptits-Pieds.Review: ZAZIE DANS LE METRO at Maison De La Culture d'Amiens  

But the evening belongs to the irrepressible Alexandra Datman in the role of Zazie and to the irresistible Catherine Arondel (Oliver Twist, Sweeney Todd, and Sam Mendes’ Cabaret) in the dual role of Jeanne and La Veuve Mouaque, stopping the show with her psychedelic panther-clad production number, "Mouaque,'" named after her character.

The live, six-piece band on stage, is well incorporated into the set pieces, with Fred Fall on the bass, Ghislain Hervet playing clarinette, Ambre Tamagna on the cello, Maritsa Ney on the violin, Scott Taylor playing the trumpet and accordeon, and Nicholas Thomas on the drums, all fully costumed, giving the production a real actor-musician feel.

Don’t miss this most original and fast-paced 100-minute one-act musical on tour in France and Belgium this Spring: Le Havre (April 3rd & 4th), (April 10th through 13th), Antibes (April 16th to 18th), Bayonne (May 2nd & 3rd), and Villeurbanne (May 22nd through 25th).


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