Fifty Million Frenchies Kissing a Lot of Frogs: Introduction: Paris in Songs
I said “kiss” frogs, not “eat” them.
Now that this frog thing is clear, let’s start with the serious things. In a previous article on this website, it was said that France “rocked” at musical theatre. However, as a French MT lover, I feel it is my duty to inform you all that this is only half the truth. French musical theatre rocks sometimes and sometimes fails and sometimes pretends to be musical theatre but is not. That’s why I have decided I should introduce you to what’s actually happening in France in this series of posts.
I’m sorry to say, most of what I will tell you here will be about Paris. Yes, there are other cities in France, but as it happens, Paris is the real cultural capital city of the country, that’s where the big things happen and it also happens to be the city where I grew up.
So before I meticulously destroy your ideals about this city, and before I tell you about all the specificities of the French MT, come and take a look with me at how musical theatre people have looked at Paris through the decades. Because there are many songs about Paris. (So many that when I first read the title of Carner and Gregor’s “Dancing in Pairs,” I misread and thought it was another romantic unrealistic story about a handsome couple so happy to be waltzing before the Eiffel Tower.) Anyway, here are some great Paris songs, in chronological order.
1. How Jacques Offenbach sees Paris.
Paris, the romantic city? Offenbach rather chose to celebrate the city of flirtation, of short love affairs that won’t last long, of chic parties…
2. How Cole Porter sees Paris.
Paris, the unique and mysterious city, and of course, there’s dancing.
3. How Stephen Sondheim sees Paris.
Paris is the best city of the world, even though it’s not really clear what it has that other cities haven’t. It’s amazing how the single mention of the name “Paris” is enough to create the mood he wants.
4. How Maury Yeston sees Paris.
Love and love again… Decades after Offenbach, the take on the subject hasn’t changed that much.
5. How Jason Robert Brown sees Paris.
“And you’ll meet stars at the parties I throw in my villas in Nice and Paris in June…” Parties in the US are fine, but a party in Paris is probably terrific, isn’t it?
6. How Henry Mancini, Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse see Paris.
I think it’s the first song of this list where we can hear the word “dangerous” next to the name of the city. Here the romantic atmosphere is somehow counter-balanced by a darker mood.
7. How Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty see Paris.
I have to admit that I do say “oulala.”
8. How Leo Hurley sees Paris.
At last a song that changes the mood! “Paris through the window. Garbage.” But no, this song keeps the romantic mood.
So is Paris mainly about love, sex, clothes, money, alcohol and some romantic atmosphere? Now don’t get me wrong. I love every single one of those songs. I just have a slightly different perspective on the subject.
9. How most contemporary Parisian people see Paris.
In this series of posts, I’ll try to show you my Paris. My musical theatre Paris. Have a nice trip.
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