Jeremy Sams spoke to LLLC’s Emma Clarendon about working with Michel Legrand and bringing Amour to the stage.
Hi Jeremy, thank you very much for talking to me.How are you feeling about seeing Amour making its UK premiere at the Charing Cross Theatre? After over twenty years, it finally feels like the right show at the right time in the right place. This piece has a chequered history in various venues, but I’m convinced that Charing Cross Theatre is the perfect fit.
How did you initially get involved with the musical? The Broadway producer Gerry Schoenfeld saw the show, then called “Le Passe-muraille”, in Paris and became obsessed with it. He had to open it on Broadway at all costs – and what Gerry wanted usually happened. He asked me, initially, to provide a singing translation – something I was already quite practised in from providing English versions of operas. It soon, however became much more than that as I became part of the process of shaping and reinventing the piece for Broadway.
What made you want to be involved with bringing Amour to the stage? Very simple. My veneration for Michel Legrand. I have loved, played, transcribed, arranged and adapted his music since “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg” hit me like a thunderbolt when I was ten or eleven.
What was it like working alongside Michel Legrand? It’s sometimes dangerous to meet your heroes. Michel however, was everything I’d hoped, and much more.. A man made entirely for, and out of, music. We would spend days writing together. I would play the piano, mostly – Michel has a propensity for fantastical improvisation which would sometimes take us far from the song which needed to be written. So I would make sure we worked on one song at a time!
For those who aren’t familiar with Amour – what can they expect from the musical? It’s actually more like an operetta than a Broadway musical. It’s Michel Legrand’s tribute to his beloved Offenbach, as well as to the music of Paris in the late 40s and 50s, the era he grew up in. So there are many short numbers, sometimes disarmingly simple, with melodies that feel as if one has known them all one’s life. But these numbers , subtly, cast a spell and tell a story.
What have you enjoyed the most about working on the show? New musicals are basically songbooks! You never end up with all the numbers you first wrote. The joy for me on this one, was being on my toes at all times. Writing, rewriting…
I’ve heard there were a few incidents during the 2002 Broadway run – would you like to see the musical back on stage in New York at some point? People who haven’t worked on big musicals would be amazed at the process. The combination of years of preparation, with blind panic (writing new numbers in the theatre lobby during previews). The meticulous technical work, and the constant surprises – the million dollar set actually fell down during the first preview. Director James Lapine stood up and said, with infinite calm ‘ I think we’ll take an intermission now’.
How would you say working on Amour compares to other musicals that you have worked on in the past? There is nothing like it. So I have worked on nothing like it. Its secret is lightness, tenderness, affection. It doesn’t biff you on the head, or demand to be loved or admired….it enters your heart by stealth – and has remained in mine.
By Emma Clarendon
Amour will play at the Charing Cross Theatre from the 2nd May until the 20th July. To book tickets click here or visit: Last Minute.com, Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk, Love Theatre.com, Encore Tickets, See Tickets and From the Box Office.