If you’re a big musical fan, then you already know – there are innumerable musicals set in France. But which ones are best? There are just so many to choose from!
In this guide, we explore the best musicals set in France.
Amélie (or Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amélie Poulain) was originally launched as a French period magical realism romantic comedy film and later adapted as a musical. The film was released in April 2001 in France and August 2001 in Germany.
In 2013, composer Dan Messe, one of the founding members of New York alternative rock band Hem, confirmed that he would be working on an all-new score for Amélie, the musical, along with songwriter Nathan Tysen and playwright Craig Lucas.
The musical premiered in August 2015 at the Berkeley Repertory Theater and opened on Broadway in March 2017.
The story follows the tale of Amélie Poulain who grows up believing she has a heart defect. The home-schooled child ends up acquiring an active imagination and a mischievous personality to cope with loneliness.
Due to a rather unfortunate set of circumstances, Amélie’s mother, Amandine, is killed when she is only six. The story unfolds from there.
Based on a 1943 short story titled La Passe-Muraille by Marcel Aymé, Amour takes place shortly after World War II and revolves around on a humble clerk who discovers his surprising ability to walk through walls.
The production opened in Paris in 1997 and won the Prix Molière for best musical. The Broadway production opened in October 2002 at the Music Box Theatre and closed after 17 performances.
In America, the musical didn’t exactly play well. The silver lining was the score and actor Malcolm Gets’ performance.
Still, you can’t talk about musicals set in France without mention of Amour.
Beauty and the Beast
Disney stage musical Beauty and the Beast barely needs an introduction. Its story was based on the 1991 animated feature film of the same name, which of course was based on a French fairytale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont.
Critics declared Beauty and the Beast one of the best musicals they’d seen all year, noting its Broadway potential. That is ostensibly how Disney CEO Michael Eisner decided to venture into Broadway, and sure enough, the musical premiered in April 1994.
The critics who were so excited about the film being made into a musical couldn’t make heads or tails of it, but audiences loved it, and so it became a major commercial success. It even went on to become the 10th longest-running production in Broadway history.
Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
With music by composer Richard Rodgers, lyrics by lyricist and theatrical producer Oscar Hammerstein II, and a book by playwright Douglas Carter Beane, Cinderella, of course, is based on the fairytale of the same name, especially the French version, Cendrillon ou la petite pantoufle de verre by Charles Perrault.
The show would premiere on Broadway in March 2013 at The Broadway Theatre. The show received mixed reviews. In 2014, however, they would bring on Carly Rae Jepsen as Ella and Fran Drescher as the Stepmother, both making their musical debuts for the first time.
These roles would continue to be on rotation, and a US national tour would begin later the same year. In May 2022, an Australian tour would be announced, at there would also be a limited-run production in England in December.
Based on the 1944 novella Gigi by French author Colette, as well as the 1958 musical film of the same name, Gigi revolves around the story of the eponymous Gigi, a teenage girl living in Paris. On her way to becoming a courtesan, she captivates the attention of bachelor Gaton Lachaille.
While the original Broadway production was short-lived, with 103 performances, it still won a Tony for Best Score.
Gigi features the book and lyrics of lyricist and librettist Alan Jay Lerner and the music of composer Frederick Loewe.
Goodtime Charley is a humorous take on real historic events, focusing on the Dauphin of France as he transitions from a life of hedonism to a regal king. The musical interweaves the tragic tale of Joan of Arc, with whom the Dauphin is enamored with.
Al Pacino and Barbara were originally chosen as the leads, but the musical went through many changes. When Joel Grey showed interest in playing the lead, the script and the score went through drastic changes.
Goodtime Charley opened on Broadway in March 1975 at the Palace Theatre, closing just two months later after 104 performances as the producers couldn’t find anyone to replace Grey.
Les Misérables was based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel of the same name. It features the music of musical theatre composer Claude-Michel Schönberg, the lyrics of musical theatre lyricist Alain Boublil, with a book by Schönberg and Boublil.
The story revolves around Jean Valjean, set in early 19th-century France. Valjean is a French peasant who spent 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread. Valjean continues to be pursued by a police inspector for breaking parole, and we get swept up in the revolution.
While the musical may be considered a classic now, it was initially panned by critics. The musical would go on to play in front of sold-out audiences, however, breaking box office records.
The jukebox musical Moulin Rouge!, of course, was based on the 2001 film of the same name, starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.
Premiering in July 2018 at the Emerson Colonial Theatre in Boston, winning 10 out of the 14 awards it was nominated for at the 74th Tony Awards.
Set in the Montmartre Quarter of Paris, France during the Belle Epoque, the musical tells the story of young composer, Christian, who falls in love with a cabaret actress.
The musical score is noted for combining original music with popular songs.
Based on the life of King Henry VIII, Rex is a musical featuring the music of Richard Rodgers, the lyrics of lyricist and songwriter Sheldon Harnick, and a libretto by playwright, screenwriter, and political commentator Sherman Yellen.
Rex would open on Broadway in April 1976 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. It closed in June, after just 14 previews and 49 performances.
The show was considered somewhat of a failure (though it was nowhere near as bad as any made it out to be), as Harnick was in his waning years, and he was starting to be outclassed by younger creators.
Its standout feature is its score, which is well worth exploring.
The Count of Monte Cristo
Based on the 1844 novel of the same name by Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo features the music of composer Frank Wildhorn with lyrics and a book by lyricist and composer Jack Murphy.
The story centers on Edmund Dantes, who is framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Having been released and seeking revenge, he changes his identity to The Count of Monte Cristo.
The popular musical has seen productions on a nearly yearly basis since 2009.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Based on the 1831 Victor Hugo novel of the same name, The Hunchback of Notre Dame features the music from Walt Disney’s film adaptation. The musical premiered in Berlin, Germany in 1999.
An English-language version debuted in December 2014 at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, California.
The story varies a bit based on production, but if you’ve seen the Disney film, then you know the basics already. Set in Paris during the 15th century the story follows the deformed bell ringer of Notre Dame Cathedral, Quasimodo, and his unrequited love.
The Phantom of the Opera
It feels as though there was a period in the 90s when all you would ever hear about was this musical, The Phantom of the Opera, which might give you an idea of its enormous cultural impact.
The Phantom of the Opera is based on the French novel of the same name, written by journalist and author Gaston Leroux. The musical features the music of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, the lyrics of lyricist Charles Hart, and additional lyrics by songwriter Richard Stilgoe, with a libretto by Lloyd Webber and Stilgoe.
The musical would premiere in London’s West End in 1986, and on Broadway in 1988, in New York. It went on to become the longest-running show in Broadway History with over 10,000 performances.
The Phantom of the Opera follows the story of a disfigured musical genius. Haunting the Paris Opera House, he falls in love with young soprano Christine, whom he takes on as his protégé. Things get crazier from there.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Based on the best-selling Anita Loos novel of the same name from 1925, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes featured the music of songwriter and composer Jule Styne, lyrics of composer, lyricist, and songwriter Leo Robin, and a book by Loos and playwright Joseph Fields.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes opened on Broadway in 1949, tallying up 740 performances. The musical was adapted as a film in 1953, starring Marilyn Munroe and Jane Russell. There was also a 1974 adaptation called Lorelei in 1974.
The musical follows the story of Lorelei Lee and her friend, Dorothy Shaw, who set sail on a cruise without Gus Esmond, whom Lorelei is slated to marry. Esmond has heard rumors of a new invention, the “zipper,” which threatens his button empire, and so must stay behind. The story unfolds from there.
An American in Paris
An American in Paris is based on the 1951 film of the same name. The musical opened in Paris at the Théâtre du Châtelet in December 2014 and later on Broadway at the Palace Theatre in April 2015.
Fun fact – the American version of the musical was revised somewhat after its Paris premiere.
The musical is set in post-World War II Paris. The story centers on American veteran Jerry, who falls in love with young ballet dancer Lise. The two end up meeting at a ballet rehearsal. But Jerry catches the attention of American heiress Milo. And Lise, it turns out, is already engaged to Henri, further complicating the love triangle.
Also known as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella, Bad Cinderella features the music of Lloyd Webber, the lyrics of lyricist, director, and producer David Zippel, and a book by actress, filmmaker, and writer Emerald Fennell.
The comedic musical Bad Cinderella loosely follows the story of Cinderella, and some notable changes include gender relationships, beauty shaming, and more. The protagonist, Cinderella, ends up changing her appearance to find love but later learns that it is best to be true to who she is.
The show opened in August 2021 after some COVID-19 pandemic-related delays. It ran until June 2022 and opened again after some changes in March 2023. Critics mostly panned it.
Top Musical Set In France, Final Thoughts
Do you have a favorite musical set in France?
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