When Charles Aznavour Came To New Haven for 'My Paris'
This is the story I wrote for The New York Times when Charles Aznavour came to New Haven to check out the Long Wharf Theatre production of his musical “My Paris” starring Bobby Steggert (who won beast actor in a musical from the Connecticut Critics Circle). Aznavour died at the age of 94 at his home in Mouriès, in southwestern France. His death was announced Monday. The French Culture Ministry. Local authorities said he died overnight.
NEW HAVEN — After a career of more than 70 years and on the cusp of his 92nd birthday, the French singer-composer-actor Charles Aznavour is taking on his first American musical.
Of course, the subject is French: the artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec cavorting in the scandalous Montmartre district of Paris. And the show’s music brings the sound of Gallic authenticity.
But there are also major Broadway names attached to the work, titled “My Paris,” which opens at the Long Wharf Theater here this week, after a workshop production last year at Goodspeed Musicals.
Mr. Aznavour, a global star who wrote the score to “Lautrec,” an unsuccessful West End musical, 16 years ago, is joined this time by a fresh team of Tony-winning talent. Chief among its members are the director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall (“Anything Goes,” “The Pajama Game”) and the librettist Alfred Uhry (“Driving Miss Daisy” and the musicals “Parade” and “The Robber Bridegroom”). Jason Robert Brown (“Parade,” “The Bridges of Madison County”) has provided English lyrics and the musical arrangement.
From a downtown hotel room here, where he was staying during previews, Mr. Aznavour — dapper and diminutive — said creating a musical was no different from writing songs for himself.
“Writing is writing,” he said, giving a small shrug. “I can write on any subject. Just give me the first line, which is the most important.”
Mr. Aznavour was first approached to write a musical decades ago by the producer David Merrick, who asked him to compose the score for a show called “Moulin Rouge.”
But he said he “was not ready” to write a musical.
Years later Mike Merrick — not related to David Merrick — approached Mr. Aznavour to write the score for the musical “Lautrec,” also centered on the Moulin Rouge, the Belle Epoque nightclub.