Before I had even had a chance to craft a single blog post about it, the London production of Marguerite has posted a premature closing notice. The new musical with music by Michel Legrand (Amour), lyrics by Herb Kretzmer (Les MIserables), and a book by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil (Les Miserables, Miss Saigon), opened at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in May, and was originally scheduled to run until November 1st. But now the show will shutter September 13th, nearly two months early.
The show received lukewarm reviews, and apparently struggled considerably at the box office, despite the brand-name slate of creators and a cast led by London favorite Ruthie Henshall in the title role.
Perhaps the problem was the subject matter: Marguerite is based on La Dame Aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas (fils), a work better known to much of the world as the 1936 film "Camille," starring Greta Garbo. And...um...it's a bit of a downer. I mean, we're talking depressing, Tosca-like downer here, not cathartic, uplifting, Les Miz type downer. Nazi assassination plots, heroines dying of consumption, that sort of thing. The show produced a cast recording, but future productions would seem unlikely at present.
Marguerite represents yet another in a line of unsuccessful attempts by Schönberg and Boublil to recapture the ol' Les Mis/Miss Saigon magic. Martin Guerre failed to find an audience, despite numerous attempts on the part of producer Cameron Mackintosh to whip the show into shape. And The Pirate Queen, the last S&B musical to date to open in New York, was painfully, wretchedly, horribly, almost irredeemably bad. (Stephanie J. Block was terrific in the title role. Read my review here.)
But then, S&B could surely retire on the Les Mis royalties alone, so it's not as though they have to make money. Maybe that's the problem: they're not hungry anymore. Andrew Lloyd Webber hasn't really done anything financially successful since Phantom. Perhaps they should all give away their multiple millions, remind themselves of what it's like to be a starving artist, and tap into their inner recesses of creativity. Because, despite the knee-jerk dismissal that their shows invoke from bitchy theater queens (present company included), their shows don't completely suck.