The passionate love story stars Ruthie Henshall in the title role, Julian Ovenden as Armand and Alexander Hanson as Otto. Based on Alexandre Dumas’ 1848 novel La Dame aux Camellias, Marguerite relocates the action to the Second World War. Marguerite is the notorious mistress of high-ranking German officer Otto; Armand is the young musician, half her age, who falls obsessively in love with her. Their love story is played out against the background of Occupied Paris.
The show has music by Michel Legrand and a book by Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg (whose previous collaborations include Les Miserables and Miss Saigon) and Jonathan Kent. The English lyrics are written by Herbert Kretzmer, from the original French lyrics by Boublil.
Ruthie Henshall’s many West End and Broadway credits include Chicago, The Woman in White, Crazy for You, Peggy Sue Got Married and Les Miserables. Henshall told Whatsonstage.com recently that she's enjoying the challenge of creating a new role: “Being in a world premiere is unique because you come in on the first floor. The writers are here all day.” (See Features, 12 May 2008).
The 16-strong cast also features Annalene Beechey, Matt Cross, Simon Thomas and Don Gallagher, who are joined by Mark Carroll, Keiron Crook, James Doherty, Siubhan Harrison, Jon-Paul Hevey, Julia Nagle, Duncan Smith, Gay Soper, Phillip Sutton and Lucy Williamson. The musical is designed by Paul Brown, with lighting by Mark Henderson, sound by Paul Groothuis and choreography by Arthur Pita. Marguerite is presented by Marguerite Productions, the Theatre Royal Haymarket Company and Bob Boyett.
Overnight critics were, on the whole, underwhelmed by Marguerite and particularly Michel Legrand’s “eclectic” but “curiously bland” score. While most acknowledged that a “plodding competence” was evident, overall they found at best “efficient” and at worst a “serious disappointment”. Ruthie Henshall’s “dynamic” performance received praise, but most felt she was let down by “workaday material” and a “flaccid” characterisation that left critics unmoved by her title character’s death. Amongst things “to savour” was Paul Brown’s mirrored set and the attempt to tackle “serious moral questions”.
- by Kate Jackson