I recently had the privilege and the pleasure to attend Theatre in Paris’s first production of Cyrano de Bergerac playing at the stunning Théâtre Michel. It completely blew me away and I forgot what a joy and experience it is to ‘go to the theatre’.  On our tours we always want to talk about great new theatre shows in Paris, but it seemed so unfair as visitors couldn’t enjoy them without a really solid knowledge of French…until now!

Queue Theatre in Paris – a cool new company that is opening up the playing field so that now English-speakers can enjoy going to the theatre in Paris – the experience, the history, the drama, the social aspect: dinner before, drinks after. This all sounds too good to be true!

Going to the theatre is a favourite French pastime – the French are taught classics at school from an early age.   As a foreigner, coming into this world is like discovering Shakespeare for the first time. When friends get together, they will talk about this or that new production and it is easy to feel a bit lost or rather, completely out of your depth.   But now you, too, can be a part of this inner French circle – live theatre in Paris just got surtitled!! Yes, surtitled – the older brother of subtitle, surtitle means projected above (instead of below) the translation.

Carl de Poncins, Christophe Plotard and Romain Beytout are three absolutely adorable young Frenchmen that started Theatre in Paris as a means to share their love of French culture with the world. (Disclaimer: I only met two of them, but I’m sure the third must be as divine!)  Before each play, they welcome you like old friends and give you the background to the theatre and tell you about the storyline so you don’t even have to think about it – you can just sit back and enjoy the play.   This background info is particularly helpful if you find yourself too busy gazing at cute Frenchmen in tights or ladies in corsets to look at the surtitles!

Carl taught me my favourite new fact –  they used to keep the lights on in theatres so that the everyone could see each other.  It must have been gossip central – you went there to see and be seen! The play itself makes use of the entire theatre and the actors and actresses meander through the aisles and up into the balcony, making you feel that you are very much a part of the action.

Cyrano de Bergerac is one of those great love stories that withstands the test of time and has become an international classic.  This particular adaptation uses a violinist that follows Cyrano throughout the performance and plays to express his emotions.  I was a bit skeptical at first, thinking a violin player could be intrusive but cleverly, the violinist blends seamlessly with the actor as if the two are one and really adds an enchanting dimension to the play.

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Theatre St. Michel

At the end of the play, the actors themselves made the effort to speak English in an adorable shout-out to the English-speaking crowd on the balcony – yes, if you go with Theatre in Paris, you get balcony tickets which means you can see the surtitles AND you get the best seat in the house.

After attending this play, I feel truly French….well, definitely one big step closer!!

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The Story: Cyrano de Bergerac is a nobleman serving as a soldier in the French Army.  He is a a gifted poet and brilliant swordsman. The only problem – he has a very, very big nose.  He falls madly in love with his distant cousin, the beautiful Roxanne but she only has eyes for Christian, a soldier in Cyrano’s company. Christian has the looks but words aren’t his strong point.  Together, they combine to embody the ‘perfect man’ and set about wooing Roxanne.  Of course, two men pretending to be one perfect man – this can never end well.

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It seems fitting to watch Cyrano de Bergerac in Paris – after all, it first premiered on December 28th, 1897 at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin in Paris.  It was so popular that it was translated immediately into many languages and premiered at the Garden Theatre in New York City less than a year later.  The play, written in 1897 by Edmond Rostand, became a huge hit and stage, opera, ballet and even a Broadway musical adaptation soon followed.

Among the various adaptations are some big names.  In 1946, José Ferrer won a Tony Award for playing Cyrano on Broadway and went on to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in the 1950 film. Richard Chamberlain and Christopher Plummer have also played the part of Cyrano and, most recently, Kevin Kline played the role in a 2007 Broadway production.

Roxanne, the great 1987 movie with Steve Martin and his giant nose, is based on the play, although with a fittingly Hollywood happy end.   The 1990 version with none other than the great French (or should I say Russian?!) actor Gerard Depardieu is very much like the play with the original script and is well worth watching.

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Steve Martin in Roxanne

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Gerard Depardieu in Cyrano de Bergerac, 1990


This charming theatre, complete with pediments resembling Greek temples, has been managed over recent decades by Marc Camoletti. According to the Guinness Book of Records, his brilliant slapstick comedy, Boeing Boeing, is the most performed French play throughout the world and was made famous on screen by Tony Curtis in the 1960s.


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Theatre in Paris


Cyrano de Bergerac

Last chance to see it tomorrow, 7 May 7th at 3:30pm & Sun 11 May at 1:30pm

La Flûte Enchantée – The Magic Flute

 Théâtre des Variétés – 26th of June to July 10th

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