Napoleon

This show has now closed, click here for a listing of current and future London shows

Previewed 30 September 2000, opened 17 October 2000, closed 3 February 2001 at the London Shaftesbury Theatre

"For you... I would tear the world apart!" And the world was changed forever, from the moment when the charismatic, 26 year old general with penetrating eyes first asked Josephine to dance with him at a glittering ball held to celebrate the end of the French Revolution. From the lowly beginnings of a young, heroic visionary, to the magnificent coronation of an Emperor, to the shattering defeat of an obsessive tyrant at Waterloo, Napoleon sets a spectacular tale of ambition against one of the world's most passionate, tempestuous and ultimately heartbreaking love stories. His love for Josephine and his blinding pursuit of power led Napoleon to create one of the largest empires the world has ever seen. What drove the same man to destroy it?

Love, Ambition, Power... and Betrayal This extraordinary story that sweeps from palace ballrooms to the sumptuous coronation at the cathedral of Notre Dame, from the beautiful rose garden at Josephine's Chateau de Malmaison to the shattering climax on the battlefield of Waterloo is brought to the stage in a thrilling new musical that is set to captivate London audiences this autumn.

The cast for the musical Napoleon in London features Paul Baker as 'Napoleon Bonaparte', Anastasia Barzee as 'Josephine' and David Burt as 'Talleyrand'. At certain performances the role of 'Napoleon' is played by Uwe Kronger. The musical has book and lyrics by Andrew Sabiston and book and music by Timothy Williams. The production is directed by Francesca Zambello with sets by Michael Yeargan and costumes by Marie-Jeanne Lecca.

"This is the sort of production, British-Canadian-international, that could be simply faxed from continent to continent: a banal love story in posh clothes and with a grand historical background... I know that plays and musicals are not history lessons; but Andrew Sabiston (book and lyrics) and Timothy Williams (book and music) have created a flashy, politically correct fairy tale... Gradually, a totally improbable picture emerges. Between the early Italian campaign and the attack on Russia, all you get is court intrigues and love intrigues: Napoleon 's brilliant political innovations, or the terrible battles in which tens of thousands died, rate no mention. He's played by Paul Baker as a charmless, horse-featured bruiser with shifty eyes and the charisma of a small-town bouncer... Why the renowned opera director Francesca Zambello got involved in this project I cannot fathom. The material is beyond rescue: all she can do is stage it rather than direct it. She is helped, though, by her designers, Michael Yeargan and Marie-Jeanne Lecca: clothes, hairstyles and furniture are all impeccable." The Sunday Times

"The designer of the show, Michael Yeargan, supplies a series of striking sets, conjuring up palaces, chateaux, the crossing of the Alps, the coronation at Notre-Dame, a Wagnerian Waterloo. Most of the cast are in excellent voice. I enjoyed David Burt, stomping around as a Talleyrand you love to hate. But beyond that, oh dear. A dull score, naff lyrics, a dopey-looking Bonaparte; 20 of the most momentous years of European history reduced to the dimensions of a Barbara Cartland romance." The Sunday Telegraph

"That great musical, Les Miserables, has a lot to answer for; this week yet another Gallic blockbuster, Napoleon, opened in the West End. Martin Guerre and Lautrec met their Waterloo, the knell is tolling for Notre Dame de Paris, so can Napoleon conquer where others fell? I don't think so. Forget history, this is the histrionic approach to biography; Napoleon's life as an improbable romance that blooms into one of the most passionate, tempestuous and heartbreaking love stories... Francesca Zambello, one of the biggest names in opera, brings a touch of dramatic class to the staging, swathing the stage and the cast in acres of velvet, diamante and parachute silk and making excellent use of the tilting stage in the battle scenes. An episodic story is given a marvellous fluidity with the help of gorgeous projections which whisk the action seamlessly, from the grandeur of Notre Dame cathedral, across the Alps and to Waterloo but her silk purse of a production cannot, alas, altogether disguise this sow's ear. The acting is more than competent and the singing very good but the characterisation barely skin-deep, the lyrics have a leaden banality ('I need you. I cannot live without you') and there's not a single melody unless you count the bars of Aspects Of Love (or was it Sunset Boulevard? - it was certainly Lloyd Webber) that I hummed as I exited. This is the very model of a modern minor musical. Gilded garbage. Not tonight, Josephine. Nor any night." The Mail on Sunday

The musical Napoleon in London at the Shaftesbury Theatre previewed from 30 September 2000, opened on 17 October 2000 and closed on 3 February 2001.

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