Arena goes centre stage in new musical
[London, March 1] - Australian
star speaks of her empathy with Esmerelda in "Notre-Dame de Paris."
Tina Arena has been talking
exclusively to World Online about her role in Notre-Dame de Paris, the musical
which opens this spring in London.
Arena has the starring role of Esmerelda in the musical, which is based on
Victor Hugo's novel "The Hunchback Of Notre Dame."
The musical, which is sponsored by World Online, opens May 23. The soundtrack is
already on sale, and it features the show's centrepiece ballad "Live For
The One I Love," which will be issued as a single by Columbia, March 20.
Notre-Dame de Paris is based on Victor Hugo's novel about the hunchback
Quasimodo and his love for the beautiful gypsy girl Esmeralda.
Arena says she identifies
strongly with Esmerelda. "She's passionate, relatively fearless, extremely
intuitive, and a lot of people misconstrue that intuition as being overly
sexual," says Arena.
Most UK music buyers know Tina
Arena as a recording artist: her single "Chains" stayed in the Top 10
here for a month in 1995. However, her first forays into the music business were
as a performer, first on TV after she appeared on a talent show, then on stage
as a solo artist and with Australian bands. She's also narrated in the
Australian cast version of "Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat."
The London show is an English-language version of a musical which has proved to
be a phenomenon in France. It features songs originally written in French with
lyrics translated by Will Jennings, the author of Celine Dion's "My Heart
Will Go On."
So moving onto the stage is something of homecoming rather than a career change
for Arena "People don't really look at diversification as an attribute,
it's almost seen as a hindrance" she observes. "But in the 30s, 40s
and 50s unless you were versatile, you weren't employed."
"Notre-Dame De Paris" opens in London's Dominion Theatre on May 23,
while previews begin on May 15.
French career takes
For her, singing in French
"came very naturally" she says, even though she "failed
miserably" in the language as a teenager, she says. "At school I was
more interested in making paper planes and making my friends laugh." Yet
she already had a grounding in Latin languages; she grew up speaking Italian as
a result of her family history, something which also helped her when she
switched to singing in Spanish. Yet she still said she was taken aback when
French record label execs asked her to sing in their language.
And while the musical which opens in London is entirely in in English, Tina has
already carved out a career in France with two French-language songs on Columbia
Records, which are unconnected with the show. "Aller Plus Haut (Take Me
Higher) spent six weeks at No. 2 in the French charts, and her version of the
Edith Piaf song. "Les Trois Cloches" (the three bells) hit No.4.
"They asked me if I sang in French. I said it would be a challenge but I've
never really thought about it. And they said 'we think it could work.'"
When she finally got into the studio to record the songs, "It was like a
dream come true" she says.
Close ties with Sony Music France, which marketed the "Notre-Dame..."
soundtrack in France, led to an interest in the musical, which to date has been
seen by more than two million people in the French-speaking world. Many of the
members of the French cast are in the UK production including Daniel Lavoie,
Bruno Pelletier and blues singer Garou.
Tina: "Leave your
preconceptions at home."
[World Online UK]
Despite such impressive statistics, the music and entertainment industries are
often sceptical about the prospect of such projects which are transplanted from
one culture to another, especially when an overseas production is launched in
the hyper-critical UK market.
There was the potential that the show could have suffered in translation, says
Arena: "The French language [allows] such an incredible play on words.
Those guys have boundless space to be able to play with stuff. We in the English
language don't have that luxury." Yet the move to English hasn't stood in
the way of the show's appeal, she says. "With the translation, I don't feel
anything has been lost, and that's why I'm a part of it."
With all musicals there is a certain amount of anticipation, she concedes. After
the success of "Notre-Dame" in French, there are certain expectations
placed upon the English version of the show. Arena says these prejudices should
be left at home.
"The beauty of Notre-Dame de Paris is that it's real" she says.
"Don't have any expectations. Just go and see it. If you want to make a
judgment, make it after you've seen it."