Martin Guerre is a musical with a book by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, lyrics by Alain Boublil and Stephen Clark, and music by Claude-Michel Schönberg.
Loosely based on the real-life historical figure Martin Guerre and the 1982 film The Return of Martin Guerre he inspired, the story is set in medieval France, where young Martin Guerre is forced into an arranged marriage with Bertrande de Rols in order to produce a Catholic heir. Beaten by the priests due to his failure to consummate the union, he abandons his home to fight the Protestant Huguenots, and it is during the skirmishes that he befriends Arnaud du Thil. Believing Martin died in battle, Arnaud goes to his village to inform Bertrande of her husband's death but, mistaken for the supposedly deceased soldier by the residents, he decides to play along with their error and becomes involved with Bertrande. When she becomes aware of Arnaud's deception, she decides to keep his secret, which sets into motion a series of events that culminates in a trial, imprisonment, and escape - with the assistance of an unexpected hero.
Written in the operatic style similar to the creative team's previous efforts, Les Miserables and Miss Saigon, the bulk of the show is sung, with little spoken dialogue between the musical numbers.
When first approached by Schönberg and Boublil, Cameron Mackintosh, who had produced their earlier works, expressed little interest in producing the project as it existed. Only after several dramatic revisions, in which the character of Guerre became more heroic and greater emphasis was placed on the theme of religious intolerance, did he become enthusiastic about its potential.
Six years in the making, Mackintosh's $6 million West End production, directed by Declan Donnellan and choreographed by Bob Avian, opened on July 10, 1996 at the Prince Edward Theatre. The mostly brutal reviews prompted the producer to examine carefully all the problems and take dramatic action to fix them. While the cast continued to perform the show, the creative team - now augmented by additional lyricist Clark - virtually rewrote it, adding new scenes and songs, shortening the overly long beginning, providing a happier ending, and shifting the focus to Bertrande. The show then went dark for a week to allow the new work to be rehearsed. It reopened on November 10, 1996, and this time the critics were kinder in their assessment, resulting in a run of more than 700 performances. In June 1997 some further changes were made to the production to coincide with the cast change.
Despite the better reviews, positive audience reactions, and a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical, Boublil and Schonberg never were satisfied with the show. After it closed, and before it started its UK tour co-produced with the West Yorkshire Playhouse, the libretto was rewritten extensively, a number of new songs were added, and many of the original tunes were retitled, repositioned, and/or were given new lyrics. The physical production was trimmed considerably to make it more intimate and less blockbuster. In addition, the logo was changed from the original red to a black background.
A planned Broadway opening never materialized, although a production starring Hugh Panaro toured the US in 1999-2000.
In 2007, there was a revival of the musical starring Andrew Bevis at the Watermill Theatre near Newbury, England, for a company of 12 actor/musicians. Based largely on the London version premiered in November 1996, there were further lyrical changes, and "Live With Somebody You Love" from the touring version was inserted into the score. This production made one central change to the premise of the previous versions of the musical; Bertrande does not (appear to) know that the imposter is not her returning husband until the court scene in act 2. The character of Martin was made far more hostile in this version. This production also had more spoken dialogue, a conscious decision made by the composers, who reworked the show whilst they were in rehearsals for The Pirate Queen.
UK/US tour song list
Live With Somebody You Love
Your Wedding Day
I'm Martin Guerre
Without You As A Friend
How Many Tears
Welcome To the Land
The Seasons Turn
All the Years
The Holy Fight
The Day Has Come
If You Still Love Me
All That I Love
The Imposter Is Here
The Final Witness
Justice Will Be Done
You Will Be Mine
How Many Tears
Live With Somebody You Love (Reprise)
2007 production song list
Working On The Land
Where's The Child
Martin Guerre (with new lyrics)
Here Comes The Morning
Sleeping On Our Own
When Will Someone Hear?
Louison - Someone As Beautiful As Her?
Thank God You're Here (uses the tune of Welcome Home/Now You've Come Home from original London production)
What Do I Say? (Was "Tell Me To Go" in London and "Don't" on tour)
Live With Somebody You Love
One By One
Live With Somebody You Love (reprise)
Martin Guerre (Reprise) (more new lyrics)
The Last Witness
Here Comes The Morning (Reprise)
I Will Make You Proud