Alain Boublil is the lyricist who created the original lyrics for Les Miserables & Miss Saigon as well as a host of other musicals in collaboration with Claude-Michel Schönberg.
Alain Boublil is a Tunisian/French lyricist who was born on 5th March 1941 in Tunis. He moved to Paris aged 18 where he worked in A&R (Artist and Repertoire) in music publishing which is where he was first introduced to the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and his long-time collaborator Claude-Michel Schönberg. Their first collaboration was as a music publisher to a composer with Claude-Michel's song "Tous les jours a quarte heurs". Over the next few years Claude-Michel and Alain were drawn together socially as Alain met the lady who would become his first wife, Francoise Pourcel, who was the daughter of Claude-Michel's boss at EMI, Frank Pourcel. After seeing the musical Jesus Christ Superstar in New York in 1972 Alain came up with the idea for the first of his musicals, the subject matter being The French Revolution. When he got back to France he persuaded Claude-Michel along with Jean-Max Rivierre and Raymond Jeannot to work with him on his Rock Opera. They set about creating the studio recording of La Revolution Francaise, which was an unusual thing in France as Paris had no theatre scene akin to Broadway and the West End. The album became successful and the subsequent Paris production was a great success. Over the next few years Boublil and Schönberg concentrated more on Pop music which included a series of songs Claude-Michel released as an artist which included the French number one "Le Premier Pas".
Alain saw a London revival of the musical Oliver by Lionel Bart which led him to the Victor Hugo novel Les Miserables which he and Claude-Michel began work on in 1978. Despite friends warning them not to leave the pop scene they embarked upon the task of creating a musical out of one of France's favourite novels. Over the next two years Schönberg, Boublil and French poet Jean-Marc Natel created the original two-hour demonstration recording. In 1980 the first production was staged in Paris at the Palais de Sports, the production had an audience of over 500,000 people by the end of its run. It was 1983 though before Claude-Michel and Alain met with theatre producer Cameron Mackintosh to discuss taking the show to another level. Over the subsequent two years Trevor Nunn and John Caird joined the original team in creating the production alongside English poet James Fenton. It was later decided to give the work to Herbert Kretzmer who completed the process of lyricising the original London production of Les Miserables. The show opened at the Barbican on 8th October 1985. Although audience reaction was great the critics would 'pan' the show in the following day's newspapers. This did not stop the production selling-out and transferred to the Palace Theatre in London's West End on 5th December 1985. The Broadway production opened on March 12 1987 at the Broadway Theatre. Les Miserables has gone on to be arguably the most successful musical of all time having been seen by over 50 million people and going on to have professional productions all over the world. The Movie of the musical was released in 2012 with Hugh Jackman playing the lead character of Jean Valjean, whilst Colm Wilkinson, the original Valjean from the 1985 production cameoed as the Bishop in the movie.
When the time came for a follow-up musical the pair chose the outline of Madame Butterfly against the backdrop of 1970s Vietnam and the Vietnam war. For this musical the pair chose Richard Maltby Jr to be the English lyricist. The musical Miss Saigon opened at The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on 20th September 1989 starring Jonathan Pryce as The Engineer and the 'unknown' Lea Salonga as the herione, Kim. This time the show opened to tremendous acclaim and opened in New York, again at The Broadway Theatre, in 1991. 2014 saw a revival in the West End after a fifteen year absence to celebrate the show's 25th Anniversary.
Claude-Michel and Alain's next work was the story of Martin Guerre. The original French story, which is part historical, part legend (which was also used as the basis for the film Sommersby starring Richard Gere) was kept in its original setting of early modern France. The show opened in 1996 but didn't receive the plaudits and subequently re-written whilst in production and over the next few years. It opened on July 10th 1996 at The Prince Edward Theatre in London's West End and ran for two years. A completely re-written version opened at The West Yorkshire Playhouse 3 years later in 1999 which brought about a UK Tour and also an American Tour.
Since Martin Guerre, Boublil and Schönberg have collaborated on both The Pirate Queen which debuted in Chicago in 2006 and also Marguerite which includes music by Michel Legrand and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. This musical premiered in London at The Royal Haymarket Theatre on 6th May 2008.
Selected list of Musicals and Movies for which Alain Boublil has created lyrics;
La Revolution Francaise (1973) [Concept recording and musical] Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg : Collaborators : Jean-Max Rivierre, Raymond Jeannot
Les Miserables (1985 Musical, 2012 Movie) Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, English lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, James Fenton, Trevor Nunn, John Caird
Miss Saigon (1989) [Musical] Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, English lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr.
Martin Guerre (1996) [Musical] Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, English Lyrics by Stephen Clark and Edward Hardy
The Pirate Queen (2006) [Musical] Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr & John Dempsey
Marguerite (2008) [Musical] Book by Claude-Michel Schönberg & Alain Boublil, Music by Michel Legrand, Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil