The Italian American gangster – Al Capone (Alphonse Gabriel Capone), who reigned as a crime boss in 1920-1930s during the Prohibition Era in Chicago – even one hundred years later, his persona excites and wakes the imagination not only of the creatives in the US but also, in other countries all around the world. The image of the iconic mafia authority, portrayed in movies, music, theater and literature, as well as his life story, often becomes the plot of a new artistic masterpiece. And so, on January 28 2023 a new musical premiered at the famous Folies Bergere theater in Paris – “Al Capone un spectacle musical”/ “Al Capone the musical”. Music written by Jean-Felix Lalanne, directed by Jean-Louis Grinda, produced by Jean-Marc Dumontet.
Chicago, 1930: the mafia gangster Al Capone and American prohibition agent Eliot Ness, the leader of the team of law enforcement agents called “The Untouchables”, are locked in merciless combat… until the unexpected occurs between Eliot Ness and Al Capone’s sister, which stops all of their fighting. From now on, they will have to choose between love and their wars… Loosely inspired by the life of Al Capone, this musical dives into the heart of rivalries and passions in Prohibition-era America.
Set to the frenzied rhythms of the Charleston, the energy of pop rock and the power of opera, Al Capone is a musical that blends genres, with live music and choreography surrounding the performances of Roberto Alagna, Anggun and Bruno Pelletier.
The famous French-Italian tenor Roberto Alagna, known for his performance of the biggest roles in the opera world – portrays Al Capone and makes his musical theater debut. The creator of the show – Jean-Felix Lalanne, stated in one of his interviews given to Le Parisien, that he couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the role:
“Roberto Alagna was the ideal choice, with his Italian roots, of course, but also because Capone loved opera. He’s been a friend for a long time, and we’ve always wanted to work together, I’ve always wanted to write for him. … During the lock down he was available, he read it and loved it.
On hearing the demo version, the tenor was blown away and joined the adventure.
It took him out of his comfort zone, and he ended up mingling with the pop world” – recalls Lalanne who took the liberty to romanticize the story of the crime king and tie it up with an imagined love story between one of Capone’s sisters and… Eliot Ness.
(For the original interview, click here)
Alagna mentions an interesting connection between himself and the character that he created in the show:
…there was a sort of connection between the New York mafia of that era and my great-grand-father. He was the first Sicilian born in New York, in Little Italy, where he lived and died. He was also an amateur singer, and he owned a leather shop. And back then, you had to pay for security. But since he had a beautiful voice, they allowed him to sing at mobster meetings instead of paying.
The opera singer takes on the exciting challenge of leading this musical:
I’m delighted [to play Al Capone] because, first of all, it’s an iconic character, even if people perceive him as a bit negative and villainous. But in some way, he’s a character that is so far from me that I have to create a whole new character and try and find his flaws and fragilities. When you really dive into him, he’s actually rather moving at some points, especially in the parts of the musical where he thinks about his parents. At that point he sings in Italian. He is somebody who is strong and weak at the same time, which makes him an interesting man.
(For the original interview, click here)
Bruno Pelletier, who is playing the incorruptible Eliot Ness, is a noble counterpart to Alagna. Bruno makes his grand return to the French stage after the huge success of the musical Notre Dame de Paris, where he originated the legendary role of poet Gringoire. He is the musical theater veteran, compared to the other members of the cast. In his recent interview with The Theatre Times Magazine he shared that he was also excited to create the new character for himself and join a musical which mixes so many musical genres into one:
I’m very excited to create a new character in Paris – Eliot Ness, in the musical Al Capone. Eliot Ness is a cop and it’s going to be interesting to work with Roberto Alagna. He’s a great tenor, opera singer, and me – I’m not an opera singer, so it’s a mix. It’s the first time when something like that is being created. It’s a mix between lyrical, operatic songs, jazzy songs, pop songs. I don’t know if people will like it, but for me as an artist it was really interesting to receive such a proposal. And to have the opportunity to create a new kind of role for me. More theater and good songs by Jean-Felix Lalanne.
(To read the interview, click here)
The cast of lead characters is complete with Anggun – an Indonesian-born French pop singer-songwriter, and TV personality. Anggun also makes her debut in musical theater with this show, playing Lili.
With such three stars at the helm of the show, the rest – the script, the set (which mainly is represented by minimalistic set pieces and video installations), costumes – are not as important, quite frankly. But every aspect of the show is chic and serves as a setting meant to accentuate the mood of each musical number and transport the spectator into the Prohibition-era America.
The strong beautiful voices of the performers sound unforgettable. It is as if they bathe in the rich musical material of the show.
The music, performed by a large live band, deserves a special mention – it is an intricate mix of romantic ballads, operatic arias, Charleston, blues, pop. Such ballads as “Je te briserai”/ “I will break you” performed by Bruno Pelletier are perfectly suited for the detective “thinking and pondering out loud”. How else would a detective share his train of thought while working the case with the spectators? It is not by chance that the musicals about famous literary detectives are a great rarity.
We can confidently state that Bruno’s gallery of unique musical theater characters, created by him, such as Gringoire in “Notre Dame de Paris”, Dracula in “Dracula. Between Love and Death”/ “Dracula. Entre l’amour et la mort”, and many others, acquired a new worthy resident – Eliot Ness in “Al Capone the musical”.
Both Roberto Alagna and Bruno Pelletier are legendary and amazing as their characters of Al Capone and Eliot Ness, and you can listen to their hit of a duet “Reste tranquille”/ “Keep quiet” below:
The musical plays until May 12 2023! Tickets can be purchased at:
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.