Jérôme Pradon heads the cast of The Braille Legacy, a musical that tells the thrilling, true, inspirational and epic story of Louis Braille, a young blind boy who wanted the same chance in life as those who see and ended up improving the lives of millions of blind people around the world. It will run at Charing Cross Theatre from Monday 10th April to Saturday 24th June. Acclaimed director Thom Southerland (Ragtime, Titanic, Grey Gardens) directs this major new musical.
The Braille Legacy has an original French Book and Lyrics by Sébastien Lancrenon, Music by Jean-Baptiste Saudray, with an English translation by Ranjit Bolt. Music Supervision and Orchestrations are by Simon Lee. The Braille Legacy is the story of a revolution and a heroic fight for independence, with the themes of difference, freedom, hope and love and the triumph of human values over adversity.
Jérôme Pradon, who plays the role of Dr Pignier, recently took time out to talk about his career and The Braille Legacy.
Q: You have performed in leading West End productions, not least as Javert in Les Miserables. How did that contrast with playing the role of Marius in the Paris production?
Jérôme: Well, there had been 11 years between playing Marius and Javert, and many other roles and artistic adventures. I can say that I preferred playing Marius. Probably because it was my first big job and the role that really started my career. I loved playing Javert though, the character is very interesting to perform, complex and intense. I had a great time performing it. The thing is that I fell into musical theatre with Marius in the Paris production and it totally changed my life. I fell in love with the art form, the craft, the whole theatre life; it was a wonderful experience and I have very fond memories of it. It was so special, I was so proud and grateful to be part of it. I loved singing Marius’s songs, I loved the character. I was so sad when they told us that we had to close earlier than expected. So I asked to audition for the role in English for the London production; they told me they wanted to cast me in it in the future but then Cameron Mackintosh asked me to audition for Chris in Miss Saigon and I got the part. That is how it all started in London. I can say that I owe him a great deal when it comes to starting my career in England.
Q: How do audiences compare? London and Paris.
Jérôme: Audiences can be just as warm and enthusiastic, and when they like the show they show it. But I would say that it’s the length of the bows that are very different. In London, there is one bow at the end of the show and that’s it; in Paris it goes on and on, as long as the audience want to keep clapping. And even in musicals, where the bows are always longer than straight plays, they will carry on in Paris, until the last clap. My English agent is always laughing about it when she comes to Paris to see a show.
Q: Why do you think that Les Miserables remains such a popular musical?
Jérôme: Les Miserables is a masterpiece. It’s a fantastic and unique piece of theatre with a flawless score. It’s fascinating how it has completely entered the collective conscious of the English culture. It is one of a kind.
Q: You played the role of Aragorn in The Lord of The Rings musical. Why do you think that this show wasn’t a huge success?
Jérôme: That is the unanswerable question: what is it that makes a show a big success?
When Les Miserables was first produced in London it had terrible reviews but nothing stopped it, the audience chose it. Lord of the Rings was a wonderful show in the literal sense: full of wonder, magic, a feast for the eyes; the music was great, the epic story was there. I loved being part of it, it was so special, so different from anything else, and yet it “only” lasted a bit more than a year. But for me, it was a year so full and so rewarding that it felt like a few months.
Q: You created the role of Guillaume in the Olivier Award winning production Martin Guerre, the first actor to have performed major roles in all three Boublil and Schonberg musicals. Can you tell us about creating a role? How does that process differ from ‘inheriting’ a role?
Jérôme: That is so different and rewarding to create a role. When you “inherit” a role, you have, in a large part, to get into someone else’s shoes, or into a very specific idea of how a role has to be performed. It is still very exciting because these roles like Marius, Javert, Phantom, Judas, are landmarks that you know and dream to perform, but with creating a role, you start from scratch, a blank page, and the creative input is tremendous. It was very rewarding to create the role of Guillaume, I loved it; working with Declan Donnellan, with Boublil and Schoenberg on new material, meant that we were constantly trying new things.
Q: You lead the cast of the world premiere of The Braille Legacy, Directed by Thom Sutherland. What attracted you to be a part of this production?
Jérôme: Sebastien Lancrenon, who wrote and is producing the show asked me to participate in one of the workshops and I really loved the story and the music. Instinctively I felt an immediate connection with the character of Dr Pignier, and when that happens, when you feel that something is right, you just go for it, because whatever the outcome, you know it’s going to feed you artistically. I think it’s an important story to tell. I really hope it’s going to work.
Q: Can you tell us about your character and how he fits into the storyline?
Jérôme: Dr Pignier is the director of the institute for blind youth and Louis’s mentor. He’s the first person who is going to recognize that Louis is special and that he could really change the fate of blind people.
Q: How emotive is it to be a part of this production, especially with it being a world premiere?
Jérôme: It’s great to be part of this, and to work with director Thom Southerland, producer Sebastien Lancrenon, the cast and creative team. The story is very emotional, and it really is a group effort to try to find the best way to tell it.
Q: What do you hope that theatregoers will experience when watching The Braille Legacy?
Jérôme: They will learn what story there is behind the word BRAILLE. The story of a boy who wanted to be like everybody else, have the opportunities and the same access to education as everybody else and who, in finding an alphabetic system designed for the blind, changed the world.
Q: The Braille Legacy is on from April to June – what next for you in 2017?
Jérôme: I have a few projects in the pipeline, here and in France, but can’t really talk about them yet.All in good time!
The Braille Legacy Ltd by arrangement with
Colbert Entertainment Ltd present
The Braille Legacy
Charing Cross Theatre
London WC2N 6NL
Box office: 08444 930650
Monday 10th April to Saturday 24th June 2017