Ella Louise Allaire is a performer and she seeks to entertain. Similarly,Nana, a character from the Émile Zola novel of the same name, is a performer who builds herself up to become a success. This is one of the many factors that inspired Allaire to create her broadway musical N The Queen of Paris (co-created and co-directed with Martin Lord Ferguson).
Nana is a character invented by Émile Zola, and she is very much a Parisian woman. Allaire explains that she is a big fan of Zola, who used naturalism in his novels, and that she was first introduced to his works while studying at McGill University 20 years ago.
When asked why Nana is so inspiring to her, Allaire explains that she herself was a singer, and Nana is a singer who had no professional training. Allaire says that Nana has something that you can’t define that brought her success, and that’s inspiring.
Five years ago, Allaire re-read Nana and remembered why she had held it so dear to her heart. Allaire says she thought to herself, “Nana is such a character for a musical, she should be in a musical.”
Allaire explains that there were no real plans; it was very organic. She began to make notes and look chapter by chapter to see what could be said by or about Nana through a musical. After putting the project down for a year, she went back to it. “I was so attracted to it for no logical reason,” says Allaire.
When asked to describe her experience being both one of the writers and directors of the musical, Allaire jokingly said: “[It’s] demanding!” She elaborated: “I wanted to make sure Nana had a female voice somewhere… [There are] so many great male directors; we’re surrounded by male creators…Nana is a sex beast, and needed a female voice and I wanted to be part of the direction and make sure this voice was well heard.”
For those who are familiar with Zola’s novel Nana, Allaire tells us that there are noticable differences between the novel and the musical. “Most of Zola’s novels have a crescendo going to a peak, then a dramatic fall or something that brings the character to despair.” Allaire explains that the book is darker than the musical and in the musical there is a message of love and hope.
When asked what kind of music the audience members can expect from this show, Allaire responded that there will be “orchestral music, French jazz, guitars, accordions, percussion, violin, and this represents the commoners. There will also be a classical orchestra, string quartet, trombone, double bass, and this represents the noble class.” It is very much a ‘rags to riches’ story, and Allaire says she plans on using this theme to deliver the premise in a musical fashion.
Allaire has big plans for the future of N The Queen of Paris and she explains that this is only the beginning. The show will be debuting in “Toronto, then going to Chicago, then [we] plan to open on Broadway in March 2016. After that there is a tour developing in England…” Allaire says that there is also interest in Russia, Europe, and of course, France.
Allaire excitedly discusses how she will be meeting the great granddaughter of Émile Zola in two weeks in Paris, and will be touring Zola’s hometown. “They are creating a museum in Paris in Zola’s memory. His great granddaughter is restoring his house,” Allaire says. “This is exciting. It is a like a gift at this time.”
A documentary is currently being created about the development of this musical, and will most likely include the meeting of Zola’s great granddaughter.
Allaire paints a picture of true joie de vivre when asked what she expects from the show: “I think people will have a good time, and maybe bring back a bottle of Moet 1880…, [experience] hope and come out with a smile.” Allaire says she hopes to also bring back Zola’s novels with her musical based on his character, Nana. The audience can expect an array of jokes, humour, and laughter on stage, as well as more emotional or serious moments. “Film and entertainment is so dark now,” says Allaire. “[We need to] give hope to people who struggle in their lives. Nana is a character who struggled, but reached hope in the end.”
N the Queen of Paris World Premiere Performances begin September 24, 2015 at the Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge Street, Toronto. Ticket prices start at $59 and include two different VIP packages for $249/ticket or $1880 for two Ultimate VIP tickets (Exclusive Moët & Chandon VIP Experiences Available), and can be purchased in person at the Elgin Theatre Box Office, by calling 1.855.622.2787 (ARTS), online at www.ticketmaster.ca.