Jerome Pradon is one of the rare French performers to have succeeded on the West End. Pradon started his musical theatre career in 1991 with the coveted role of Marius in the Cameron Mackintosh's Paris production of Boublil and Schonberg's Les Miserables. After that, he got the chance to perform various leading roles such as Chris in Miss Saigon in London, the title-role in the Toronto production of Napoleon, Guillaume, the villain, in the original London production of Martin Guerre and more recently, Guido Contini in the Paris production of Nine.
Pradon is also one of the rare performers to have performed in Boublil and Schonberg's three musicals. With the new UK release of the video of the making of Martin Guerre, Playbill On-Line took the opportunity to speak to Pradon about his career, his different roles and his projects.
Pradon's musical theatre career started with the role of Marius, in Paris. Recalling his first step into the world of Boublil and Schonberg with Les Miserables and then Miss Saigon, Pradon says, "My career wasn't doing that well and then a friend of mine told me to send a resume to the production of Les Miserables and they auditioned me. I didn't know at all what it [the musical] was. When I auditioned the first time, they called me back and told me "Of course, you know Les Miserables" and I said no. They were shocked I didn't know it. They told me to learn the part of Enjolras. I listened to the tape and I fell on the floor. I loved it, I was crying, it was completely crazy. And my only dream was to be part of the company. Then I came back and they started to be interested in me and asked me to sing Marius instead of Enjolras. Then I made the final auditions and a few days later, they call me to tell me I had the part of Marius. It was great. That's how it all started. . . I realized that I had to work in musical theatre. . .At the end of the 7 1/2 months run, I was so sad I asked to audition for the London production. They told me that I was hired but it was for something like 6 or 8 months later. But then they called me one month later, telling me that they would like to hear me sing the part of Chris in Miss Saigon. I was stunned they asked me. It was like a fairy tale. I worked very hard and then I got the part. It was a great experience but it was difficult. I had to work a lot on my accent. It was also difficult because the role was a little bit depressing. It was a great step forward. It was my first time performing in London and in such a big musical."
After London, Pradon went to Toronto for another big musical, based on the life of Napoleon, and composed by Sabiston and Williams. "It was fascinating. It was my first time performing a title-role. It was great, but there were a lot of problems in the production. . .It was difficult at times. The show wasn't a hit and received bad reviews. I had good reviews though. The end [of the run] was kind of weird because we [closed early] to open in London. . .And the London production is constantly postponed."
But Pradon has also worked on smaller productions, such as a repertory production of Sondheim's Assassins in Derby, England where he portrayed Leon Czolgosz. "It was wonderful to play Sondheim. I love this composer and I would love to perform Sondheim in France. I'd like to do Side By Side in French and I think it is a good approach because it includes all the hits."
In 1995, Pradon was part of the star-studded 10th Anniversary Concert performance of Les Miserables at the Royal Albert Hall, London. This exceptional event had a dream cast led by Colm Wilkinson, Lea Salonga, Ruthie Henshall, Michael Ball and Judy Kuhn, among others. Pradon played the role of Courfeyrac, one of the students. "It was absolutely terrifying. I think I never had such a stage fright. I never did [Les Miserables] in English and we had a week to rehearse. I was doing the part of Courfeyrac who doesn't have a lot of solo lines.(...) But I had to learn so quickly... The atmosphere was very good, very studious, we worked a lot. . . I was happy when it was over..."
A few months later, Pradon returned to the world of Boublil and Schonberg, as one of the original leads in Martin Guerre. "Martin Guerre was a big thing. It was a creation. Working under Declan Donnellan's direction was absolutely fascinating. He has a real vision. He has a very interesting approach to the work of an actor. We made a lot of improvisation. It was almost... religious. We did deep work on the characters. The rehearsals went for three months, which is a lot." Asked about Boublil and Schonberg's musicals, Pradon adds "I have an intimate relationship with their work. It says a lot of things to me. It's part of my world in a way. It's also because they're French. Schonberg's music is in harmony with my culture."
After numerous gigs abroad, Pradon came back to Paris with the leading role in Maury Yeston's Nine. This ambitious Folies Bergere production quite failed to reach its audience and the show closed after two months. Pradon says "I think the orchestrations were not really good, I think we didn't have enough musicians, we had no musical director because of financial reasons. If you want to do something good, you have to give it your all. And I think the advertising campaign was poorly done. . .It was hard."
In spite of this, Pradon still has projects in Paris. Speaking about the future, Pradon says "I have several projects. I want to do more personal things. For the moment, I have two projects, one in France and one in England. In England, I would like to make an adaptation of a show called Crimes Passionnels which was performed by [French singer] Jean Guidoni and written by Pierre Philippe and Astor Piazolla. It's about the different states of mind of a murderer. It's a very interesting show. It's like a recital because there's only one person on stage. I also want to make a Sondheim recital in France but I don't know yet. I have no projects for a solo album. I'd love to do one but it's not planned. I have also adapted from English into French a straight play called Road Movie. It's a play with 5 characters played by one actor. It's a very beautiful play. It's about a man who drives through the United States to meet his male lover. On his way, he meets some people who will prepare him for what he's going to find. The actor has to portray two men and three women. It's a play about identity, about the loss of dear ones, grief. It's a very ambitious play. I'm also working on a workshop of a new musical about Casanova, written by Simon Lee, who was musical director on Jesus-Christ Superstar".
By Stephane Ly-Cuong
Playbill Online France Correspondent