You couldn’t have missed the information, so pressing is the media hype: the rock opera created in 1978 by Michel Berger and Luc Plamondon – masterfully revisited ten years later – is coming out of its quarter century of hibernation to hold the top billing at the Seine Musicale, in Boulogne-Billancourt, at the gates of Paris, for long weeks… even long months, if we are to believe the first “critical” articles (or so few…) appeared in the press. starmania, remember, it’s a dystopian tale of love, ambition and death, told by singers who are pretty much all young and pretty much all good looking. In 1978, opera-rock wanted to be a musical and political work of art. Picked up in 1988, it remained a frighteningly distant futuristic probability. In 2022, it mostly feels like an LSD summary of the last twenty years.
We meet a billionaire real estate tycoon, on the arm of a former star, who dreams of becoming president of the world’s leading power and gets elected on ultra-secure promises. We discover a television program where ordinary people are invited to perform to become “one-night stars”, and a young man who will sell his soul in exchange for the notoriety that comes from attending beautiful people. We contemplate young activists who prefer to break everything than to propose an alternative to an indefensible world that they hate. To put it in a nutshell, Michel Berger and Luc Plamondon had seen it all, planned it all! Except that once again, Cassandra preached in the desert: we listened well (the music was pretty) but we heard nothing… Not so serious after all: starmaniait’s above all entertainment, and the one Thomas Jolly offers us today is a tad disconcerting.
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Who is this Thomas Jolly born in 1982? In broad strokes: the current darling of the theater (subsidized) with big means – and also, since everything smiles on him, the future artistic director of the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympic Games in 2024. Follower of popular theater “ which is aimed at the greatest number », he notably put on a 24-hour Shakespearian show in Angers, Henry VI + Richard IIIin an open room with table football, phone charging stations, food trucks and nap pillows. In short, a very modern boy.
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Unsurprisingly, his starmania 2022 is a sight to behold. Not easy, however, to reinvent a show whose songs have been sung by several generations and whose DNA is imbued with the memories of France Gall, Daniel Balavoine and Maurane. Jolly, he did not hesitate for a second to put the package. Its cast is effective – even if we may regret a Marie-Jeanne with the voice of an angel but with too soft feelings –, the impressive scenography (notably the tableaux vivants from the Art Deco universe of Gatsby the magnificent), and the brutality of the choreographies of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui manages to translate into movement the raw violence of the universe of Monopolis. And the debauchery of technical means is astounding! We are told in the headset that there would be on the set of the Seine Musicale, in programming software and projection and lighting equipment, the equivalent of the GNP of Burkina Faso, and we only ask believe him.
As for the music, it is modernized without being distorted, but its aesthetic intentions are not really clear. And we deeply regret the horns of the 1988 version, which gave an incredible depth to the voices and the text… The text, precisely, has also been adapted, ripolinated, as if it were a question of avoiding the public from getting caught the neurons in the carpet of time: “In the cities of the year 2000, life was much easier”, deplores Cristal. For the record, the original text was in the future tense. Strange choice of adaptation which produces the exact opposite effect, that is to say that of bringing us violently back to the present.
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Impression reinforced by the costumes created by Nicolas Ghesquière, which seem straight out of the last Fashion Week and say nothing. Another subject of astonishment: the political dimension of the previous version is surreptitiously erased in favor of stories of the heart, and Cristal no longer comes to interrupt the speech of the aspiring dictator by howling the need for love of his entire generation, but to notify society that she got off with a hoodlum. And if she ends up being killed, it’s not by the armed henchmen of a newly elected Zero Janvier, but by a rejected and jealous woman who shoots her. Like in a banal vaudeville.
And yet, when the curtain falls, the spectators, covered in paper hearts, scream with happiness. At the end (note, spoiler) everyone dies, Monopolis is atomized, the automaton waitress is left alone with her despair, the world is stone and yet, in the room, the public, standing, howls its joy. Attempt to explain? This starmania remixed to the taste of the day, it is in fact a dystopia perfectly formatted for the Instagram generation: we take full eyes, the tables are licked and linked together at full speed, but at no time the brain is put to contribution. A certain idea of 2022?