To many fans of the musicals of Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, who wrote such hit shows as Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, Martin Guerre and the recent The Pirate Queen, this new Applause publication by Margaret Vermette – The Musical World of Boubil and Schonberg will be pure gold.

Vermette. Gives good biographical detail into two men who do not chase publicity and often come across as private people engaged in musical storytelling. Boubil was born in Tunisia and the family sent him to France to further his education in business. He had an interest in poetry and music mostly from listening to the radio. He went to work for a radio station Europe Number One and began writing songs and pieces for radio.

Schonberg was born in Brittany and started a rock band in college. An EMI scout became interested in the tunes Claude-Michel wrote and in 1968 he met Boubil whom by then was managing a musical publishing company. Schonberg became an A and R man for Pathe-Marconi.

Boubil saw Jesus Christ Superstar in 1971 and thereafter they both wanted to pursue a similar musical dream so they wrote a theme album – La Revolution Française that sold over 350,000 double albums. From there a show was formed and Cameron Mackintosh came to see them.

The book gives a great insight into the writing and production of musicals and introduces the reader to major figures, co-lyricists, directors and performers. Colm Wilkinson wrote a fine intro to this book.

The chapter on Martin Guerre, shows a persistence with a show as it suffered set back after setback. This dogged faith and especially Cameron Mackintosh’s dogged persistence with Martin Guerre is enlightening. Mackintosh now owns seven West End theatres in one of which he began as a stagehand and cleaner.

Vermette mixes interviews with details and the sections on the translators and co-lyric writers I found fascinating.

Nearly one hundred pages of a 345 page book is given over to lists of the cast/crew etc of the productions and perhaps a set of songs might have been better there but the trivia of shows is fascinating.