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Wednesday, 26 January, 2000, 12:52 GMT
Musical limbers up in Cannes
Daniel Lavoie (Frollo), Steve Balsamo (Phoebus) and Tina Arena (Esmeralda)
Stars of the forthcoming London version of France's most successful musical, Notre Dame de Paris, have been giving a sneak preview of the new production.

Tina Arena swaps pop for the stage
The two leads for the West End show, Australian pop star Tina Arena and British singer Stephen Balsamo, showcased their production at Midem in Cannes.

Midem, the record industry's annual marketplace, has attracted over 4,000 companies from more than 90 countries.

The show, which opened in Las Vegas last week and has broken box office records across Europe and Canada, is heading to London's Dominion Theatre in May.

The musical, based on Victor Hugo's story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, opened in Paris in 1998.

Tina Arena and playwright Luc Plamondon
Within less than a year, it became the most successful musical in French history, selling more than two million tickets and seven million CDs in Europe.

The first English language version of the lavish musical opened in Las Vegas last week.

The original French version of Notre Dame de Paris was written by Italian Richardo Cocciante and Canadian Luc Plamondon, a close friend of singer Celine Dion who has recorded one of the songs from the production.

The English lyrics have been written by Grammy winner Will Jennings, who wrote the words for Celine Dion's Titanic song My Heart Will Go On.

Victor Hugo's Les Miserables is a mega hit
Tina Arena, who started as a child star on Australian television, plays the gypsy Esmeralda who befriends the hunchback Quasimodo.

She said of the score that has spawned a string of French language hit singles: "I think the show is brilliant and the songs are timeless." She added: "I am very like Esmeralda. I don't think it requires a lot of brain surgery to get it going. We are both free spirits."

But the latest Victor Hugo vehicle still has a long way to go to equal the worldwide success of Les Miserables, which has been performed in 17 languages, 27 different countries and seen by more than 40 million people.

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