The “Pub Royal” show, a rondalla at the Cowboys Fringants bar

It was a few months ago, before the big uproar and sad death of singer Karl Tremblay. When the director Sébastien Soldevila, of the 7 fingers of the hand, proposed to the Cowboys Fringants to create a song, dance and circus work from their repertoire, the guitarist and composer Jean-François Pauzé raised an eyebrow of doubt. Months later, the two men have become accomplices and speak with one voice to defend what was born from their encounter, the musical Royal Pub. The ambitious show opens Wednesday evening at the Grand Théâtre de Québec in an emotional context: at the time these lines were written, the production was still going strong.

The project is ambitious, therefore, because the whole thing is an original creation, carried out by no less than seven actor-singers, seven dancers and six circus artists. Royal Pub it will also include five new songs composed for the occasion by Pauzé. And everything will be done behind closed doors.

Sébastien Soldevila has a good track record in this area, but setting up all these variables still required some work. great job If only to sort through the 150 songs on Cowboys Fringants and make sense of them. “But we agree that the most important thing in this business is the story,” he says.

This is mainly what convinced Jean-François Pauzé to give the green light to the project, with carte blanche for everything that wasn’t musical. The two men, known last week, remain, however, discreet about the essence of the story, which reserves certain ” turns important”, explains the director. But we know the premise: a man with car trouble pulls into the only establishment in the area, the Royal pub.

“In fact, it is a parable of life”, says Mr. Soldevila. In the sense that we are talking about this average man, named Jonathan Doyé (played by Richard Charest), who arrives at this bar and will see his life transformed. It is written almost like a story, a fable, a farce. This means that there is a very surreal side, but it is anchored in reality, which is close to the Cowboys universe. »

This universe, he summarizes, is often composed of happy melodies, but of “quite hard” lyrics, as in the title. Of a sadness, which is part of the show and where the chorus says: “The world is sad and humans are unhappy / Behind the beautiful filters, no, people are not happy. »

The protagonist will therefore spend the show with the people sitting in the bar – and who, therefore, are interpreted by the twenty artisans of Royal Pub —“without really understanding why it is there. And, little by little, he will discover it”, reveals Mr. Soldevila.

The drinking establishment at the center of the story is owned by the character of Siriso, played by Kevin Houle, but is run by the manager Loulou Lapierre (Émilie Josset), a character from the imagination of the Repentigny team, just like La Catherine, a waitress played by Alexia Gourd. Yvan Pedneault, Martin Giroux and Christian Laporte complete the group of performers-actors.

There will be movement on stage during this show nurtured by the work of Olivier Kemeid in the dialogues and the talent of the choreographer Geneviève Dorion-Coupal. “I wanted things that clicked because their (Cowboys Fringants) music clicked,” sums up Sébastien Soldevila. The latter believes that the vehicle chosen to carry this story is the right one, and that “nothing is superfluous”. “What’s interesting about musicals are the tools we have to express specific moments in history. There I do acrobatics, theater, circus, sung music alive… Therefore, this panoply is what gives a varied narrative”, he adds.

Composer Jean-François Pauzé put everything he could into the musical aspect of the project. He rejected certain song choices, among others. “You make good deals in life, you make bad deals, I wanted them to be songs that I like,” he explains.

The guitarist also rhymed concession and adaptation. In particular, he agreed to integrate a hated piece of the Cowboys Fringants repertoire “reworking the verse that had bothered me for several years”. “I fixed something that works now. It’s like a painter removing a tree from his painting after the fact because it was ugly.”

A large part of his contribution was the creation of five new pieces, some of which serve to “seal, to cement” the history and universe of Royal Pub. “Because, perhaps, the songs we have chosen from the existing repertoire have their individuality, and making a story that comes together with songs that, basically, have no coherence between them, that was complicated”, illustrates Jean-François Pauzé . He specifies that “the dialogues were not written based on what was happening with the characters in the existing songs”.

Royal Pub Therefore, it will first be presented on the stage of the Grand Théâtre de Québec, from November 22 to 26, before traveling to the Place des Arts in Montreal, from December 6 to January 6. The musical will be presented this summer in Trois-Rivières and Sherbrooke, but also in Paris in April, for five performances at the Grand Rex. Everywhere, one imagines, the shadow of the singer Karl Tremblay will float.

“We’re going back to Europe,” says Mr. Soldevila We’ll go to Belgium, to Switzerland, we’ll go back to France, we’ll go back to Paris, Lyon, Marseille, that’s for sure. »

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