Zola, The Musical: "N—The Queen of Paris"

© Michael Curry

A musical based on Zola's novel Nana opens in September in Toronto.

Nana, the risquée courtesan who rises through the ranks of Paris society in Émile Zola’s 1880 novel of the same name, will soon be the subject of a full-scale musical that will bring La Belle Époque to Broadway. Eventually. N—The Queen of Paris (nthemusical.com) opens this September in Toronto’s ornate Elgin Theater, where the show’s codirectors, Ella Louise Allaire and Martin Lord Ferguson, hope to bring the same over-the-top elegance that they’ve employed in productions for La Scala, the Paris Opera, and Cirque du Soleil. To complete the picture, the Montreal natives have enlisted Moët & Chandon and Ladurée, two historic French brands, to create custom products for the production.

“We set the story in a dream state,” says Ferguson, “like in an impressionistic painting.” While Zola is famous for his naturalistic novels, he can also be obliquely funny. “Since we’re French speakers, we could get that humor in Zola,” Ferguson says. “You know how the Coen brothers are funny, even when you’re talking about a serial killer?” The show is expected to move to Chicago in November 2015 and then New York in March 2016. Can Broadway audiences embrace a sweeping period piece set in Paris? Hey, it’s happened before...