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Paris (Jon English musical)

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Paris is a rock musical written by Australian rock musician Jon English and David Mackay between 1987 and 1990, based on the myth of the Trojan War. A concept album was released in Australia in 1990 with the first stage production taking place in Sydney in 2003.

According to English, the concept for the musical began in a 1982 prank: he wrote a song called "Oh Paris", about the mythic hero rather than the French capital, just to see how many people actually listened to the words.[1] The musical focuses on the love story between Helen and Paris as it follows his participation in the Trojan War. Paris is about the struggle to maintain some balance between passion and order, law and chaos, head and heart.[2]

Concept album[edit]

Cast recording by
Original Australian Cast
ProducerDavid Mackay

In 1987 Jon English took on the role of the mad monk Rasputin in the stage musical of the same name.[3] This production, although controversial at the time, served to fire Jon's ambition to write his own show based on the Trojan War. English travelled to England to again work with David Mackay who had produced his album Some People... (1983).

For three years, English and Mackay worked on the musical, with English stopping to star in the Sydney production of the musical Big River in 1988 and to release his studio album, The Busker (1990).[4]

The musical was preceded in 1990 by a 2-CD concept album, called Paris: A Love Story, recorded in London.[1] English sang the role of Hector, and the cast included John Parr as Paris, Sheila Parker as Helen, Terence Donovan as Priam, Sheryl Parker as Cassandra, Doc Neeson as Achilles, John Waters as Agamemnon, Philip Quast as Patroclus, Joe Fagin as Menelaus, Harry Nilsson as Ulysses, as well as Demis Roussos, David Atkins and Barry Humphries, backed by the London Symphony Orchestra and London Philharmonic Choir.[1][5]

At the ARIA Music Awards of 1991, the album was nominated for two ARIA Awards, winning Best Original Soundtrack, Cast or Show Album. It was also nominated for Best Adult Contemporary Album.[6][7]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Overture" - 2:31
  2. "Prelude" - 5:38
  3. "A Head Without a Heart" - 3:01
  4. "Straight Ahead" - 2:56
  5. "Perfect Stranger" - 6:47
  6. "A Long Time Coming" - 3:35
  7. "Business" - 5:13
  8. "The Leader" - 3:41
  9. "Any Fool Could See" - 5:17
  10. "Thief in the Night" - 2:47
  11. "Trust in Your Heart" - 1:31
  12. "Come Hell or High Water" - 6:06
  1. "No Turning Back" - 3:55
  2. "For Better or Worse" - 3:28
  3. "Ten Years On" - 3:17
  4. "What Price a Friend" - 3:01
  5. "Love Has Power" - 3:10
  6. "The Beggar" - 1:56
  7. "Ulysses Prayer" - 5:44
  8. "A Horse With No Rider" - 1:14
  9. "Inside Outside" - 4:09
  10. "The Balance Shifts" - 6:22
  11. "Oh Paris" - 3:50
  12. "Finale" - 9:23


MusicJon English and David Mackay
LyricsJon English and David Mackay
BookJon English and David Mackay
BasisTrojan War mythology

After a decade of lobbying for a professional stage production, English released the amateur rights to the musical.[1] It was first performed in October 2003 by both the Regals Musical Society in Sydney[2] and the Laycock Street Theatre in Gosford.[8] English appeared as the Fisherman in one performance of the Gosford production.[1] The Melbourne premiere was on 29 January 2004 at the National Theatre,[1] with further amateur productions in Auckland in 2005[9] and Adelaide in 2008.[10] In April 2008, a re-worked version was performed at Laycock Street Theatre with new orchestrations and several new songs by Central Coast musician Andrew Swan and a re-vamped script edited by director Stuart Smith. In this production, English appeared as Menelaus. School groups and other amateur theatre companies have also performed the musical in the years since. Music Theatre Melbourne produced a concert version in July 2017 at the Melbourne Recital Centre.



Act I

Paris gave a gift to the goddess Aphrodite in order to be with her. King Priam of Troy prays for guidance from the goddesses Aphrodite and Athena. Cassandra and Laocoen lament over the poor decision that Priam is about to make. She tries to warn her father ("Head Without a Heart"). Priam ignores her and sends Paris to the Greek province of Sparta as an emissary to foster goodwill ("What Could Go Wrong?"). Paris and Aeneas sail to Sparta, but the boat is wrecked in a storm and Paris falls overboard. Helen, the wife of King Menalaus of Sparta, finds Paris washed up on shore and nurses him ("Perfect Stranger"). He mistakes her for Aphrodite, falling in love at first sight. Helen wishes she could leave her life behind. Paris stumbles upon Sinon, Thersites and Talbythius, who escort him to the palace to meet the Greek kings.

Agamemnon and Menelaus try to convince the other Greek kings to invade Troy, but to no avail. Achilles barges in on the meeting and asks how Agamemnon thought it would be possible to take Troy without him leading the army. When Paris arrives, the Greek nobles are fighting about business ("Business"). They make fun of their bedraggled visitor, and Agamemnon thinks up a plan to exploit the Trojan prince for information. Helen tries to convince Paris that he has fallen into a trap, but ends up falling in love with him, and they escape together. They discuss that they can never be together, as they both have duties to their people. However, a guard finds them and tries to kill Paris, but Helen saves his life by stabbing the guard in the back. Helen's old friend, the fisherman, tells them to escape. When Agamemnon appears, he kills both the fisherman and Helen's handmaiden, framing Paris for the crime.

Menelaus reflects on his love for Helen. He will never rest until he has her back. This convinces the other kings to follow him and attack Troy. Paris sings to Helen about how fate has brought them together ("Trust in Your Heart"). Paris and Helen arrive at Troy, facing the judgement of his entire family for provoking the Greek kings and potentially starting a war. Paris stands up to his father, telling him that he will be with Helen, "Come Hell or High Water". This sparks a bad reaction in the crowd, who start hurling insults at the two lovers, and not even the rebuttal of Paris' older brother, the heroic Hector, can stop their anger. A war is imminent.

Act II

On the ramparts in Troy, Hector rallies the Trojan army, leading them into battle against the invading Greeks ("No Turning Back"). Paris and Helen sing about their love and commitment as a ten-year war begins, and countless soldiers die around them ("For Better or For Worse").

Achilles confronts Agamemnon about his selfish attitude and how he claims all the spoils of war for himself ("What Price a Friend"). He throws down his armour, saying that he won't continue to fight for Agamemnon. The Trojans launch an assault on the Greek camp, and with Achilles gone it seems all of their hope is lost. Patroclus dons his friend's armour and leading the Greeks under the guise of their immortal champion. Hector slays Patroclus, and Achilles laments the death of his only friend before challenging Hector to a duel.

Against the wishes of his entire family, Hector prepares to face Achilles, believing that he has a chance to end the war once and for all. Hector bids farewell to his family and marches out to fight Achilles. Achilles and Hector engage in an epic duel. Hector is the better swordsman, but he cannot penetrate the armour of the immortal warrior, who relies on brute force. Hector kicks Achilles in his one weak point, his heel, and drives him to the ground, where he frantically slashes at his foe, but is still unable to harm him. Desperately, Achilles, strikes up at Hector, impaling him. As Achilles ties the body of his fallen adversary to his chariot, Paris shoots an arrow at him from the walls of Troy, hitting him in the heel and killing him.

Paris mourns his deceased brother as the two leaders are carried off for their funerals. Ulysses, disguised as a beggar, confronts Helen, asking her if she knows any way to end the war. She has no answers for him. Ulysses prays to Athena, asking her for a way to end the war. He gets a response from the goddess and constructs the legendary Trojan Horse, realising that the only way out is a head without a heart ("The Horse with no Rider"). Agamemnon 'volunteers' Sinon as a stooge in order to convince the Trojans to bring the horse inside the city. The Trojans find the horse and Sinon, who convinces Priam to take it into the city. Cassandra laments that Paris should have known better, as Thersites and Talbythius sneak out of the horse and open the gates of Troy, letting the Greek army in.

A rout ensues. Paris and Aeneas try to gather up the royal family and escape the city, but find that Priam has already been murdered. They gather a small group of survivors and attempt to escape, but Menelaus finds them and shoots an arrow into Paris' back, still believing him to have abducted Helen against her will. However, as Paris dies in his lover's arms ("Oh, Paris"), Menalaus finally realises that Helen truly loved him and attempts to console her amidst the burning wreckage of Troy ("Love Has Power").

Musical numbers[edit]

As recorded in 1990, re-released in 2003 with new songs.[11]

  • a new to 2003 score.
  • b new to 2008 score.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Webb, Carolyn (2004-01-26). "Jon's Trojan Horse comes good". The Age. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  2. ^ a b Directed by Daryl Kirkness and Musical Direction Andrew Swan.Paris production notes, 2003" theregals.com.au, accessed June 5, 2009
  3. ^ "AusStage - Rasputin the Musical Revolution". www.ausstage.edu.au. Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  4. ^ "About Jon English". Jon English. Archived from the original on 30 September 2016. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  5. ^ Paris Archived 2009-04-04 at the Wayback Machine at The Philip Quast Guide, accessed 4 June 2009
  6. ^ "ARIA Awards 2007: History: Winners by Artist: Jon English". ARIA Awards. Archived from the original on 2009-08-31. Retrieved 2008-08-04.
  7. ^ "Winners by Year 1991". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Archived from the original on 8 June 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  8. ^ Jones, Jennie, "Gosford stages a world premiere", The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, Australia), October 11, 2003, p. 5
  9. ^ "Our Shows Paris". Archived from the original on 2013-02-08. Retrieved 2012-09-19.
  10. ^ "Jon English's Rock Musical Paris". AdelaideInfoNET. Archived from the original on 2009-08-30. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  11. ^ Paris synopsis (liner notes), record listing Archived 2009-04-04 at the Wayback Machine allthingsquast.info, accessed June 5, 2009

External links[edit]