09.04.2018 - Fredericia Teater, Dänemark

THE PRINCE OF EGYPT

After their successful musicals, including The Little Mermaid and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Fredericia Teater now delivered another production based on a well-known animated movie. THE PRINCE OF EGYPT had its world premiere in Fredericia on April 6th!

Directed by Scott Schwartz the musical tells the story of the two princes of Egypt Moses and Ramses. Though the brother’s relationship can be described as rocky, mostly due to Moses’ recklessness and Ramses’ willingness to tag along, their bond is strong. That bond is tested when their father, pharaoh Seti, returns with a slave girl, Tzipporah, meant as a present for Ramses. However, the slave girl manages to escape. While looking for her, Moses stumbles upon a Hebrew woman, Miriam, his birth sister. The truth about Moses’ heritage is revealed. He was born a Hebrew slave. His mother saved him from certain death by the pharaoh’s soldiers by putting him on the Nile and he was then taken in by the queen of Egypt.

No longer able to look away from the pain of the Hebrew slaves, Moses accidentally pushes one of the pharaoh’s guards, who has abused the slaves, to his death. As Ramses tries to console Moses, Moses confesses to his true origins. Taken aback, but still on his brother’s side Ramses tries to convince Moses not to abandon his family and home. He fails and Moses runs off into the desert.

Moses stumbles upon Tzipporah and stays with her people. Meanwhile, Ramses is crowned pharaoh after his father’s death. Time passes and one day, while looking for a lost sheep, Moses finds a burning bush. Hearing the voice of God Moses learns of his mission. He is meant to return to Egypt to deliver the Hebrews to freedom. To achieve that Moses must face Ramses again.

Changing from a mischievous prince to a humble shepherd to God’s messenger and saviour of his people, Moses goes through a long journey as the musical progresses. A challenging part, but there is no doubt, Diluckshan Jeyaratnam’s portrayal is perfect. His Moses is arrogant, strong, doubtful and deeply flawed which makes him incredibly human and thus sympathetic. Not only his acting but also his singing is superb. Diluckshan Jeyaratnam’s voice touches the audience, especially in “For The Rest of My Life”, in which a horrified Moses laments the sacrifices made to save his people.

Jason Gotay’s Ramses desperately seeks his father’s approval and wants to prove himself as the future pharaoh. Behind the serious demeanour Ramses can be funny. Jason Gotay possesses comedic talent, when Ramses tries to break the awkward silence at his first meeting with his future wife Nefertari for example. Even when he becomes pharaoh, Ramses’ love for Moses is strong. Ramses is deeply conflicted and Jason Gotay’s depiction of that conflict is convincing. Though he acts as the antagonist, one can’t help but sympathise with Ramses, especially as he mourns his son.

After the world premiere the role of Ramses will be played by Lars Mølsted.

The brother’s relationship is the heart of the show and Diluckshan Jeyaratnam and Jason Gotay are the ideal pair. Their voices sound great together, the songs they share are a joy to listen to – “Always On Your Side” comes to mind – and their chemistry is on point. Moses’ relationships to both his adopted and birth family gets expanded in the musical as well. This adds a lot of emotional weight, especially to Moses’ decision to abandon his adopted family.

Anne Fuglsig as Queen Tuya portrays a loving mother to both Ramses and Moses. Her taking Moses in, though she knows about his true heritage, shows her kind heart. She desires harmony above all else, begging her two sons to make amends after they become enemies.

The musical does a great job depicting its characters as not only black and white. Mads M. Nielsen as Pharaoh Seti is the perfect example. Though Seti committed gruesome acts, killing the children of the Hebrew slaves, it is shown that he does so reluctantly. While he often scolds his sons, he also loves them dearly. “Ma’at/One Weak Link” haunts Ramses even after Seti’s death – as does Seti’s presence. In the blink of an eye, Mads M. Nielsen switches between Seti’s emotions using his vocal range, be it demanding or tender or showcasing the deep and threatening depth of his voice, when somebody – mostly one of the princes – crosses the line.

Nadia Abraham’s entrance as Tzipporah in “Dance To The Day” shows Tzipporah’s confidence and courage. Her dancing and voice are wonderful, fitting the oriental tunes in Tzipporah’s songs. Nadia Abraham also harmonises both with Diluckshan Jeyaratnam’s Moses and with Silke Biranell’s Miriam. Together, Nadia Abraham and Silke Biranell sing “When You Believe”, their rendition is powerful and caring at the same time.

Ramses’ wife Nefertari, played by Kristine Yde or Sandra Elsfort, comes across as cold and unapproachable. In reality, she hides her feelings because of her role as queen. Her song “Heartless”, as she shows her true colours while mourning her son, is moving.

Søren Bech-Madsen plays Hotep, Egypt’s high priest. Controlling the pharaoh – Seti and Ramses – Hotep acts as the musical’s true villain. Søren Bech-Madsen has a deep, powerful voice fitting the demonic chants and his Hotep can be truly frightening.  

The musical is quite dark, but humour plays a part as well. Runi Lewerissa as Tzipporah’s father Jethro and Christoffer Lund Skov as Moses’ brother Aaron provide a lot of the lighter moments of the show. Their songs, “Through Heaven’s Eyes” and “One Of Us”, are also beautifully choreographed.

Speaking of which, the choreography by Sean Cheesman is simply spectacular and brings a special magic to The Prince of Egypt. There are not many different props used throughout, instead the focus is on the dancers who transform themselves into set pieces or into the scenography. Through movement they use their bodies to become the waves of the sea, the sand in the desert, the pharaoh’s temple, the plagues or even the burning bush. Special mention to the talented dancers who are doing an amazing job!

The music is written by Stephen Schwartz. Most songs from the animated movie are used in the musical. In addition, new songs have been created. Highlights include the choral “Deliver Us” with a stunning performance by Samira Alm as Moses’ mother Jocheved and the duet “Never In A Million Years” sung by Moses and Tzipporah.

The lighting by Mike Billings and Fredericia Teater produces a unique and fitting atmosphere, the contrast between the yellow and blue lighting creates scenes that almost seem like paintings. The projections are often breath-taking and when Moses divides the sea the audience erupts in applause. That scene alone is worth seeing this production.

Fredericia Teater doesn’t disappoint. It has brought to life an emotional story bound to captivate audiences with its unique magic. Though Moses has divided the sea, the audience stood in unity, giving cast and crew a well-deserved standing ovation.

THE PRINCE OF EGYPT playing in English and Danish at Fredericia Teater in Denmark until May 18th (English) and June 10th (Danish) before opening at Det Kongelige Teater (The Royal Theatre) in Copenhagen on June 21st next year.

If we were to give stars, this performance would receive:

 ★★★★★

© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer, © Fotos: Søren Malmose

02.03.2018 - Union Theatre, London

CARMEN 1808

Adapted as a new musical piece “Carmen 1808” opened at the Union Theatre on February 7th under direction of Phil Willmott - who also wrote the book and lyrics.

Based on the novella by Prosper Mérimée the musical takes place in Madrid during the French occupation of Spain. The Catalan Captain Velarde has been transferred to enforce the French laws on the Spanish population. His loyalty is tested, as he meets the gypsy girl Carmen. Carmen works as a spy for the Spanish resistance and she is initially only out to use Velarde to gather information about the French’s plans. At first, Velarde seems to be reluctant to her advances, but soon he falls in love with her and Carmen does with him.

Velarde joins the resistance in their fight against the French. When the rumour spreads that the Spanish king has returned from exile, the resistance fighters gather in the streets to celebrate. However, as it turns out, they have been tricked and riled up by the French to destroy them once and for all. Velarde dies in the bloodbath. Unable to continue living without him, Carmen takes her own life.

With only ninety minutes, the plot seems sometimes rushed, but the acting is so strong that the sudden changes in character don’t feel forced. Especially Maximilian Marston as Captain Velarde goes through very fast changes in character. Velarde soon falls for Carmen, even though he has been hesitant in the very beginning. Marston manages to make these changes feel fitting and believable.

The engery with which Rachel Lea-Gray performs is remarkable. Her Carmen is confident and seductive, she knows what she wants and how to get it. Beneath that strong, distant appearance Carmen also possesses a softer side. This is shown in Carmen’s realisation to her own feelings for Velarde and in the tender moments she shares with him. Lea-Gray portrays Carmen’s strength just as well as her insecurity. Lea-Gray and Marston make a great pair with an interesting power balance which is fun to watch.

Josephina, the former lover of Velarde, is played by Charlotte Haines. Soft and almost fragile Haines’ voice fits the delicate Josephina perfectly. However, there is more to Josephina than meets the eye and her innocent façade hides another side. These character changes are convincingly shown by Haines.

The painter Francisco Goya is put in the spotlight in this production. Portrayed by Alexander Barria he acts both as a character in the story and as a narrator, operating outside the character’s world. He emits an omnipresent vibe and he is almost all the time on stage, often painting the characters in the background.

Corporal Luis played by Thomas Mitchells seems to be rather cowardly in the beginning. A soldier who doesn’t dare to question the French orders he is given. He becomes obsessed with Carmen and in his rivalry with Velarde for her love, he doesn’t hesitate to turn his back on Velarde, even imprisoning him. In the end, Luis sides with the resistance, proving that he can make the right choice without thinking about Carmen.

The resistance’s leader Javier Rizal portrayed by Blair Gibson is defiant until the end. His dedication and sheer will is remarkable, accentuated by the performance of Gibson.

The sound effects, designed by Theo Holloway – and their absence! – are used effectively throughout the performance. The few gunshots truly get to the audience. Their absence makes one scene even more impactful, when the sound is instead replaced by a stillness of the characters – reminiscent of a painting, painted in the piece by Alexander Barria as Goya – making that scene even more impactful.

The set by Justin Williams and Jonny Rust plays a lot with different levels, used to illustrate the power balances between the characters. Carmen uses all of the space, walking and even jumping on the different areas fitting her confident character. Since the set is quite static, the light, designed by Ben Jacobs, adds a lot to the atmosphere with the use of shadow and haze. Thus, creating different locations without making any changes in set at all.

The dances are beautifully choreographed by Adam Haigh. There are fast changes in pace, done effortlessly by the whole cast. Through the small auditorium the action is happening close to the audience and the energy of the dances can be felt as well. Georges Bizet’s famous music arranged by Teddy Clements for this musical rendition fits the dances and the tone of the piece perfectly.

Through the musical production of Carmen, the work has become more accessible in a way, especially appealing to a younger audience and those interested in the musical genre or those intimidated by the heavy tones – and duration – of an opera piece.

Though the story doesn’t end on a positive note, the musical certainly does with the audience clapping as the actors reprise the fast-paced dances. One doesn’t leave the theatre with a heavy feeling, a feeling of helplessness, but rather with a more hopeful one.

Carmen 1808 now playing at the Union Theatre until March 10 th!

© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer, © Fotos: Scott Rylander

© Lotta Heinegård/Charlotte T Strömwall

16.02.2018 - Malmö (Schweden)

PIPPIN

The musical PIPPIN by Roger O. Hirson with music by Stephen Schwartz, first performed in 1972 on Broadway, celebrated its premiere in Sweden at the Malmö Opera on January 27th 2018.  

Directed by Ronny Danielsson the musical tells the story of the titular character Pippin (Oscar Pierrou Lindén), the restless son of Charlemagne (Michael Jansson), searching for his place in the world and for the meaning of his life. On that journey he is accompanied by the Leading Player (Lindy Larsson), an enigmatic figure acting as the storyteller. Whatever Pippin tries, nothing seems to give his life any meaning, be it taking part in the war of his father or his love affair with Catherine (Åsa Fång).

In the grand finale, the Leading Player tries to seduce Pippin into committing suicide by setting himself on fire, since it is the finale that gives the life its true meaning. As Pippin refuses, the furious Leading Player leaves the stage, after taking away all theatre ‘magic’. The musical ends with Catherine’s son Theo alone on stage singing “Theos Himmel” (“Corner of the Sky – Reprise”) without an orchestra – performed beautifully by Ruben Vaarning in that performance on Sunday February 11th.

Oscar Pierrou Lindén plays Pippin. His voice gives his performance a heart-warming, often touching aspect, especially apparent in “Himlen” (“Corner of the Sky”). Though Pippin himself with his questionable actions isn’t or shouldn’t be the most sympathetic character, Lindén manages to stay likeable throughout the play.

Pippin’s everyday-like outfit stands in stark contrast to the opulent flashy costumes of the other cast members, marking him visibly different and less glamourous. Fitting, since he is the one searching for his place in the world. Compliments to Camilla Thulin for designing these costumes.

Right from the start Lindy Larsson as the Leading Player captivates as he leads the audience into the magical world of the musical in “Den Magi Som Ni Ser” (“Magic To Do”). Larsson possesses the perfect stage presence for the part, even when he is in the background, that presence can be felt. Charming, but with dangerous and cunning undertones his Leading Player is not unlike a devil, seducing and manipulating Pippin throughout the musical. His relationship with Pippin and his feelings for him are ambiguous, he seems to care about him in some way and near the end he seems to be truly hurt by Pippins actions and rejection.

Åsa Fång gives a likeable Catherine and loving mother to Theo (Oliver Palm, Ruben Vaarning or Melker Wickenberg). Her courting of Pippin by imitating the cry of a seal-like animal is one of the funniest moments in the musical. The love duet “Om Kärlek” (“Love Song”) gives both Fång and Lindén the opportunity to show their talent as well as their chemistry with each other.

Interactions with the audience is one of PIPPIN’s defining aspects. Apart from Larsson it is Johannes Wanselow as Pippin’s grandmother Berthe who interacts with the audience the most, even encouraging them to sing along in “Tid Att Ta Din Tid” (“No Time at All”). That song is also remembered for Wanselow’s entertaining use of a Segway.

Charlemagne, the power-hungry king is played by Michael Jansson. It’s impressive how fast Jansson can speak and sing, shown in “Krig Kräver Kunskap” (“War Is a Science”), also featuring an impressive choreography by Roger Lybek. The choreography with its use of breathtaking acrobatics adds to the circus atmosphere of the show as well.

Pippin’s half-brother Louis played by Kitty Chan is self-loving and feisty. That arrogance is perfectly and hysterically portrayed by her. Louis’ mother Fastrada depicted by Nina Pressing makes it clear that her loyalties lie with her son. Using Pippin and willing to betray her husband that ruthlessness is particularly evident in “Sprida Lite Solsken” (“Spread a Little Sunshine”).

The stage designed by Martin Chocholousek is adaptable, taking the audience into a church or to the cannels of Venice. The orchestra isn’t hidden in the orchestra pit but present on the stage and in some songs individual musicians come to the front of the stage.

PIPPIN with its absurd comedic elements promises an entertaining evening. The Swedish production delivers, with its hilarious ideas – enormous inflatable ducks or a headless soldier, stumbling around the stage combined with his talking head – and outstanding performance of the cast.

PIPPIN now playing at the Malmö Opera until April 21st!

© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer, © Fotos: Malin Arnesson

02.02.2018 - London (England)

HOT LIPS AND COLD WAR

Created by Lizzie Freeborn “Hot Lips and Cold War” takes the audience back into the 1960’s, the time of John F. Kennedy’s presidency. The threat of a nuclear war, the growing movements for social and racial equality define that time. Directed by Tim McArthur the musical explores what might have been, surrounding Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and both of their deaths.

Ashley Knight (Jerome The King Kingsley)

The musical opens with wide-eyed Maria (Sylvie Briggs) in Ireland. Maria is in love with White House worker Davy (Adam Small). When she reveals that she is pregnant she follows Davy to Washington, stealing money from the church to finance the flight. Maria starts working as a photographer for Jackie Kennedy (Marcia Sommerford). Mrs. Kennedy suspects that her husband (Robert Oliver) has affairs, among them Marylin Monroe (Freya Tilly), and she wants Maria to catch Kennedy in the act to finally have proof. Maria soon learns that the White House bears many secrets and she must decide where her loyalties truly lie.

Sylvie Briggs does a great job portraying Maria. The world doesn’t treat Maria kindly, but she never loses her good heart and even though she did steal from the church, the remorse she feels seems genuine. Briggs’ has a great chemistry with Jamal Franklin as Marvin. As the Kennedy’s and Marilyn are the focus in Act II, Marvin is mostly absent, sadly since Franklin delivers a great performance. However, Marvin and Maria get their deserved attention near the end. The evolution of Maria’s and Jackie Kennedy’s maid and Marvin’s mother Grace, portrayed by Florence Odumosu, is done well. Having a rocky start, the two develop a mutual trust over the course of the musical. Odumosu also portrays her love for Marvin in a very convincingly way.

Jamal Franklin, Sylvie Briggs (Maria)

Though Davy is a character one just loves to hate, Adam Small still manages to portray his character in a way that one even feels sympathy with him at times.

Robert Oliver gives a confident but conflicted John F. Kennedy. The love for his wife is evident, but his desire for other women – most of all for Marylin Monroe – is often stronger. Real speeches of Kennedy are used, to which Oliver gestures to with his back to the audience. An interesting choice that could have gone wrong but works. Marcia Sommerford as Jackie Kennedy depicts a strong woman and loving wife. Being aware of her husband’s infidelity, Sommerford effectively portrays the jealousy and despise Jackie feels, especially towards Monroe.

Jamal Franklin (Marvin) and Florence Odumosu (Grace)

Freya Tilly as Marilyn Monroe knows how to take the stage without much effort. Her Monroe is ambitious, but deep down a highly unstable and lonely woman, perfectly shown in her last song “Call Me” where a broken Monroe awaits a call from Kennedy before dying. Worth mentioning is Tilly’s wonderful rendition of Monroe’s famous “Happy Birthday Mr. President”.

The cast is joined by Lewis Rae as Kennedy’s secretary Kenny O’Donnell and Ashely Knight as racist democrat politician Jerome Kinsley. Both deliver a great performance.

Freya Tilly (Marilyn) withJKF (Robert Oliver) and Lucas Hall Kenny)

The musical incorporates different musical styles – among other genres jazz, swing and more classical tunes – fitting both the atmosphere of America in the 1960s and the different characters with their backgrounds. Performed in the London Theatre Workshop – a small theatre space – the audience is never far away from the events on stage and the actors can be seen up-close. There are only minor set changes, Kennedy’s office is always shown – but not always the ‘real’ setting. Lots of details can be explored, photographs on the wall for example, adding a nice touch to the scenery.

Ending with Kennedy’s assassination, all characters gather on the stage. The true heart of “Hot Lips and Cold War” is not the Kennedy family or Marilyn Monroe but ordinary people represented by Maria, Marvin and Grace. Though history doesn’t remember their names, their representatives are given voices in this musical, showing that trust is what is truly important.

© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer, © Fotos: Jamie Scott-Smith

02.02.2018 - "London Park Theatre", London (England)

ROTHSCHILD & SONS

“Rothschild & Sons” first performed in 1970 on Broadway now opened in the UK for the very first time. With music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick – Bock and Harnick have collaborated before in “Fiddler on the Roof” – and a book by Sherman Yellen it can now be experienced under direction of Jeffry B. Moss in London’s Park Theatre. 

The musical tells the story of the Rothschild’s, a Jewish family living in the ghetto of Frankfort in the late 18th century. Separated by a wall, Mayer Rothschild (Robert Cuccioli) dreams of tearing that wall down, finally regaining dignity and freedom again. To achieve that he prays that his wife Gutele (Glory Crampton) will give him sons. His prayers are answered and Mayer rises to fame with his five sons and builds a financial empire. However, when the Napoleonic wars start, Mayer realises that his family might have to overcome their own differences before they can make a difference.

Robert Cuccioli gives a sympathetic Mayer Rothschild. His strengths and flaws  his ambition to free his people and his want for control over his sons lives as well as his lack of faith in them  make him a well-rounded character. “In My Own Lifetime” is both bittersweet and hopeful, portraying Mayer’s wish to live to see the wall break down. The song captures the musical’s atmosphere best and Cuccioli’s voice shines.

Glory Crampton as Mayer’s wife Gutele always stands by her husband’s side, while also growing as an own person. It is her husband that makes most decisions as the head of the family, though Gutele’s emotions are put in the focus as well. While Mayer sends the sons on their missions all over Europe in “The Sons Depart”, Gutele gets the spotlight as she laments her sons’ departure and fears for their uncertain future. It makes one wish that she would have received more moments like this – especially since she is the only major female character –, as her character has a lot of potential.

Of the five sons it is Nathan, portrayed by Gary Trainor, who the audience gets to know most. Smart like his father but reckless too, a conflict between father and son is inevitable. Both Nathan and Mayer must learn to trust in each other to achieve their common goal. That conflict is portrayed believably by both Cuccioli and Trainor.

Richard Dempsey, Tom Giles, Stephen Jacob and Kris Marc-Joseph playing the other sons all manage to stand out and give their characters different personalities. This is best depicted in “Rothschild and Sons”, showing how they work together with their father. The sons’ growth over the course of the musical – physically and in character – is shown convincingly by the actors.

The stage is small, apart from one adaptable prop there is no furniture onstage. This emptiness combined with the small theatre space puts the cast in the foreground. They can be seen from (almost) all sides. It is interesting to watch their facial expressions or gestures, particularly when they are not the centre of attention. Especially Glory Crampton does a good job portraying Gutele’s emotions, even when she doesn’t say anything and stands by the sides. Big compliments for performing the whole two hours without an interval, though the musical might have benefited from one.

The musical tells a personal family story, but general themes – conflict between the generations, overcoming obstacles – are relatable to all. “Rothschild & Sons” explores the Jewish history and oppression while not becoming a history lesson. The ending is a bittersweet one. The Rothschild’s achieve a victory that not all live to see. The audience knows that as history marches on, the future is not a happy one.

Even after almost 50 years “Rothschild & Sons” has a contemporary touch to it. The musical shows that storytelling doesn’t have to rely on a big stage design or a lot of props, if done well small gestures and expressions are enough. The Park Theatre’s stage is prefect for just that, seeing the actors’ expressions up close.

© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer, © Fotos: Pamela Raith 

© Southbank Centre

18.01.2018 - "The Royal Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre", London (England)

RAMIN KARIMLOO - "Back From Broadway"

Broadway and West End star Ramin Karimloo returns to London with his new concert in The Royal Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre. Ramin is perhaps best known for playing major parts in some of the biggest musicals, roles include both Raoul and the Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera” or Enjolras, Marius and Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables”. His most recent role was that of Gleb in the world premiere of “Anastasia” on Broadway.

With “Back From Broadway“ Ramin once again returns to the UK following the successful tour in 2017. The enormous hall is filled and people have travelled from all around the world.

Starting with “Neverland” from “Finding Neverland” Ramin promises to take the audience on a journey. With music taken from famous musicals to songs not as known and even some of Ramin’s original compositions, it truly feels like a journey. A rather personal one giving this unique collection of songs. Though some of the big hits were included in the concert, it was nice to hear lesser known tunes as well.

The songs were very different, ranging from country to more traditional showtunes, but Ramin makes them all his own, his unique voice fitting all these different genres. Highlights include “Music Of The Night” from “Phantom Of The Opera”, “’Til I Hear You Sing” from “Love Never Dies” and, of course, the absolute touching performance of “Bring Him Home” from “Les Misérables”. At the beginning, right after the first notes of “Bring Him Home” the hall bursts into an enormous applause. Ramin proves that he only needs a few seconds to take the audience into the song. He portrays the various emotions in such a convincing way, often sending chills down your spine.

Whatever the song, Ramin brings the right amount of energy to the performance. Speaking of which, the energy he possesses is remarkable. Not only can it be felt in all his performances but is also evident in the fact that there wasn’t an intermission during the whole concert. Ramin was on stage from start to finish. Nothing seems to stop him or seems to bring him down, be it injuries, guitars that need to be tuned – sometimes a couple of times – or the heat on the stage.

A big compliment to the band as well. Being on stage for almost the whole time is not an easy feat, but they never got tired and their performance was stunning. Especially “From Now On” from “The Greatest Showman” deserves a praise. Evolving from a quiet solo of Ramin into a triumphant chorus with incorporation of the band, it was a highly energetic piece. It can be seen that both he and the band are simply having a great time on stage, making the concert even more enjoyable.

Throughout the evening Ramin proves that not only is he an excellent singer but can play the guitar just as well. “High Flying Adored” from “Evita” comes to mind, which Ramin performed with singer Matthew Harvey. Apart from singing, Ramin also composes songs himself. Some of his original compositions were performed during the concert. “Cathedrals” is probably the one that instantly stays in one’s head with its bittersweet beauty. Questions about home and belonging are sure to resonate with the audience, a lot having come a far way for the concert. 

Even though The Royal Festival Hall is a truly enormous building, Ramin makes the concert personal. He acknowledges the audience. His gaze is often straight into the auditorium, giving the feeling of directly looking at the spectators. As Ramin takes the audience through this concert, he also gives insight into his personal story, telling about the roles he played and his time in the countries he worked in and the different stages he performed on. Ramin even actively encouraged the audience to clap and sing along –  if one knows the lyrics – to some of the songs.

In the end, the audience was on their feet, giving both Ramin and the band a well-deserved round of applause. One woman even stood up to dance right in front of the stage during one of the last acts “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” from Johnny Cash. The last song, “Ol’ Man River” from “Showboat”, was performed by Ramin alone. This gave an intimate touch to the concert’s end, fitting the personal tone felt throughout the evening. “Ramin Karimloo Back from Broadway” marked a successful return and the concert proved to be a very entertaining evening. The audience was thrilled. It came as a surprise as the end of the concert was announced. It hadn’t felt like it had already been two hours. Surely it couldn’t have been already over? However, the clock didn’t lie. Time flew by fast, too fast even. Hopefully, one day, Ramin will be back once more.

© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer

16.01.2018 - "Trafalgar Studios", London (England)

THE GRINNING MAN

“The Grinning Man” opened in London’s Trafalgar Studios on December 6th after its acclaimed run at the Bristol Old Vic. Based on Victor Hugo’s novel “The Man Who Laughs” the dark tone of the musical doesn’t come as a surprise. After all, neither “Les Misérables” nor “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” are known as particularly happy stories. “The Grinning Man” is no exception to this. However, a surprisingly amount of humour can be found in this new musical directed by Tom Morris – who has written the lyrics with Carl Grose, Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler.

As the spectators enter the auditorium, they are taken in the surreal , carnival fair like, world. The walls are covered with dim, but various colours. The stage designed by Jon Bausor is shaped like the notorious grin of the Grinning Man. In the middle of one row a low table can be found, its purpose only revealed at the very end of the musical. A few rows before a pedestal is used by the actors for different reasons during the show.

Laughter is the best Medicine” the first song already sets the musical’s ambiguous tone. The clown Barkilphedro (Julian Bleach) takes the stage, looking into the audience for a long time before the music starts. The song is reminiscent of both Sondheim in terms of music and Tim Burton in terms of the atmosphere with the ensemble’s heads peeking out from under the curtain. Barkilphedro introduces the audience to, as he says, a truly miserable family: King Clarence (Jim Kitson) with his children Angelica (Julie Atherton), Josiana (Amanda Wilkin) and Dirry-Moir (Mark Anderson).

It is Dirry-Moir who stumbles upon the Trafalgar fair where he meets Grinpayne (Louis Maskell). Mutilated as a child Grinpayne’s face is half concealed, hiding a horrendous smile. Together with  the blind Dea (Sanne Den Besten), who Grinpayne once has saved from freezing to death, he was taken in by Ursus (Sean Kingsley). There he performs in Ursus’ show, displaying his own story. Showing it now to Dirry-Moir who is amazed by both Grinpayne and his smile. As Grinpayne rises to fame, he has only one goal: Finding the man who gave him his grin.

Louis Maskell’s portrayal as Grinpayne is excellent. Being sympathetic it’s easy for audiences to feel with Grinpayne through his struggles. A challenging role, Maskell has to speak and sing through Grinpayne’s mask and with his lower face hidden most of Grinpayne’s emotions have to be conveyed through eyes and eyebrows. Maskell excels in all of this. His movements often feel puppet-like as well, with limbs and fingers bending farther than they probably should. This is especially evident in “I Am The Freak Show” where Grinpayne shows the audience his face for the first time. A big compliment to Susanna Peretz for creating the Grinning Man’s grin with the make-up. 

Ursus, the adoptive father of both Grinpayne and Dea, is played by Sean Kingsley. Despite his kind appearance, he hides a dark secret. His love for his children, however, is genuine. This conflict of Ursus wanting to keep the truth hidden from both Grinpayne and Dea was conveyed convincingly by Kingsley. Kingsley’s voice has a unique feel to it, rough but with warmth at the same time, which is fitting the divided nature of the character.

On January 8 th, the role of Dea was played by Claire-Marie Hall. Kind and almost fragile, but still firm, Dea’s love for both Grinpayne and Ursus was evident in Hall’s acting. Her portrayal of the blind Dea was also very believable. Hall’s voice resonates perfectly with both Maskell’s and Kingsley’s.

Julian Bleach’s Barkilphedro is a rather uncharacteristically clown, acting as the narrator at times. Being detested by most characters and fitting the role of the villain to some extent, he is nonetheless one of the audience’s favourites. Addressing the audience and commenting on the play serves as his defining sources of humour. No words can describe Bleach’s erotic breakfast dance. It’s charm simply has to be experienced live.

It’s fun to watch Mark Anderson’s Dirry-Moir being a spectator of Grinpayne’s story along the audience. Taking his place in the orchestra pit, his reactions are almost distracting from the events on the stage. Dirry-Moir is not the only one of the siblings strangely attracted to Grinpayne. The sexual frustrated Josiana played by Amanda Wilkin develops an obsession after seeing Grinpayne. “Brand New World Of Feeling” not only depicts her seduction but also gives Wilkin the chance to show her singing talent. Julie Atherton as Angelica goes from a mute recluse to a firm Queen, almost as cruel as her father, to one of Grinpayne’s fans. The drastic character changes are believable portrayed by Atherton.

One of the most defining elements of the musical are its inclusion of puppetry designed by Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié. Depicting Grinpayne and Dea’s history through puppets adds to the fair atmosphere of the show, while also incorporating the backstory nicely into the plot. These puppets were only used during the retelling of their childhood. The shift from the puppets to the actors as Grinpayne and Dea got older was done in a very creative, almost magical and fluent way. Another highlight is the wolf Mojo, brought to life on stage by James Alexander-Taylor and Loren O’Dair. The movements feel so real that it’s easy to forget that it’s not a real animal on stage.

With its dark but alluring atmosphere “The Grinning Man” feels like a twisted fairy tale of sorts. Perhaps the song with the most ear-worm qualities “Never Seen a Face Like This” sums up the musical quite well. Because “if you have not seen him you will never understand.”

“The Grinning Man” now with an extended run in the Trafalgar Studios until April 14 th!

© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer
©
Fotos: Helen Maybanks


08.01.2018 - "Det Norske Teatret", Oslo (Norwegen)

THE BOOK OF MORMON

“The Book of Mormon” created by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone is definitely not a musical for the whole family. Violence, profanities and sexual themes are used throughout the show. Despite – or maybe because of the higher rating – the musical is a Broadway and West End hit and has now travelled to Norway. “The Book of Mormon” directed by Vidar Magnussen opened in Oslo’s Det Norske Teatret on September 2 nd.

The musical starts innocent enough as a light parody of Mormonism. In a short intro the history of the Book of Mormon is told with prophet Joseph Smith (Niklas Gundersen) entering the stage, sprouting the smile all Mormons have on their faces. At the age of nineteen every Mormon is sent out in the world as a missionary for two years. The ambitious Elder Kevin Price (Frank Kjosås) is looking forward to that mission, praying to God to send him to his favourite place in the whole world: Orlando. Reality has something else in store for Price. Together with the less ambitious Elder Arnold Cunningham (Kristoffer Olsen) he must go to Uganda.

It all goes downhill from there. Both Mormons realise that Africa is not quite as it is depicted in “The Lion King”. In addition, the other Mormons who have arrived before Price and Cunningham didn’t manage to convert one villager to Mormonism. Price’s attempt doesn’t work any better. Hunger, aids and a murderous warlord (Markus Bailey) are part of daily life, making it difficult to convert the disinterested villagers. Price loses more and more faith in both himself and his religion. Only as Cunningham bonds with Nabulungi (Anette Amelia Hoff Larsen), the daughter of the village chief (Marvin Amoroso), the tide seems to turn.

Arrogance and selfishness are not qualities that make a sympathetic person. However, Frank Kjosås manages to portray Price as a character unable to hate. While he mostly cares about himself, he shows concern for the other Mormons and villagers as well. One can’t help but to like him and later pity him because of everything he is put through – even though it’s often played for laughs. At least in the beginning, Kjosås mostly wears the typical smile on his face. Price’s true emotions shine through that mask, Kjosås manages to express them through facial expressions alone.

Cunningham acts as the exact opposite to Price. Having never read the bible – being too boring as he states – he prefers to make things up to convert the villagers to Mormonism. His lies have a noble cause to them, as he tries to make the text more accessible to the villagers and wants to help them. Kristoffer Olsen’s Cunningham is loud and sometimes irritating, but at the same time a nice person. Olsen possesses great comedic talent. He uses both small and big gestures, changes in his voice as well as slapstick to create humour. His performance is never over the top. Even running gags as him getting Nabulungis name wrong – calling her John Bon Jovi or Nintendo among other names – or his habit of putting his hand in other people’s faces stay funny throughout the musical. “Mann Opp” (“Man Up”) in which Cunningham decides to help the villagers after Price abandons him is one of the examples of Olsen’s talent. Here he shows that he can sing in a much deep voice suited to the heavy metal theme of the song.

One of the biggest source of the humour comes from the interactions between Kjosås and Olsen. Their interactions in “Du og Eg (Men Stort Sett Eg)” (“You and Me (But Mostly Me)”) indicates their different personalities. Price puts himself above Cunningham, who in turn tries to get to the front as well, ending in a Titanic-esque pose on top of the airport stairs. The relationship between Price and Cunningham serves as the heart of the show. Their declaration of friendship near the end of the musical is one of the emotional highlights, showing how both characters have changed.

Anette Amelia Hoff Larsen portrays Nabulungi as a strong girl that has endured much in her life, but who is still a little bit naïve. Her hope for a better life is fuelled by Cunningham’s stories of Salt Lake City. In “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” she expresses this dream, believing Cunningham will bring her to this perfect place. Hoff Larsen’s relationship with Olsen’s Cunningham is both funny and sweet. This is best expressed in “Døype Deg” (“Baptize Me”) in which Cunningham baptizes Nabulungi in a way that could stand for something else.

Playing the warlord, Markus Bailey acts as the villain of the show. His portrayal ranges from frightening to hilarious. Sometimes even both at the same time as his dance in “Mann Opp” proves, performing naked with machine guns in his hands. Bailey shows that he has a great voice, singing Lucifer in Price’s nightmare about hell in “Skikk’leg Skikk’leg Skummlet” (“Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”). His gigantic costume in this song resembling a red evil minion is one example of the great costumes by Ingrid Nylander – another worthy mention is a nightmarish, bloodstained Donald Duck appearing in the same song.

While a lot of jokes are obscene, offensive or a mix of both, the musical uses simpler and more innocent humour as well. (Facial) expressions from the ensemble often make a scene funnier. This starts in the opening “Hallo” (“Hello”) in which the Mormons try to promote their religion by ringing doorbells and grinning from one ear to the other. It’s amazing how long they all can keep up this grimace. Another example is “Skru Det Av” (“Turn It Off”), where the typical smile is explained as a Mormon coping mechanism. Instead of giving in to negative or even forbidden emotions the Mormons just “turn them off” and start smiling. On December 31 st, the song is led by Preben Hodneland as Elder McKinley – a role that is shared with Jonas Fuglevik Urstad. McKinley tries to keep his own sexuality repressed. He often fails as his feelings for Price couldn’t be more obvious, much to Price’s confusion.

Despite the satirical tone, there is no ill-will towards the musical from real Mormons. On the contrary, they use the success of the musical for promotion. With the slogan “The book is always better” they are giving away copies of the original Book of Mormon in front of Det Norske Teatret. Some even watched the show themselves, as one Mormon asked about one’s favourite song and stating his.

With all its offensive jokes, the Norwegian production miraculously manages to never go too far that one has to feel bad about oneself laughing along. Judging from the reactions from the audience and a lot of sold out performances “The Book of Mormon” is an enormous success in Norway too. Well deserved, since the whole cast – with special mention to the perfect duo Kjosås and Olsen – is worth experiencing live.

The Book of Mormon” playing at Det Norske Teatret in Oslo until December 30 th 2018!

© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer, © Fotos: "Det Norske Teatret"

14.12.2017 - Kopenhagen (Dänemark)

Interview with DILUCKSHAN JEYARATNAM
Moses in "The Prince of Egypt"

“The Prince of Egypt” based on the 1998 DreamWorks movie had its world premiere in Silicon Valley on October 6 th 2017 and will now be transferred to Denmark where it will open in Fredericia on April 6 th 2018. Having just finished his musical theatre program this June Diluckshan Jeyaratnam plays the lead character Moses in both productions and was kind enough to meet up to discuss working on this amazing project.

First of all, how did you get into acting?
I actually came into acting very late. I played music and sang since I was a little child, but it wasn’t until high school that I first played and saw musicals. I was totally blown away by all this amazing stuff that can happen on stage. Even then I didn’t think that I’d do it professionally. Instead, I took a degree in multimedia design. When I finished my degree, finding jobs wasn’t easy and I realised that even if I got a job as a multimedia designer I wouldn’t be happy. Because that’s not what I’m passionate about. What I’m really passionate about is music together with theatre and musicals. I applied for the musical theatre program in Fredericia and luckily I got accepted. Ever since then I have only pursued this career. It’s the only thing that really makes me happy.

Even though you have only just finished your theatre program, you’ve already starred in Fredericia’s acclaimed production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” as Clopin and now play Moses in the world premiere of “The Prince of Egypt”. How did you obtain the role of Moses?
It was the artistic director of Fredericia Teater Søren Møller who mentioned that they were going to do a show. At first, he didn’t tell me which show or role it was, only that it’s a big show and he thought I would be a good fit for one of the roles. Later on, I found out it was “The Prince of Egypt” and it was Moses he wanted me to audition for. Almost a week later, we had a video audition, where Stephen Schwartz and Scott Schwartz were on the other side and it was an amazing experience. When I finished the audition Søren asked me if I could stay for ten minutes. I waited, then he came through the door and said: “Well, you got it”. I literally got the role on the same day.

That’s amazing! Have you seen the DreamWorks movie before?
Yes, I watched it when I was a kid and I loved it. With “Hunchback” it’s still to this day one of my favourite animated movies. And I love it even more now, because I understand the adult themes better.

What would you say were the biggest challenges with the role of Moses?
The biggest challenge was that Moses is a person that everyone knows and has their own picture of how he is and should be. That made me question if I was the right one to do this. But when we started rehearsing I realised that I actually have to base him on myself and on my own values, because a lot of Moses’ beliefs and values are the same as mine. Also, our director Scott Schwartz and I wanted Moses to be more human than a heroic prince. We wanted him to be relatable. To do that was definitely one of the challenges, but to work with that was also one of the best things.

For the premiere in Silicon Valley you were in the US for two months. How did it feel to work and rehearse there?
I was actually nervous in the beginning, because I’ve never worked in the US before. I wasn’t sure how it will be different from Denmark and what the people will be like. The thing about theatre is that it’s about people and the chemistry on stage. But it was amazing. Everybody I’ve worked with was so sweet and welcoming. We were all really grateful to get the chance to be the first ones in the world to do this. It was an intense period. Our rehearsal period was about three and a half weeks before the previews and premiere. But it was what I hoped it to be and, actually, more than that. I really miss all of them. They are like my original “Prince of Egypt” family and, hopefully, I will see them again soon.

Speaking of the premiere; how was that?
It was amazing. We were nervous, because this was the very first time anyone in the world was going to see this. But the reaction was amazing. I talked with some audience members and they loved it. People came to me and thanked me for bringing this role to life. There were a lot of Jewish people that have grown up with Moses and this story and it was really touching when they told me I was perfect as Moses. 

After this premiere “The Prince of Egypt” now comes to Denmark. What are you most looking forward to work on in the Danish production?
I am really looking forward to see how it’s going to be different. I know it’s going to be bigger in Fredericia. Fredericia Teater is known for doing technically advanced stuff. I’m sure they are going to make the musical even more spectacular. And I’m really looking forward to see how the audience in Denmark will react to the show compared to the US. Also, I am excited to do it in Danish.

In Fredericia there will be both be performances in English and Danish. Do you think it will be a challenge to switch between those two languages?
We haven’t got the Danish script yet, rehearsals start at the beginning of February, so we will get the Danish script a few weeks before then. I’m comfortable with both languages, but the fact that we have to switch is definitely a big challenge. That’s why I’m happy that I got to do the English version so many times that I have memorized it. It’s not like I have to learn two completely new things at once. I’m happy for that. It’s definitely not going to be easy, but I am certain we can do it.

What would you say is the main reason why people should see this production in Fredericia?
I think people should definitely see it because of the story more than anything. It’s the exact beautiful story from the film and the musical goes even deeper in some stuff. For instance, it really focuses on the relationship between the two brothers Moses and Ramses. That makes it even sadder when they become enemies later on. We have more time to really show the bond between them and also between Moses and both his adopted and real family. In addition, People should see this production, because of the choreography. Choreographer Sean Cheesman did an amazing job in the US and now works on this production. We used the human body to show waves and plagues for example, so I think that the body movement together with the technical things will really make the musical look spectacular. People will definitely see a beautiful show.

You still have some time until rehearsals start again. Do you have any plans you want to share?
Sure, I am planning a few small things. An intimate concert I have been doing with a team of mine here in Fredericia and a concert in London this December. Otherwise I am honestly just going to relax and be with my family, since this is basically the first time since June I’ve had a vacation.

Thank you very much for the interview and best of luck for the concerts and “The Prince of Egypt”

© Interview: Lisa A. Murauer, © Fotos: Kevin Berne

2016.10.25 - Philadelphia - © Jordan August

14.12.2017 - England (London)

The Legend of Zelda - Symphony of the Goddesses
Live in Concert

1986 marked the birth of “The Legend of Zelda” when the first game was realised. Over 30 years later, the series has evolved into one of Nintendo’s most successful titles with 19 games released so far – not counting remakes or spin offs. Apart from the classical storyline – a fight between good and evil – and the ever-evolving gameplay mechanics this huge success of the series can undoubtedly be explained by the beautiful music composed by Koji Kondo. Along with the games the soundtrack has changed and improved, but the iconic theme is still the same as it was back in 1986. It’s fitting that this concert “The Legend of Zelda – Symphony of the Goddesses” begins with exactly that theme in their “Overture (2017)”.

Hearing a live orchestra is always an impressive experience by itself and “The Legend of Zelda – Symphony of the Goddesses” takes the audience on a journey. A journey through the rich soundtrack, reliving iconic moments from the games. This concert tour was created after the huge success of three concerts celebrating the 25 th anniversary of “The Legend of Zelda”. As with the anniversary concerts this tour is very successful as well, being presented in one of London’s major venues, the Eventim Apollo on the 21 st of November.

It’s not hard to see why the demand to experience this music live is so high. The soundtrack differs from game to game, capturing the mood of the respective story, characters and settings while still sharing a unique vibe, which makes them feel like they belong to the “Zelda” franchise. Upon hearing, players are instantly transported back when first experiencing the games. With music ranging from harp soli to orchestral tracks, there is something for everyone to enjoy – even if they have never played the games themselves.

The concert is designed as a five-movement symphony, changing between single music-titles and movements from specific games. Featuring both older and newer entries, the concert tells their stories through the selected musical pieces. Starting with the main theme, the music shifts to “Dragon Roost Island” from “The Wind Waker”. This playful melody transports the audience to an island inhabited by a human-bird species and the dragon living on top of the mountain. This theme is followed by a medley of “Majora’s Mask”, one of the game’s darker entries dealing with the impending destruction of a town by a falling moon. This dark atmosphere is perfectly illustrated by the music presented, getting gradually more unsettling as time runs out. The next medleys feature newer entries, namely “A Link Between Worlds” and “Breath of the Wild”. Upon hearing the peaceful music of “Breath of the Wild” the audience is instantly taken into the game’s vast open world.

While the game clips shown on the screen above the orchestra help with illustrating the stories being told, the live music always takes the centre of attention. Hearing the orchestra conducted by Giacomo Loprieno and the choir is truly a marvellous experience. With Loprieno’s teasing way of getting the audience to applaud louder and the playfulness the orchestra members present their musical instruments during the curtain call, it can be seen how much fun everybody had on that evening.

The cutscenes are not the only things shown on the screen. Messages from “The Legend of Zelda” creator Shigeru Miyamoto, producer and director Eiji Aonuma and musical director Koji Kondo offer a deeper insight into the creation of the games and the music.

The next part of the concert is a symphony starting with “Prelude – The creation of Hyrule”, telling how Hyrule – the setting of most games – was formed by the three goddesses that give the concert its respective name. This is followed by “Movement I – Skyward Sword” with themes ranging from that game’s main orchestral theme “Ballad of the Goddess” to other calmer themes, the theme of supporting character Fi for example. The first act closes with “Movement II – Ocarina of Time” – reliving the story through the music of the arguably most ground-breaking game in the series serves as a worthy finale before the intermission.

Act two opens with “Intermezzo – Temple of Time”, which evokes the atmosphere of a religious shrine. This choral piece is the one where the choir can truly shine. The next suite “Movement III – The Wind Waker” takes the audience on a journey over the vast ocean with music like “The great Sea” as well as reliving the story with “Aryll’s Theme” – Aryll being the sister of protagonist Link that gets captured – and its gloomy reprise, played upon finding her again in her dungeon.

The following “Movement IV – Twilight Princess” features more choral numbers, like the “Title Theme” or “Spirit’s Lament” and the orchestral “Hyrule Field”.

Movement V – Time of the Falling Rain” is made up from music from “A Link to the Past” the first game to feature themes like “Zelda’s Lullaby” or “Hyrule Castle” which have become iconic soundtracks of the series.

Despite its name the “Finale” is not the end of the concert. As a special bonus “Ballad of the Wind Fish” from “Link’s Awakening” and another rendition of “Breath of the Wild” make the true ending of the concert, reliving music from an older title and the newest addition to the franchise.

Loud cheers and applauding from the audience gave the concert its deserved ending. A few people even dressed up as characters from the series and quite a lot were humming tunes when leaving the theatre building. It’s amazing to see how many are touched by the games and their music, proving that the franchise is still thriving after three decades.

© Interview: Lisa A. Murauer

14.12.2017 - Kopenhagen (Dänemark)

Interview with MADS M. NIELSEN
as Director of ELF - The Musical

Mads M. Nielsen being famous in Denmark both as an actor and a director truly had a busy schedule this year – acting as Frollo in Fredericia’s production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, directing the newly written musical “(B)Romance” and the adaptation of Lena Kaaberbøl’s first book in the famous “Vildheks” (“Wildwitch”) series to name just a few of his projects. Despite that tight schedule, Mads still found time for an interview discussing his latest project – the Danish adaptation of “ELF – The Musical”, which opened in Tivolis Koncertsal on the 23 rd of November – as well as giving a tour around Tivoli. I couldn’t be more grateful for that and want to thank him very much.

How has it been working as a director on “ELF – The Musical”?
It’s been amazing. It has been very hard, because it’s a big show. And we’re behind – we’re always behind – but this also helps with making the right decisions in such a short time. I can’t change my mind. When somebody suggests a different way of doing something to save time I either have to let go of the original plan or stick to it and make it work somehow. So, you have to choose your battles. You have to kill your darlings, but some darlings you have to save.

Since the movie is so well known and popular, was it difficult to transport it to the stage?
No, I don’t think that was difficult. Actually, I think the musical is even better than the movie. The jokes often work better on stage. It’s hard to have grown-up stuff in a kid’s movie, but in the theatre you have more levels. There is one level for the kids and another one for the grown-ups. Also, you can’t stop theatre in the middle of the performance and rewind. It’s ongoing. You can’t go back and ask yourself: “Is that character allowed to say that?”  

So, the musical differs from the movie?
We have rewritten it, so that it takes place in Denmark. Instead of Manhattan it’s set in Copenhagen and we changed Central Park into Tivoli. We have also incorporated H.C. Andersen into the story. It’s kind of a personal rendition.

What were the differences working as a director on “ELF” compared to your previous projects?
“Vildheks” was about making a new language, inventing a new way to tell a story through theatre, kind of like a music video. It was a show to get kids to be physical and the songs were used to start that movement. Compared to that, “ELF” is a really classical musical-comedy with a lot of dancing and spectacular numbers, but with a modern touch as well. “ELF” is also the biggest show I’ve ever done. So, the biggest challenge for me as the director has been to make everybody happy and to be there for everybody.

What is the main reason why people should see “ELF”?
“ELF” is supposed to get the whole family to laugh together. Maybe sometimes they’re laughing at something only dad gets or that only the smallest gets, but hopefully they experience this feeling of being together. To go to this theatre here in Tivoli – which is a magical place in itself – and to have a unifying experience.

Tivoli really is a special place and with the Christmas atmosphere there couldn’t be a more perfect location for “ELF”. At the time of the interview, they were still in the middle of preparing Tivoli for the upcoming Christmas season, closed to the general public. Despite the constructions happening, the magical atmosphere could already be felt upon entering.

© Mads M.Nielsen

How far is it different working as a director compared to working as an actor?
As an actor, I always try to encourage everything around me to be good. It’s easier for me to work good, when the show around me is good, as well. But if it comes down to it, I also can be less social and more egoistic. Because then my only job is to make me work. But when working as a director I have to be social. My job is to make everyone else work. And we get more production value when everybody in the production is happy. So, I have to think about everyone and take my time for them.

What advice would you give to someone – or maybe your younger self – who aspires to be a director?
Don’t. (laughs)
I think you really have to know, why you want to direct. If you want to direct, because you want to be in charge of everything, then you shouldn’t direct. The truth is, you are not in charge of everything. It is your job to make everybody in the different departments work together and to make everybody happy.

What is your reason for directing?
For me it’s to bring people together. To get them away from movies and their phones and bring them together in the theatre. 

Speaking of the theatre, upon entering the auditorium there were quite a lot of production workers rehearsing.

Even in your spare time, you’re all working?
Yeah, we have a tight production schedule. Everybody is working like maniacs in their breaks as well. It’s a full day today. I had a long meeting with the props designer and then a PR meeting, then four hours rehearsal with the choreographer, then a tech rehearsal for Santa’s sleigh, now I’m talking to you and then I’m going back having a run through. And then I’m doing lights tonight. It will be over by 3 o’clock tonight.

Is it different to work with a big or small stage when directing?
It’s of course a lot of fun working with the big stage, but also more challenging. When you’re doing a show like “(B)Romance” on the small stage underneath Det Ny Teater you can get into the eyes of the performers. You can’t do that here. But this set has a kind of romantic touch – kind of like the Golden Age musicals – to it, with big entrances and the stairs. You can do a lot of comedy there.

What would be the one project you would love to direct in the future?
“Dracula”. But I would also like to play Dracula, so that would be kind of a sticky situation.

You want to do a scarier show?
Yes, I’d love to. But I would also love to direct a Disney show, like “Mulan”. I think Thit [Aaberg who played main character Clara in “Vildheks”] would be perfect as Mulan. She has the right energy and confidence for the role. I’d love to do “Mulan” with her.

Have you anything specific planned after your work on “ELF” is finished?
No, not really. Maybe get back to acting a little bit. I think the next challenge for me is to do some theatre again. But let’s see. At the moment, my focus is to get “ELF” as good as possible.

Thank you again for this interview and this unique tour around Tivoli, Mads, and best of luck for all your future projects!

“ELF – The Musical” opened on the 23 rd of November and you can read the review already on our website. See the musical now in Tivolis Koncertsal in Copenhagen until the 26 th of December!

© Interview: Lisa A. Murauer

Foto © Tivoli PR

25.11.2017 - Kopenhagen (Dänemark)

ELF - The Musical

Christmas is saved!

Even though there is still one month to go, Christmas has officially come to Copenhagen with “Elf – the Musical”. Humour for the whole family, catchy songs bound to get stuck in your head and a heart-warming story with hilarious and interesting characters – this show has it all and brings out the child in the adults and the Christmas spirit into the heart of everyone. Performed in Tivolis Koncertsal in the heart of Tivoli no other setting could be more perfect for this festive musical. Christmas lights, the smell of cinnamon, Danish æbleskiver and gløgg, the whole atmosphere of Tivoli already puts the audience in the right mood before entering the enormous theatre.

Foto © Annett Ahrends

Based on the hit movie starring Will Ferrell, “Elf – the Musical” directed by Mads M. Nielsen is rewritten with the Danish audience in mind. The story told by Santa Claus himself follows Brormand. Brormand, despite being human, was raised by Santa and his elves in Greenland, after landing there by accident, believing himself to be an elf, too. When he discovers his true heritage, Brormand sets out to find his real father and travels to Copenhagen. There are just two problems: Brormand’s father Verner Holt doesn’t know about Brormand’s existence and, what is even worse, he is on the naughty list for not believing in Santa anymore. 

With the changed setting from New York to Denmark the story gets a lot more personal. Especially for the younger audiences this rewrite makes the story more relatable as the characters visit places they have been to – such as Tivoli itself. There are a lot of references and jokes about Danish culture, even H.C. Andersen is featured in the story in a clever rewrite of an essential scene of the movie that could not be realised on stage. Apart from incorporating Denmark the musical takes a modern take on the movie, as well. For example, Santa’s nice or naughty list is replaced by an iPad, and apparently Santa plays Angry Birds on it. 

Foto © Annett Ahrends

It’s an absolute joy watching Pelle Emil Hebsgaard as Brormand. He brings so much energy with him every moment he comes on stage. With his bright nature he lights up the room whenever he appears. His jokes are on point and he manages to get a laugh from the audience with ease. Noteworthy is “En rar superfar” (“World's Greatest Dad”), where Brormand sets out to find his dad in Copenhagen, which features an amazing set with cardboard figures of known Copenhagener sights and buildings like the Axel Towers. In addition, a hilarious giant rabbit gliding with Brormand over the stage gets a laugh from both young and old audiences. Both the set and the costume were designed by Astrid Lynge Ottosen. With all the humour there are still serious moments, which Hebsgaard portrays just as well. Seeing him abandoned by his real father is absolutely heart-breaking. When not being the centre of attention it’s still often hard not to focus on Hebsgaard. He’s always on his feet and makes the audience wonder what he is up to next. He truly brings this character to life and makes the audience relate to him with ease. 

Foto © Annett Ahrends

Christiane Schaumburg-Müller takes up the role of Julie who works in the Christmas isles and Brormand instantly falls in love with her. Being not easily impressed by Brormand’s advances Julie slowly warms up to him, a change which Schaumburg-Müller portrays perfectly. Whereas the romance felt quite rushed in the movie, both characters get fleshed out more and their interactions are made more believable. Schaumburg-Müller performing “Brormands Julesang” (“A Christmas Song”) with Hebsgaard shows their great chemistry and both actors can showcase their voices as well. It’s impossible to not still hear the song when leaving the theatre and hard not to hum along, too. 

Niels Ellegaard portrays Brormand’s father Verner Holt. In the beginning, Holt is only interested in his work, neglecting his family and doesn’t want to have anything to do with Brormand. Over the course of the story he accepts Brormand as his son little by little and realises that family is more important than his work. Ellegaard does a convincing job portraying his character’s transformation.

Foto © Miklos Szabo

Michael Holt – the little brother of Brormand – is played by either Julian Horta Meier Clausen, Mathias Aurdal Holmberg or Oliver Arndt De Thurah. At the premiere, the role was taken up by Julian Horta Meier Clausen. He can show his great voice and acting especially in “Tro på dig” (“I'll Believe in You”), and ”Den ægte julemand” (“There Is a Santa Claus”), where Michael starts to believe in Santa Claus for real again. These songs are both duets with Julie Steincke as Michael’s mother Mille Holt. Steincke portrays a kind and loving mother to both Michael and later to Brormand as well. This kindness doesn’t stop her from taking a stand against her husband when she tries to convince him to search for Brormand. 

Santa Claus is portrayed by Tommy Kenter who also plays Verner Holt’s fearsome boss Hr. Grønkjær. The two characters couldn’t be more different. Even though there sometimes is not much time between changing, Kenter gets into each role with ease.

Foto © Annett Ahrends

They are joined by Camilla Bendix as Holt’s secretary Kit, her idea for a Christmas story involving a human leg is bound to have the audience burst into laughter, and Mikkel Lomborg as the Magasin’s shop owner where Brormand briefly works at. His fast interactions with Brormand are one of the funniest moments in the show.  

With an enormous cast there is always something happening on stage. It’s worth focusing on the background during the musical numbers watching the interactions of the ensemble. A special mention here to Christian Lund and Søren Bech-Madsen who together with Camilla Bendix have the audience burst into laughter as they try to help Holt come up with a Christmas story by gesturing wildly. The whole ensemble portrays a vast area of different characters, bringing something unique to every one of them.

Foto © Annett Ahrends

The scenography features lots of stairs on the big stage, which often get used for humorous purposes. The bright, colourful lights – reminding of festive decorations – on the stairs’ edges illustrate a Christmas atmosphere. The highlight of the used props has to be Santa’s sleigh flying of the stage in the grand finale. The audience was up on their feet applauding for the final curtain call at the end of the premiere on November 23 rd

“Elf – the Musical” is the show to get ones Christmas spirits high. It’s a feel-good musical for the whole family to come together. With jokes for everybody to laugh at, there couldn’t be a better way to pass the time until Christmas. This sense of togetherness, being in company with one’s loved ones and just having a good time with them, is what Christmas is truly about. So, until then everybody should experience the magic of both Tivoli and “Elf – the Musical.”

 © Bericht: Lisa A. Murauer

24.11.2017 - Wales Millenium Centre (Wales)

TIGER BAY - The Musical

The new Welsh musical „Tiger Bay The Musical“, directed by Melly Still and co-director Max Barton, had its world premiere just on the 13 th of November in the Wales Millennium Centre. With the script written by South African author Michael Williams whose ancestors are from Wales and music by Welsh composer Daf James the musical couldn’t be more connected to the Welsh culture. In addition, many of the cast members are Welsh, as well. 

The musical takes place in the name giving Tiger Bay, the dockland area nearest to Cardiff, in the early 1900s. Tension is high as both immigrants from all over the world and the local “Donkeymen”, the workers who pushed the carts of coal, often live in extreme poverty. Themba (Dom Hartley-Harris) comes to Cardiff after having lost his wife and son. As he starts to work as a “Donkeyman” he meets young Ianto (shared by Louise Harvey and Ruby Llewelyn), an orphan who leads a gang of orphaned boys in the bay. Ianto recently stole something from the Third Marquess of Bute (John Owen-Jones) and when Themba protects Ianto from his cruel boss O’Rourke (Ian Virgo), an unlikely friendship begins. Meanwhile Rowena (Vikki Bebb) struggles with her given role in society along with the decision if she should marry O’Rourke, not knowing that he has mistress Klondike (Busisiwe Ngejane) on the side. And as it turns out this affair is not the only thing O’Rourke tries to hide. There are far darker secrets in his past, which connects him directly to Themba. 

John Owen-Jones as Bute gives a convincing performance, conveying the despair of Bute about losing his wife and not knowing where his son is. The soft melody sung by John Owen-Jones in Welsh in the opening is hauntingly stunning. His solo “Mary”, where Bute mourns his wife and “Shadowland” are just as beautiful. Especially “Shadowland”, which is performed by most of the main characters, is bound to get stuck in one’s head. 

While Bute can’t let go of his past, Themba, who is in a similar position, tries to leave his past behind and begin a new life. Dom Hartley-Harris’s portrayal of Themba’s struggle to let go and start anew and the bond with Ianto makes the audience easily sympathise with him. When his past catches up in “This is the Man” the struggle becomes a different one as Themba’s more merciless side comes through. Dom Hartley-Harris also shares the nostalgic duet “Taste of Home” with Vikki Bebb as Rowena. Their voices sound great together and one really sees the home they both describe in this song. 

Rowena goes from a woman not knowing if she should accept her role in society to a strong minded individual, standing up for her own and other’s rights. “Who I am” shows her change perfectly, Vikki Bebb rightfully earns a long applause after this performance. 

Acting as the antagonist, Noel Sullivan gives a convincing performance as O’Rourke judging from the booing, which he receives from the audience during the curtain call. Only out for his own profit O’Rourke doesn’t shy away from violence. Noel Sullivan possesses a great voice, which he can showcase in “Harbour Master of Your Heart”, which he sings with Rowena. This key and atmosphere change in this song is also amazingly done, as the light, romantic tone shifts into a darker one when Busisiwe Ngejane as mistress Klondike sings. 

The heart of the musical is Ianto, played by Ruby Llewelyn at this performance – evening on the 18 th of November. With a cheerful and witty attitude Ianto provides a lot of the humour of the show and steals himself easily into the heart of the audience and especially Ianto’s emotional bond with both Themba and Bute is heart-warming. By the end of the musical the audience gets to see how many characters of the musical connect to Ianto in their own, different ways, which creates one of the most beautiful and moving moments of the evening. It’s clear that Ruby Llewelyn is a rising star and possesses an immense talent. “My Name is John”, where O’Rourke forces Ianto to convince Bute of being his lost son, is the song where she truly shines, giving her the opportunity to switch between a range of emotions at a moment’s notice, which she does with ease. 

The musical features a large talented ensemble. Special mention deserve Suzanne Packer as the kind local pub owner Marisha, Rhidian Marc who can show his amazing voice as both Rowena’s firm boss Mr. Locke and the cruel First Mate who takes pleasure in punishing the orphan boys, Lee Dillon-Stuart as “Donkeyman” Gavin and bay resident Bogdan among other ensemble roles and manages to give each of these roles a distinct personality, and, of course, all the kids playing the orphaned gang. Not only is there always something happening on the stage, there are moments in the show where the auditorium becomes involved in the performance, as well. For example when the “Donkeymen” come in through the auditorium entrances handing out leaflets that fall from the ceiling and march on the stage. 

While this story is fictional, it draws upon real events and characters. Both Bute and Leonora Piper (Liz May Brice), a spirit medium supposed to help Bute in finding his lost son, really existed. These connections to reality make the story much more powerful. The inclusion of not only Welsh but also other languages, for example Zulu as spoken by Themba, illustrate the multicultural setting of Tiger Bay. Though the musical takes place in the past, a lot of issues addressed are highly relevant today. Without wanting to give too much away, while the ending is not a completely happy one, the main theme of the show is about a sense of community. 

At the end of the evening the cast rightfully earned their standing ovation for their performance. “Tiger Bay” proves that sometimes the best stories are the ones found right at our doorsteps. Despite being so deeply connected to Cardiff’s history, there is a lot in this musical for audiences from literally all over the world to relate to.

© Bericht: Lisa A. Murauer
© Fotos: Polly Thomas

20.11.2017 - Kopenhagen (Dänemark)

Annie Get Your Gun

The Danish production of “Annie Get Your Gun” directed by Daniel Bohr already sets the tone of the musical with the grand opening “Der’ intet, der slår showbusiness” (“There's No Business Like Show Business”). All cast members perform together on the bright and opulent stage, creating a showbiz feeling from the very first moment on. 

The musical is loosely based on the remarkable lives of Annie Oakley and Frank Butler. It tells the story of farm girl Annie who becomes part of the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show company after winning against former Wild West show star Frank Butler in a shooting contest. Annie is instantly smitten by Frank and the two become a successful duo in the company. Annie gains popularity and even overshadows Frank, who in turn leaves Annie and the company for good. As Annie becomes the first female show star she has to decide what’s more important to her. Her career or her love for Frank?

Maria Lucia Heiberg Rosenberg takes on the lead role of Annie Oakley. She perfectly depicts both Annie’s confidence – especially in her shooting abilities – and her nervousness and romantic feelings concerning Frank Butler. In the beginning, Annie is more of a tomboy, speaking in slang and wearing “unfeminine” clothes. However, the more time she spends with the company – and when she wants to impress Frank Butler – the more often she wears dresses and seems to care more about her appearance. One thing Annie never loses is her bright nature. It’s heart-warming to see her with her younger siblings (portrayed in this performance by Nikolaï Havrehed, Julie Vangaa Knudsen, Victoria Kristiane Bech, Thora Marie Lind Wilhardt) and with Chief Sitting Bull (Asger Reher) who becomes a father to Annie and even tries – in his way – to help Annie get back with Frank.

The role of Frank Butler, which is normally played by Carsten Svendsen, was performed by Jesper Paasch on this evening – November 10 th. Paasch did an amazing job portraying Butler as a confident and quite arrogant individual. He struts around in a manner comparable to a peacock, especially when he shows off his skills. Being originally the lead in Buffalo Bill’s (Flemming Krøll) Wild West show he gets gradually more irritated by Annie’s success, which later overshadows his own. On the other side, it becomes evident that he truly cares about Annie. Maria Lucia and Jesper Paasch are fun to watch together and their great chemistry can especially be felt in “Hvad som helst du ka’ gør’“(“Anything You Can Do”), where the two try to outbid each other in pretty much everything, and in their heart-warming duet “De Si’r At Kærlighed Er Vidunderlig”(“They Say It’s Wonderful”).

Anne Suppli as Frank Butler’s assistant and former lover Dolly Tate acts as a sort of rival to Annie. She is dismissive of both the unladylike Annie and the romance between her sister Winnie and Tommy, whom she dislikes, because he is part Native American. Like (most of) the rest of the cast Dolly gets her happy ending and ends up with Charlie Devenport (Kim Hammelsvang).

The bright scenography was done by Paul Farnsworth (who also did the costumes). The puppets used range from farm animal to the bigger horse and the absolutely huge figure of Queen Victoria or others used during Annie’s tour through Europe to represent the different nationalities in a funny way. There are many ideas that help to illustrate the showbiz feeling. One highlight were the puppets used in the ballroom scene where Annie and Frank meet up again after Annie’s European tour. The ensemble dances with them – the puppets are all differently dressed, as well – and later interacts with them during “Elsker du en, mit håb“(“Who Do You Love, I Hope”) sung by the second love pair Tommy (Mikkel Moltke Hvilsom) and Winnie (Maria Corydon).

Seats on stage offered a special opportunity to get closer to what’s happening on stage, too. And while there might be some parts which can be seen better from the auditorium, other things are specifically performed for the stage audience, as well.

Since the musical was written in the 1940s, the story sometimes seems a little cliché. While a woman protagonist and show star with kind of masculine character traits was at that time surely very innovative, there are some plot points that – when seen from a modern perspective – feel a little outdated. Nevertheless, the emotions portrayed convincingly by the whole cast, their great performance when singing and acting, the fresh ideas – especially when scenography is concerned – and the often well-known and catchy songs make “Annie Get Your Gun” a feel-good musical, which promises and delivers lots of fun. There were plenty of people clapping along to the songs and the evening was closed with a standing ovation.

© Bericht: Lisa A. Murauer
© Fotos: Miklos Szabo / Titelbild: Nils Ditlev

03.11.2017 - "The Drayton Arms Theatre", London (England)

When-Midnight-Strikes

“When Midnight Strikes” – with the story by Kevin Hammonds and music by Charles Miller – takes the audience to New York back in 1999. Jennifer (Elizabeth Chadwick) and Christopher (Simon Burr) host a party at their apartment to celebrate New Year’s Eve. It’s the end of a millennium and along with new resolutions come new beginnings. The party gets more complicated as Jennifer has reasons to suspect that Christopher is not faithful and that the woman in question is at the party herself...

It’s a small stage on the first floor of “The Drayton Arms Theatre”. The scenery doesn’t change, it depicts a New York apartment with a balcony in the back. This smallness of the stage is a nice contrast to the large ensemble. It often fills the whole stage when all characters appear together, truly giving the feeling of a crowded party. Producers Elizabeth Chadwick and Marc Kelly – the latter acts as the director as well – have found the perfect venue to tell this story.

There is always something happening on stage. While some characters are performing, it’s interesting to see what the others are doing. Even when they are not the centre of attention, their personalities and the relationships to each other shine through. An example is “Shut up”, where each character, while mingling with the other guests, expresses their annoyances with their speaking partner. These interactions add a lot of humour to the show, other highlights are “Party Conversation” sung by the rather awkward Edward (Andrew Truluck) and uninvited neighbour Muriel (Victoria Waddington) finally acting on their feelings for each other and “We’re here” featuring the arrival of Jennifer’s sister Twyla (Georgina Nicholas) and her best friend Bradley (Marc Kelly). There are touching moments as well, as, for example, “I never learned to type” by party hostess Josephina (Ellie Nunn), who is lamenting her dream to become an actress. 

Invited party guests – including Christopher’s brother Greg (James Dangerfield) or friends Nicole (Stephanie Lysé) and Rachel (Marcia Sommerford) – as well as unexpected guests – as Alex (Matthew Boyd) brought along, because he has nowhere else to go – all share their own story throughout the performance. Each member of the cast manages to portray a complex character. Be it Christopher’s best friend Zoe (Victoria George) using her shallowness to hide her true feelings for Christopher, or Twyla seemingly heartbroken, because her boyfriend couldn’t make it to the party, everybody has hidden depths and sometimes hidden secrets, too. Unfortunately, this large ensemble means that it is not possible for the audience to get to know all characters as much as one would hope. There simply isn’t enough time in the musical to give everybody the attention they would deserve.

Nonetheless, humour, music fitting the story’s atmosphere, interesting character interactions and an unexpected ending make this – rarely performed – musical a memorable experience outside the main West End shows.

© Bericht: Lisa A. Murauer
© Fotos: Thomas Scurr

20.10.2017 - "The Vaults Theatre", London (England)

Join the Tribe and celebrate the 50th anniversery year of  HAIR

In London ist es seit dem 11. Oktober wieder haarig. Zum 50-jährigen Jubiläum des Musicals „Hair“ unternehmen Zuschauer eine wahrhafte Zeitreise in die 60er Jahre, wenn sie durch die Tore des Theaters „The Vaults“ schreiten. In einem intimen Rahmen wird das Publikum eingeladen, ein Teil des Tribes zu werden. Auch wenn 50 Jahre vergangen sind, „Hair“ könnte kaum aktueller sein, wie diese Produktion zeigt.

Stepping through the gates of „The Vaults Theatre“ feels like travelling back in time. Back into the 60s where the musical “Hair” takes place. “Hair” changed the musical theatre forever, showing what can be put on stage, breaking down barriers and fighting against both racism and discrimination fifty years ago. The opening of this production with speeches from Donald Trump that transform into speeches about the Vietnam War makes one realise that all these issues are still relevant today.

“’Hair’ is a reminder that while we might think we have come so far – and in a way we have – that maybe we haven’t changed as much as we would have liked and we should keep fighting”, says Koryann Stevens, who plays Mary.

 “There is a message”, director Jonathan O’Boyle says. “About diversity, equality, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights, about nuclear war and peace. That’s all still really present. Look at America today and what they’re going through with violence and with the way their current president is operating. The show is really permanent and it’s quite sad that fifty years on those issues haven’t been resolved.”

At the same time “Hair” is not only a grim reminder of what hasn’t changed, but also about having a good time. Natalie Green, who plays Cassie, says: “If you go out feeling miserable, then something is wrong with you.”

It is hard to summarise what the musical is about. “Hair” is about a hippie tribe and each tribe member brings their own story to the show, while the Vietnam War constantly lurks in the background. Claude (Robert Metson) is pressured by his parents – played by members of the cast Daniel Bailey and Natalie Green – to enlist in the army and fight in the Vietnam War. The rest of the tribe tries to convince him not to give in to that pressure. Especially Claude’s best friend Berger (Andy Coxon) and Sheila (Laura Johnson) try to convince him to stay.

This fifty-year anniversary production is based on the critical acclaimed Manchester production which played at the “Hope Mill Theatre”, sharing the same director and many of the cast members.

“The cast from Manchester had a lot of input from the new people who brought their own ideas and creativity to the production. At the same time, the new members had a lot of security the existing cast members brought with them about how the show works”, says Jonathan O’Boyle about working with both new and old cast members. “The energy , which is really important to the show, they bring is extraordinary.”

This energy can especially be felt in the powerful “The Flesh Failures/Eyes Look Your Last” which transforms into “Let The Sun Shine In”, a performance which is bound to give the audience goose bumps.

With its rich theatre history and many different productions all around the world, why should people come and see this production in particular?

“It is different”, says Liam Ross-Mills playing Woof – a character that loves both plants and Mick Jagger and has a memorable moment when he is being swung around in the American flag. “You wouldn’t have seen anything like it before.”

“It’s intense, funny, sad. It’s real life”, adds Natalie Green.

“This production of ‘Hair’ is unlike any show I have ever seen. It’s immersive, it works on the idea of a group of people coming together. I think it’s exciting, even for people that have never experienced theatre before”, says Robert Metson.

“Our main intention was to breathe a little bit of new life into it – not that it needs that, because it’s fantastic – but to reinvent it for a new and younger audience”, says Jonathan O’Boyle. “We really wanted to immerse the audience in the show, because the more we worked on “Hair” the more we realised that the show is for the audience. The audience is as much part of the show as the music or the characters or the story, so we wanted to include them, which I think we have achieved.”

The audience is the heart of this production and the audience participation makes every performance unique in its own way. “We were doing a show a couple of nights ago and about fifty people started singing “Good morning star shine” along with us and we were like: this is so cool. Everyone just knows the songs”, Liam Ross-Mills remembers.

With only about 200 seats in the auditorium “The Vaults” offers the right place for a truly intimate and personal performance. The actors are never far away, always ready to come into the audience. “From the get-go we are there with you, the audience walks in on stage and we come out in the audience. And no matter where you are, we find a way to get to you”, says Robert Metson.

They do find a way to get to you. Be it touching you or your hair, talking to you or reacting to you. One memorable moment is before and during the performance of the song “Hair”. Margaret Mead played by Patrick George introduces her husband Gilbert, who in that performance – the evening show on October 12 th – was a man from the audience sitting next to his girlfriend. During the song Margaret takes her place between the couple, constantly interacting with “Gilbert” and other members of the audience. This interaction made it quite hard – in a good way – to focus on the song, which is a fast, energetic number featuring an amazing choreography by William Whelton.

“If you come more than once, you would see a completely different show, depending on where you sat and because we are all going around, you can focus on different people who all tell a completely different story. It’s normal life. It’s watching people just be people and following their stories”, Kirsten Wright, who plays the naïve and sweet Crissy, says.

“We invite the audience in straight away”, says Liam Ross-Mills. “Right in the beginning we say: You are one of us.” Coming into the auditorium before the show starts, the whole cast is sitting in circle in the middle of the stage with their eyes closed, illustrating the broken barrier between audience and actors. The smell and the whole atmosphere makes the room feel like a different world and for the next two hours it becomes just that.

“Hair” really emphasizes the importance of every member of the cast. Everybody plays an essential part. This becomes apparent right at the start when the whole cast comes together in the opening song “Aquarius” sung by Shekinah McFarlane as Dionne. Even with a large ensemble, everybody manages to portray distinct characters that are memorable in their own way. Be it Adam Dawson as Jude, Abiola Efunshile as Tia, Jammy Kasongo as Hud or Jessie May as Jeannie.

When the audience fills the stage at the end of the show, dancing with the cast members, they truly become one with the tribe. “Our aim is to make the audience feel like part of the show as much as possible. That’s what’s really special about this show to me. The sense of community that we are all on this journey together and we are there as a group”, Robert Metson adds. This sense of community truly gives “Hair” its magic. That magic which puts one in a good mood, when leaving the theatre, still hearing the songs inside the head. As Natalie Green says about “Hair”: “If you go out feeling miserable, then something is wrong with you.”

Many thanks to Natalie Green, Koryann Stevens, Kirsten Wright, Liam Ross-Mills, Robert Metson and Jonathan O’Boyle for the insightful interviews.

Das Musical wird bis zum 13. Jänner 2018 aufgeführt. Wer also während dieser Zeit einen London-Tripp plant, sollte sich die Show nicht entgehen lassen.

Nähere Infos findest du unter: www.hair50.com

© Bericht: Lisa A. Murauer
© Fotos: Claire Bilyard

20.10.2017 - "Det Ny Teater", Kopenhagen (Dänemark)

(B)ROMANCE - The Musical (The Show)
A brand new Danish musical

The brand-new Danish musical „(B)Romance – en musical“ opened on October 14 th – following a four-year production process. The musical is presented on the small stage “OFF Det Ny” under “Det Ny Teater” in Copenhagen. “OFF Det Ny” was created by the producer of “(B)Romance” Kasper Beknes and the stage fits the intimate story perfectly. 

“(B)Romance” tells the story of Frederik (Morten Hemmingsen) and William (Johannes Nymark). Inseparable since childhood their friendship is put to the test when both men fall in love with Ellen (Selene Muñoz), who is caught in her love to both men. 

What sounds like a typical love-story is much more than that. Without wanting to give away too much, at its core, “(B)Romance” is not about the love-triangle, but about friendship.

The scenery, which is designed by Benjamin La Cour, is simple and keeps the focus on the cast. The three actors are what the show is about and nothing should – and nothing does – take the attention from them. Much is required of the cast – not only because they are constantly the focus of the show. Morten Hemmingsen and Johannes Nymark transform from old men into kids in front of the audience. Through the play they portray Frederik and William at different periods in their lives and neither masks, nor different costumes are being used. Hemmingsen and Nymark just use their bodies to depict these changes and different ages of their characters. Their acting alone is convincing enough to see two old men instead of these two young actors on stage. 

One highlight is definitely “Hvem er du” (“Who are you”), a dance-number performed by the old Frederik and William in the retirement home as they try to remember who the other person is. 

Hemmingsen and Nymark are the perfect pair. The close friendship between Frederik and William is clear to see right from the start. This makes it easy to laugh with them and later to suffer with them as their friendship begins to crumble.

Watching Hemmingsen and Nymark act together would make this musical worth to watch, but it is Selene Muñoz who makes “(B)Romance” truly stand out. She acts as the narrator and tells the story in a very distinct way. Other than Hemmingsen and Nymark, she never sings. Actually, she does not even say any word during the entire performance. The story and Ellen’s feelings are revealed through dancing and, interestingly, Ellen’s intentions often seem to be clearer and more open than those of the two men. Even when Muñoz doesn’t appear as Ellen on stage, Ellen’s presence can always be felt. This moving presentation of the story also helps those not fluent in Danish to understand what is happening, for dancing is a language with no spoken language barriers. Muñoz‘ depiction of Ellen gives the conflict between Frederik and William more credibility and thus makes it more powerful. She makes it easy to understand why both men are captivated by Ellen. 

Since the scenery doesn’t take the attention away from the main cast, the details concerning their costumes are much more apparent. Hemmingsen and Nymark both wear an almost identical grey and black suit, only that the colour scheme is reversed. This makes a nice contrast between the two men and to Selene Muñoz, who is the only one who changes costume. 

“(B)Romance” was written and composed by Mikkel Petterson and Christian Berg. Their songs are catchy and make it easy to hum along. Some melodies make one wonder if one hasn’t heard them before, as they seem sort of familiar and sometimes have an – in a good way – old-fashioned touch. At the same time, they also sound new and modern. 

To make the musical come to life they received help from Andreas Garfield who wrote the dialogue and director Mads M. Nielsen. They both put a lot of input into the story and their hard work can be seen when watching the performance.

The whole creative team made “(B)Romance” into the musical it is now. A truly special musical indeed, with a story that is not only told through music and dialogue, but also through dancing. Everything fits together and nothing plays a bigger part than the other. With humour and big emotions “(B)Romance” tells a story about love – be it love in friendship or romantic love – and forgiveness. It is forgiveness that the most moving moment in the show is about: The moment when Frederik and William find each other after all these years and finally make their peace with each other. To sum their story up, it makes sense to use words from the musical, “We are born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship we can, for a moment, create an illusion that we aren’t.”

“(B)Romance – en musical” can be seen in Copenhagen “OFF Det Ny” until November 2 nd. A wish remains that “(B)Romance” will live on beyond that date. The premiere was met with standing ovations and applause, so hopefully that wish will become reality.

© Bericht: Lisa A. Murauer
© Fotos: Det Ny Teater

28.09.2017 - "Gamle Scene" des Königlichen Theaters in Kopenhagen" (Dänemark)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

(Klokkeren Fra Notre Dame)

Never before has the musical “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” been produced in Scandinavia. Fredericia’s production called “Klokkeren fra Notre Dame” became an instant success after celebrating its premiere in Fredericia. On June 23 rd, the musical opened at The Royal Theatre’s “Gamle Scene” in Copenhagen, where it even got an extended run. Apart from obtaining raving reviews Fredericia’s production also received the price for “Best musical” at this year’s “Årets Reumert”, the annual Danish theatre awards.

The Story:
The story takes place in Paris at the end of the 15 th century. The hunchbacked Quasimodo lives in the towers of Notre Dame working as a bell ringer. His only human contact is his foster father, the archdeacon Claude Frollo, who advises Quasimodo to stay hidden in the church seemingly for his own protection. On the day of the Festival of the Fools – where the ostracised gypsies attend as well – Quasimodo decides to leave Notre Dame for the first time.
At the festival, he meets the gypsy dancer Esmeralda. Not only Quasimodo but also captain Phoebus and Frollo are captivated by her dance. Especially Frollo develops an unhealthy obsession with Esmeralda. After she turns him down, he sees no other way to free himself from his madness but to kill her – even if that means having to burn down the whole city.

The intention of this production was to take the story from the stage to the audience and to take the audience into the story no matter where the audience members would sit. For that reason, the scenography – designed beautifully by Benjamin La Cour who got a price for this work at “Årets Reumert” – is something special. A catwalk, which the actors even leave at times, leads into the auditorium. With the use of video projectors, one gets the feeling of being in Notre Dame itself and the changes of scenery – when it seems to move from the ground floor of the church to Quasimodo’s towers or the absolute glorious shift from “Heaven’s Light” to “Hellfire” – contribute to a unique theatrical experience.

One innovation allows a special interaction between the actors and the audience. Members of the audience could sit on the stage itself – either on the left or right side. Dark cloaks lie on these special seats, which were designed to resemble church pews. It is up to the audience if they want to wear these clothes. Wearing them truly made one part of the scenery itself, giving the impression to the rest of the audience to be a part of the ensemble. Even more so when these seats shift position so that one could look directly into the auditorium.

The view is restricted at times. However, being that close to the actors, receiving plenty of glances – and even jump scares – and having them sit right beside you is a special event. It is pretty shocking when the archdeacon himself takes his seat at the stage and starts laughing and even talking to members of the audiences. During the chorus it can be clearly heard how immensely talented every member of the ensemble is. When the singers are this close to you, every single voice can be heard separately and they all sound marvellous.

In contrast to the Disney movie the musical is quite dark. Nonetheless, there are plenty of moments to make the audience laugh. The scene where Frollo meets up with King Louis – “The Careful” – comes to mind. Given that Frollo wants to achieve Esmeralda’s arrest, one wouldn’t think that this scene would be as hilarious as it is, but the combination of Sebastian Harris as King Louis and Mads M. Nielsen as Frollo is priceless. Right at his introduction Harris manages to make the audience laugh, as he lets Frollo wait for a very long time. So long that Frollo, while being on his knees, looks at the audience, seemingly asking for help. Seeing the villain, who has just proved in the intense “Hellfire” scene to be dangerous, slipping on his knees to the king to finally get noticed, one can’t help but laugh at the shear absurdity.

Lars Mølsted plays the role of Quasimodo. With his convincing portrayal of the different aspects of Quasimodo – be it submissive, rebellious, hopeful or devastated – he allows the audience to easily sympathise with him. Mølsted’s rendition of “Himlens Skær” (“Heaven’s Light”) can only be described as heavenly beautiful. Its reprise in “Hvor mirakler sker” (“In a Place of Miracles”), where Quasimodo realises that Esmeralda is in love with Phoebus and not with him, is even more bittersweet.

Mølsted’s acting during the finale is spot on, seeing Quasimodo with the dying Esmeralda puts tears in one’s eyes. As he takes off his costume at the end and delivers his final sentences it can be seen how he himself is touched by the show. Mølsted rightfully received the award for Singer of the Year at “Årets Reumert” for this role.

The take on the relationship between Quasimodo and Frollo is a quite interesting one. There is some kind of affection between the two resembling one between a pet and its owner. Frollo even pets Quasimodo’s hair at one occasion.

Acting as the antagonist Claude Frollo Mads M. Nielsen is the centre of attention the moment he steps on the stage. One look into his eyes is enough to see Frollo’s insanity that grows during the course of the show. In fact, it is this insanity that makes the gruesome actions Frollo performs somewhat understandable. Nielsen portrays an utterly terrifying villain, because Frollo is a truly conflicted human being and by no means a heartless monster.

Frollo really doesn’t understand why he is so obsessed with Esmeralda and the thing he desires most is to free himself from this obsession. This is apparent when he meets Esmeralda in the dungeons. Taking off his cross and slamming it against the stage seats suggests how far down Frollo is at this point. He begs Esmeralda to take pity on him, even falling on his knees, before gradually getting more aggressive the more she pushes him away. This goes even so far that he climbs on top of her, while demanding she should love him. It is the one scene where he truly lets his guard down, expressing both his rage and his fear.

Apart from being frightening Nielsen also brings just the right amount of comedy to the role. His attempts to court Esmeralda, the flirtatious/teasing way he speaks with her and especially the way Nielsen swings himself dramatically on the railing are as absurd as they are hilarious. Nielsen also seems to take pleasure in interacting with the audience, as well as in scaring them. From slamming the cross against the stage seats to swinging a sword down on members of the audience, if there is an opportunity to scare, he takes it.

Another little interesting detail is that Frollo witnesses Esmeraldas death from one of the stage seats. Nielsen’s expressions show the full range of Frollo’s emotions and him breaking down next to Esmeralda’s dead body makes the scene even more powerful.

His understudy Søren Bech-Madsen has a different take on the role. His Frollo seems much more controlled with occasional glimpses of madness shining through his calm façade. He shows his true face during “Hellfire”, where the lightning really gives him a demonic look.

Bjørg Gamst’s Esmeralda captivates not only Quasimodo, Phoebus and Frollo but the audience as well. It is easy to see why they all fall for her in an instant. Her dance is beautiful and full of life like Esmeralda herself. Her kindness and her bravery make Esmeralda a very sympathetic character. Even if it means risking her own life, she protects Quasimodo from the angry crowd and she stands up to Frollo.

Gamst’s performance of “Gud vær barmhjertig” (“God Help the Outcast”) is touching and seeing Esmeralda together with Quasimodo being carefree in “Verden set heroppefra” (“Top of the World”) makes one wish they both would get their happy ending. It is heart-breaking to see Esmeralda being burned on the stake. The scream Gamst lets out gets right under your skin.

One of Gamst’s most powerful lines is when she asks Frollo, after Esmeralda has been captured, why it had to be her he wants. Even if the fear is evident in her voice the confusion as well as her need for an answer are even more apparent.

Linnea Stenbeck who alternates as Esmeralda is a joy to watch. She has a great chemistry with Christian Lund’s Phoebus and their duet “En ny verden” (“Someday”) is as wonderful as it is tearjerking.

Christian Lund as captain Phoebus seems to be a shallow guy at first. His first song “Afslapning i Paris” (“Rest and Recreation”) shows that there is more to Phoebus than meets the eye. Recently returned from the war the events of the battlefields still haunt him. Lund switches easily between the seemingly cheerful guy and the traumatised soldier, even mid-song.

Phoebus’ good heart is most evident in his relationship with Esmeralda, defying his orders for her and even getting himself injured. Watching Lund as the wounded Phoebus makes one believe he could collapse at any moment with the way he stumbles on the stage. It is also tear-jerking to see him falling into despair as he repeatedly fails to pick up Esmeralda’s body in the final.

Diluckshan Jeyaratnam as the king of the gypsies contributes a lot of the comedy in this otherwise grim production. Jeyaratnam interacts a lot with the audiences often giving them a mischievous glance. Clopin is not above cruelty when it comes to protecting his people. His merciless side shows when he captures Quasimodo and Phoebus and tries to execute them after they have found the gypsies’ sanctuary.

His relationship with Esmeralda, whom he kind of protects like an older brother, proves that he is not without heart. His interaction with Lund’s Phoebus is also interesting. Taunting him at first and trying to keep him away from Esmeralda the two gradually form an understanding of each other and even fight side by side in the finale.

Every member of the large ensemble is brilliant as well. Be it Mads Æbeløe Nielsen as St. Aphrodisius who makes the audience laugh when he “looses” his head, Christina Elisabeth Mørkøre as Madame who protects Esmeralda from Frollo or Oliver Lundqvist as the soldier Frederic. Even the gargoyles and stone figures have personalities of their own and can be easily distinguished from each other.

It isn’t often that a production as a whole is so unbelievably amazing that just one word can sum it up: Perfection. This “Hunchback of Notre Dame” proves how great theatre can be if everything fits together: Special effects, the costumes, the dancing and choreography, the scenography, the orchestra and last but not least the singing and acting of the whole ensemble.

The best example for this would be “Helvedes ild” (“Hellfire”), sung by Mads M. Nielsen when Frollo decides to burn Esmeralda if she continues to deny him. Nielsen’s performance combined with the choir is breath-taking to watch. Bjørg Gamst appears as Esmeralda and takes up the role of the temptress Frollo sees her as she tries to seduce him. Apart from being elegant, her dance with Frollo illustrates his mental battle perfectly. There are so many little details just in this one song.

The most spectacular moment, however, is the ending. The auditorium starts to tremble as flames appear and burn the projected image of Notre Dame. It really feels like being part of this hellish scenery. The whole production team really gave their all in this and their work absolutely pays off. Their version of “Hellfire” couldn’t be more perfect and is easily one of the most impressive theatrical experiences. This is theatre at its best.

Fredericia’s “The Hunchback of Norte Dame” might have had its last curtain fall. With the immense success, one can hope this was not the last time this version can be seen. If given the opportunity, everybody should see this production; it has to be seen. It doesn’t even matter if one doesn’t understand Danish at all to be captivated by the magic of this show. There is simply nothing like this.


 

 Den Bericht in etwas gekürzter Fassung und in Deutsch kannst du im musicalcocktail 131 (Okt./Nov. 2017) lesen.

   

© Bericht: Lisa A. Murauer
© Fotos: Søren Malmose


Im Gespräch mit
MADS M. NIELSEN
(Claude Frollo - The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

Mads M. Nielsen is one of the most well-known and successful actors and directors in Denmark. Being a third-generation actor Mads made his film debut in “Drengen der forsvandt” (“The Boy Who Disappeared”) when he was eleven years old. After graduating from the actors’ school in Aarhus, Mads has worked both in theatre and television. Most recently, Mads played antagonist Claude Frollo in Fredericia’s production of „The Hunchback of Notre Dame“. His truly astonishing portrayal of Frollo rightfully earned him a nomination for “Best Male Ensemble-player” at this year’s “Årets Reumert”, the annual Danish theatre award.

In the beginning, Mads wasn’t sure about auditioning. While he has worked in musicals before – like “Fiddler on the Roof”, “The Rocky Horror Show” and the Danish musical “Midt om Natten” (“In the Middle of the Night”) – he has never considered himself a singer. What made Mads change his mind was that “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” would not only be played in Fredericia but also at The Royal Theater’s “Gamle Scene” in Copenhagen.

“I have an old romance with that room. Not a hundred percent good one. I had something to erase. So, I thought ‘What the heck, let’s go for it", he says.

Apart from moving to Fredericia for the original production and not seeing his daughter often, the singing was one of the biggest challenges while preparing for the role of Frollo.

“Originally, I thought – since that’s how it is in the cartoon – Frollo only sings one song and a little bit of “Out There”. Then I figured out that he has a song about everything in the first act. That was kind of a surprise.”

Frollo was also the first typical Disney-villain Mads has portrayed. What makes Frollo a truly terrifying villain is that he is a very human character. Someone who even exists in the real world. For Mads Frollo “is a symbol of all the -ism’s – fanatism, racism, fascism and religious extremism”. Even with all the horrible acts Frollo performs in the musical, there are still aspects about him one can relate to.

“Everybody knows the situation where you have a choice to do something you want to do – but you know it is wrong – or to follow your instinct of being a good person. I think people could relate to that. And I think people could relate to being a bad parent. Because Frollo is also a bad parent.”

Besides being responsible for all these dark moments, Frollo contributes to the fun as well.

“The villain allows the fun and the Disney moments – like when Esmeralda and Quasimodo are sitting on the rooftop and singing with the gargoyles. Everybody gets warm-hearted, because I can come in and ruin it”, Mads laughs.

Another thing Mads enjoyed was scaring the audience. “It was fun. It is always fun to scare people. I loved that”, he smiles.

There were plenty of opportunities to do just that, because in this production members of the audience could sit on the stage itself. Apart from scaring people there were other to consider as well while acting.

“I tried the best I could to interact”, says Mads, “but when you have like a thousand people in the auditorium and about thirty people sitting on the stage, you have to do more for the people in the auditorium. The big show numbers were all turned out. That’s why I started “Hellfire” with the back to the auditorium and the front to the stage people, so they had the feeling of being a part of this.”

Something Mads regrets, however, where the specific rules the people sitting on stage received.

“I tried to start some conversations and that was hard, because people were like: ‘Oh, I'm not allowed to do that.’ It made them worried about what they were and weren’t allowed to do. The instructors should have just said: Don’t record anything, don’t stand up. Do whatever you want, just don’t grab the actors!”

Apart from getting a nomination himself, fellow actor Lars Mølsted who played Quasimodo won the price for “Singer of the Year” while the musical itself received the award for “Best Musical” at “Årets Reumert”. What made Fredericia’s production such a success?

“It was the right time to do the show”, explains Mads. “When we played for three weeks, Donald Trump got into power, so the musical couldn’t be more up to date. It is so obviously about loving your fellow human and about racism. People realised that the score and the music are amazing. And our scenographer Benjamin La Cour made a masterpiece out of the theatre room, so you were like in a Disney-ride. Then you had the combination of Lars, who is a great musical performer, and me, who is a well experienced actor. We never had one second where we argued and just enjoyed being on stage together. We made a perfect pair and that shines through, when you watch a show. Even people who didn’t personally like the show were touched by it.”

Critics and audiences were not the only ones touched by the musical.

“There was one evening in Fredericia, where the audience around the catwalk were people with Down syndrome”, Mads remembers. “I've done a lot of theatre where we played for a lot of handicapped people and that was great. It’s something else, because they react in another way. But to see about two hundred people who were only interested in Quasimodo – because they could see themselves in him – was quite touching. It was one of the most beautiful theatre experiences I've ever had.”

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” may have had its last curtain fall, but there is no time for Mads to relax. His next project as a director “Vildheks” (“Wildwitch”) opens on September 14 th at the “Østre Gasværk Teater” in Copenhagen. “Vildheks” is based on the popular fantasy book series by Lene Kaaberbøl.

Mads M. Nielsen, Foto © Søren Malmose

“With “Vildheks” I'm doing a show with a lot of teenagers – acting, dancing and doing acrobatics – and it’s hard but also so exciting”, he tells about the show. “I like to work with people who crave to be on stage. I understand them and I know what to do and what not to do. To do theatre for young people and their parents is interesting and it’s important to keep bringing quality, love and passion to the theatre. When you go in the theatre room, you go in a community with a lot of people you don’t know, to have a common experience together. Every time we do that, the world becomes a little bit a better place. And we’re losing these common experiences with the loss of our religions that have become war machines of terror and because of the internet and television.”

While talking about his future projects Mads adds: “When you’re a freelancer, you go with the opportunity that is presented to you. But let’s see. Right now, I'm directing. I'm doing “Vildheks”, then “(B)Romance” and then “Elf – The Musical”. So, I have a full year.”

Mads, thank you very much for the insightful interview. I wish you on behalf of musicalcocktail best of luck for “Vildheks”, “(B)Romance” and “Elf – The Musical”!

© Lisa A. Murauer

30.08.2017 - "Det Ny Teater", Kopenhagen (Dänemark)

(B)ROMANCE - The Musical
A brand new Danish musical

“(B)Romance”, a brand new Danish musical, is set to premiere on October 14 th in “Det Ny Teater” in Copenhagen. Not often does one get a glimpse behind the development of a new musical, but thankfully Christian Berg, one of the creators and composers, met up with me to talk about the production process.

It is no coincidence that “(B)Romance” will have its premiere in “Det Ny Teater”. Christian himself has worked there as an actor many times and the creation of “(B)Romance” is directly linked to that place. It was during Christians time in “Love Never Dies” that he and Kasper Beknes – who is the producer of “(B)Romance” – had the idea of creating a space more intimate than “Det Ny Teater”, which is known for producing big theatre shows. That is how “Off Det Ny” was born on the stage downstairs “Det Ny Teater”, the same stage where “(B)Romance” will be played.

Komponist/Autor Christian Berg

In the process of doing shows “Off Det Ny” Christian came up with the idea of writing a completely new Show. “A show that I didn’t know anything about. All I knew was that I wanted to do it with my friend Mikkel Petterson, I wanted to write something about friendship and I wanted it to be called “(B)Romance”.”

The title alone, which is one of the only things that didn’t change during production, already tells a lot about the central themes of the musical. It is a story about friendship, about how men relate to each other, about love and – most of all – about forgiveness.

That was the beginning of “(B)Romance” back in 2013. Not long after the idea was born, Mikkel and Christian had almost an hour and a half of music. The original concept was to let “(B)romance” be a theatre concert with only Mikkel and Christian singing and playing with a small band. However, at some point in the production process they became ambitious. They realised that while concerts were something they could both always do, “(B)Romance” had the potential of turning into something unique.

Komponist/Autor Mikkel Kjær Petterson

As a result, the concert idea was dropped and “(B)Romance” was set to become a musical. To get the show right, Mikkel and Christian showed their concept to people working at theatres, who all said the same thing: The songs were great, but the story wasn’t convincing yet.

Thus, the idea of telling a story about different kinds of friendships was discarded. “(B)Romance” should instead focus on one friendship between two guys that breaks down, because they fall for the same woman, and later regenerates again. Even with the dramatic structure there still seemed to be something missing to make the audience truly care.

To understand how this great friendship could possibly break down because of a woman, this woman had to be seen on stage. Originally, Mikkel and Christian were very reluctant to include the woman. Since the focus was meant to be on the two guys, they should be the only characters on stage. While workshopping the show, however, they were convinced by their scriptwriter Andreas Garfield and their director Mads M. Nielsen to let the woman be seen.

Regisseur Mads M. Nielsen

As it turned out, these workshops helped to find out how the musical should be put together. Including the female character makes both the conflict between the two guys and the story itself more relatable. From not appearing at all the woman is now set to be in every scene and turned into the narrator of the show. A special narrator, because to make her be different from the two guys, it was decided that she could not speak, but dance instead.

“I think with the help of Andreas, Kasper and Mads we really could come up with a story that Mikkel and I could never have written, because it’s not something that occurred to us. Those three guys fixed all the little hurdles, the dramatic holes we had in the show. And they were really helpful with forcing us to push the story in the right direction.”

from left to right: Morten Hemmingsen, Selene Munoz, Johannes Nymark

Even if it helps a lot that Christian is an actor himself, developing a brand-new show comes with a lot of aspects one doesn’t necessarily think about when working as an actor. “As an actor, you’re just used to “them just giving you stuff”. You don’t think about where it comes from. There are a lot of little logistical things you are not aware of until you’re confronted with them. Now that I’ve produced a small show, I’m impressed with how much it must take to develop a big one. People that produce theatre are special people. They know a lot and they are very dedicated.”

It certainly takes a lot of dedication to keep working on one show for four years. The big hope for the premiere in October is to give “(B)Romance” a long life – to send it out to theatres around the world. “(B)Romance” is not a show with huge demands. It requires two guys that can sing and act and a female dancer. It is easily adaptable as well, both suited for high-school productions and productions with well-established actors. Since the script and songs have been written in English, exporting “(B)Romance” to other countries becomes easier, too.

So, what is the main reason why people should see “(B)Romance”?

What makes “(B)Romance” fascinating is its very 2017 turn with a new concept. Dialogue, music and dancing play an equal part in telling the story. The music has an old-fashioned style to it – like The Beatles or Randy Newman – which is the reason why “(B)Romance” was originally composed and written completely in English. In another way, it’s also much newer.

“(B)Romance” is a big show in a tiny format. While it borrows from the conventions of musical theatre, there is always a twist to these well-known ideas. “There will be a dance number, a traditional “Singing In The Rain” dance number, but perhaps this dance number will instead be done by two 95-year old men, who can barely move.”

“I really hope we get it right. We’ve lived with this material for four years and we’re just not tired of it. We do hope that we can give it a long life, because the way the show is now is good. I think the score and the script are beautiful and if we can get it right, it’s going to be something very special and unique.”

I want to thank Christian for the interview. Last but not least, I wish “(B)Romance” a lot of success at the premiere on October 14 th.

© Bericht: Lisa A. Murauer
© Fotos: Det Ny Teater

Den Bericht in etwas gekürzter Fassung und in Deutsch kannst du im musicalcocktail 131 (Okt./Nov. 2017) lesen.