03.03.2020, Bellevue Teatret, Klampenborg 

DEN EVIGE ILD 

Not even two years after its publication Ken Follett’s A COLUMN OF FIRE got transformed into a Danish musical by the trio of Lasse Aagaard, Thomas Høg and Sune Svanekier. Thus DEN EVIGE ILD was born which celebrated its world premiere last year. After a successful run at Bellevue Teatret, the musical now makes its return for a short run and celebrated its repremiere on March 1st. 

16th century England: After her sister's death, Elizabeth becomes the new queen. Not everybody is welcoming her with open arms, however, since Elizabeth is a Protestant and the Catholics would rather see Mary Stuart on the throne. So Elizabeth has to be protected against her enemies: Among her most trusted supporters is Ned Willard, a young Protestant dreaming of a world where no one needs to die because of their faith. Soon not only a battle between the two queens but between Protestants and Catholics seems inevitable. All the while Ned also has his personal battles to fight… 

Depending on the edition, the book has around a thousand pages. So it really must have been a hard feat cramming that into a musical with a runtime of 2 hours and 55 minutes (which already includes the interval). Even cut down, there are still a lot more of characters left than there are people in the ensemble. So all play more than one. And it doesn't matter if there are big costume changes or not, the cast makes all characters distinct and believable. It takes an immense acting range to accomplish that and this cast truly got that. Another great idea is to have the three musicians (Olof Ander, Martin Lissola and Dan Selchau) be present on stage. They are their own characters just as much as they set the mood.

The scene changes are another obstacle to overcome. Ned’s home Kingsbridge, the board of a ship, the streets of Paris or Mary Stuart’s cell, the scenography by Benjamin la Cour can be converted into all of that and more. All the pillars, bricks and pieces are moved by hand by the cast which makes the smooth set transformations even more impressive. The scenes also blend into each other elegantly, even if there are location shifts involved.

Morten Hemmingsen takes up the role of Ned. His version of “Uden dig” (“Without you”) is just one example where he can not only prove his powerful voice but also his acting abilities as he illustrates Ned’s anger, frustration and love for the woman he can’t have.
His other big number “Hvor er Gud” (“Where is God”) is just as expressive and showcases his more softer vocal range. It is mostly Ned who also acts as the narrator. Apart from solving the problem of providing the needed background information to follow the plot, this also captures some of the distinct voice of the book, since Ned has narrational segments there as well. 

Who would have thought that a musical about the 16th century religious battles could be that funny as well? And that a lot of that humour comes from its central villain? Kasper Dalsgaard as the ruthless and ambitious student Pierre succeeds in portraying a fun yet despicable bad guy and gives him just the right amount of charme. Especially the interactions between him and his wife against his will Odette, played by Martine E. B. Levinsen, are one of the funniest in the show. 

While Ned is the main character, it’s actually the four leading ladies that drive the plot. Pernille Petersson knows how to deliver an entrance. Her stage presence is fitting for a queen like Elizabeth and she draws  all attention on her with ease. Her rival Mary Stuart is played by Marie Louise Hansen. She gives her queen a completely different but just as strong aura. Her last song “Man Taber og Man Vinder” (“Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win”) is one of the best in the show. Her deliverance is stunning and lets one sympathise with Mary. Both their performances make one wish that they both got even more screen time than they did.

Though the two queens provide the overreaching bigger conflict, the story places more focus on its fictional women who go through tremendous changes as well. Margery is Ned’s childhood friend and love interest, a Catholic who  gets trapped in a loveless marriage. She is soon torn between her faith and her feelings for Ned, and finds herself faced with much more gruesome struggles. Silke Biranell portrays both Margery’s helplessness and strength in a way that one instantly feels with her. Her “Uden dig” is an illustrating example of Margery’s doubts and despair and shows her vocal talent as well. Her relationship with Ned also represents the main struggle between protestants and catholics, showing that neither side is perfect. 

Camille Rommedahl plays Ned’s other love Sylvie, a fearless protestant who sells illegal bibles. Like Margery, Sylvie goes through a lot, but she never loses her courage or hope. One of her best moments is her very last song where Sylvie convinces Margery to keep on living with great conviction. Here she can really prove what a powerful voice she possesses.  

If there is one thing that’s bothersome, it’s how the story “solves” the love triangle situation. SPOILER FOLLOWING: It makes sense story wise, but at the sae time it seems like a lazy (and a bit too convenient) way out to get rid of Sylvie like that. But the fault here lies in the book. Because the musical actually improves on that, since it gives Sylvie more agency and her well deserving revenge on Pierre. END SPOILER

Grand entrances seem to be a theme and Søren Bech-Madsen proves that. His Cardinal de Guise is truly frightening and yet his voice can be smooth and alluring as well. This is perfectly portrayed in his main theme “Når man jager protestanter” (“When you’re hunting protestants”). And the sweet melody offers a delightful contrast to its dark lyrics. 

Under the direction of Mads M. Nielsen the audience never gets lost in the convoluted plot and there is a nice balance between humour and drama. The musical also manages to capture the book’s main message about the dangers of religion and importance of tolerance, and it stays not only faithful to its source material, but actually improves it! 

An epic story, great songs and a lot of power women, DEN EVIGE ILD has it all and Denmark proves just how good its original theatre pieces are! And for those who aren’t sure about their Danish skills, Bellevue Teatret also offers English subtitles for selected performances. But be quick, the musical runs for a very short time only - the last show is already on March 29th. Make sure not to miss this musical!

DEN EVIGE ILD is on fire - not only because of the real flames used! - and therefore deserves: 

🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 


© Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos: Emilia Therese

02.03.2020, Tivolis Koncertsal, Kopenhagen

Mamma MIA!

It has been 10 years since MAMMA MIA! has been first performed in Denmark. And since January 22nd it’s back at Tivolis Koncertsal! 

The musical runs in a Danish rendition, so all songs have been translated, some references have been adapted to fit the Danish viewers and some names have been changed. But apart from that, the plot stays the same: 20-year-old Sofie is getting married and it’s her big dream to be given away by her father. And here lies the problem: Sofie doesn’t know who her father is. After finding her mother’s diary, she finds three possible candidates. Not knowing what else to do, she promptly invites all three of them. And so the chaos begins… 

Though Mamma Mia is mainly a comedy, it is also touching at times. One moment is “Slipping Through My Fingers” where Donna prepares her daughter for the wedding and laments how fast time flies. Annette Heick as Donna really shines here, vocally as well as acting wise. It doesn’t come as a surprise that there were more than a few moved by her emotional performance. 

Donna’s two best friends Bibi (Rosie) and Tanja (Tanya) are played by Trine Gadeberg and Nicoline Siff Møller. They are a dynamic duo indeed and earn some of the loudest laughs - and in a comedy musical with many hilarious moments like Mamma Mia that’s saying something. And when the duo becomes a trio with Donna, the party really starts as is the case in “Super Trouper” and during the encore.

It’s not only the more experienced cast members that stand out: Matilde Zeuner Nielsen plays Sofie as if she had been born to play this role. Sofie just comes natural to her, is likeable, a bit naive and strong willed at the same time. That her acting is just as good as her singing gets proven in the beginning of the second act “Under Attack”, where she expresses Sofie’s panic with great intensity.  

Unfortunately, both the beginning of the first and second act after the intro music has finished playing, the tone was a bit too quiet and it was hard to understand what was being said (or sung). But that is only a little thing and didn’t take away from the fun of the show. And hopefully that was a one time thing. 

On this saturday evening performance (February 29th) the role of Frej (Sky) was played by Mikkel Rosleff (instead of René Wormark). His Sky is charismatic and genuine and the love between Sofie and Sky seems believable too.   

The three perhaps-dads Stig (Sam), Henrik (Harry) and Bill are played by Jesper Lundgaard, Gordon Kennedy and Peter Oliver Hansen. All in all, the three stay a bit pale, but that’s hardly their fault since musical clearly focuses much more on its women and doesn’t give the men that many opportunities to prove themselves. Nevertheless, it was apparent that all three had much fun and they brought something distinct to their roles. 

As is the case with jukebox musicals, songs and plot are loosely intertwined. That said the transitions do mostly work and the songs don’t feel forced. Which is also thanks to the effort of the whole ensemble that just brings the right energy to the show and carries the audience along, so one easily forgets if the lyrics actually make sense plot wise. The amount of energy they all possess is impressive as well: No one shows any sign of giving less than 100%, though it must be hard not getting tired in such a dynamic production. Noteworthy are Jonathan Heegaard Jespersen as Niklas (Eddie) and Benjamin Dupont Igens as Chili (Pepper), especially for their comedic timing. 

No one goes to see Mamma Mia for a very deep and meaningful plot. It is a feel-good show and it does exactly that: Audiences have a great time, there is a lot of laughter and they are eagerly clapping along. And when the cast sings “Waterloo” in the encore, all get up on their feet, dance and sing along, and it’s clear that they don’t want this evening to end. Which also shows how timeless both the music of ABBA and this musical is.

MAMMA MIA! is now playing at Tivolis Koncertsal until March 22nd. After that the party goes on, as the tour through all of Denmark starts and will last until May 24th! 

For a good time and summer vacation feeling in this winter MAMMA MIA! receives: 

4/6 Sterne ★★★★

© Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos: Bjarne Stæhr

01.03.2020, Østre Gasværk Teater, Kopenhagen

VILD MED DANS - THE MUSICAL

VILD MED DANS - THE MUSICAL celebrated its world premiere at Østre Gasværk Teater in Copenhagen on February 22nd. This brand-new show under the direction of Rolf Heim is based on the popular tv-program of the same name which is the Danish version of Dancing with the Stars. It’s not surprising that this highly successful show has been turned into a theatre piece, since it is beloved by so many. But does it offer what is needed for an entertaining musical experience? 

For the very first time Vild med dans let's everyday people compete. Among those are Thomas (Niels Ellegaard) who wants to use this opportunity to get back together with his ex-wife, ambitious Christina (Iben Dorner) who just wants to collect another trophy to her collection, and Maiken (Lise Koefoed) who is used to get what she wants with minimal effort but now has to work very hard in order to succeed. Their dance partners are played by real Vild med dans dancers Michael Olesen, Morten Kjeldgaard and Asta Björk

Though the show has the word musical in its title, it’s extremely doubtful that it is one: None of the characters sing and (almost) none of the songs do anything to advance plot or characters. The music is also not something newly written, instead there are well-known songs like “Just Dance”, “Like a Virgin” or “Material Girl” being performed by James Sampson and Gry Trampedach as the background music for the dances. And both singers do a marvelous job - as does the whole ensemble and especially the band. 

But sadly none of their performances can make up for the lack of a (coherent) plot and interesting characterisation. While the first training session promised a funny and good start in introducing the main characters, it became apparent as the show went on that their characters don’t develop much and those scenes (as well as the jokes) between the dance competitions became too repetitive. The actual Vild med dans shows are unfortunately also not that exciting, since it is difficult to root for the mains. The first couple of competitions were also just there to get rid of the first few pairs that we were not even a little introduced to. It’s sad that this show didn’t use the roles of the judges of the tv-programme, as they are an integral part of that format and could have brought something more to this theatre piece.

The dances themselves were very nicely done. Especially those by the whole ensemble were great. Again, there should have been more of those, because these were without a doubt the strengths of the show. 

Troels Thorsen’s crowd warmer Ulrik and Mille Gori’s hostess Kira stay rather pale as well, but there was just not much they could do with the script they were given. Though Mille Gori does get her moment to shine during her impressive acrobatic number.  

There is, however, one moment that made the show a musical - if only for a little while: The last song of the first act “Perfect Day”, where the ensemble comes together and there is actually a purpose of the song other than just being used as background music for the dancing. There should have been more scenes like this one. As it is now, we don’t really get to know our main characters well enough to truly care about them. Their arcs - if they even have any - also don’t go anywhere.  

On a completely positive note, the scenography and costumes by Karin Betz are just excellent. Østre Gasværk is a very distinct space and probably not the easiest venue to create a fitting scenography for, but Betz integrated the theatre into it and captured the essence of the original tv show perfectly. Which is also reflected in her costume designs. They look like something that could be worn on the tv show and they help in letting the audience feel like they are a part of the “real thing”. 

Speaking of the viewers: They clapped along with glee, no matter how often they were animated to do so, and participated in the final vote for the winner with both humour and enthusiasm. It would have been great if the audience had been even more involved like that, since the spectators here absolutely loved that. 

At the end of the evening, the show was celebrated with standing ovations. Musical or not, an existing plot or not, the audience clearly had a great time, and that’s what’s important! 

VILD MED DANS - THE MUSICAL is now playing at Østre Gasværk Teater until April 26th!

Though the dancing is great, the whole ensemble gives their all and the scenography looks stunning, it is sadly just not possible to give this show more than two stars. Because not even the best acting, dancing and singing can make up for a lack of plot and well-rounded characters... 

 2/6 Sterne ★★

© Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos: Miklos Szabo


 

 

 

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