29.01.2020 Kopenhagen, Dänemark
Interview with MATILDE ZEUNER NIELSEN
After 10 years, the success musical MAMMA MIA! returns to Copenhagen. Playing role of Sophie is MATILDE ZEUNER NIELSEN who makes her debut in such a big role. We met up with Matilde to talk both about the show and her experiences as a newly graduated performer in the musical business:
First of all, congratulations to the premiere of Mamma Mia! How did the premiere feel for you, since this was your first big role? Were you very nervous?
No, I wasn’t nervous. But I had a very bad show the day before. Everything that could go wrong during the first act went wrong. I think because that went so bad, I felt calm at the premiere. I also knew that my whole family was there and was supporting me. So at some point all the nerves turned into excitement. And we had the perfect premiere. Everything leading up to it just came together. I feel very lucky to be able to do this role.
Has Sophie been a character you always wanted to play?
I’ve seen the movie and I’ve liked it, but at that point I had no idea that I wanted to do anything related to musicals. I was about twenty when I realised that I wanted to pursue that career. I’ve never been the type to be like I need to do a specific part. Also because Denmark is a small country and there will be a lot of productions that will never be put on while I’m doing this. So when they posted that Mamma Mia was gonna happen, I was so excited and decided that I really needed to do it. But I was thinking that I would be in the ensemble and if I really wanted to shoot for the stars, cover Sophie. I didn’t even think that Sophie could be a dream to play, because it felt like a dream to just do the show.
So how did you end up getting the part?
The audition process was really crazy. My boyfriend, who is also a musical performer, and I had a ski trip the week when the audition was. So it was totally messed up, because we’ve just been on an early flight back home and came in and were like, okay here is this song and then we’ll dance a little. And then the second audition was so surreal. The British team was just so very articulate about liking me. Usually at an audition you go in, do your thing and go out, but here they really worked with me and said that they liked the way I’m doing it. So when I came back the third time, it already felt like they wanted me for the part. But already at the second audition I felt like that I either am gonna be Sophie or I won’t get the show. It felt like all or nothing. And then I ended up getting the role.
Since the musical has a long backstory, was it also a bit daunting for you to take up Sophie or were you just happy that it happened?
Definitely very happy. I never had the pressure if I can do this. I felt I could, because Sophie is so much like me. And the energy of the show and the songs all feel so right for me, as if everything is made for me to do this. My insecurity was more if I could do a character like this continuously, since I’ve always done ensemble tracks before.
Does it feel very different to play the main part compared to being in the ensemble?
I thought it would. But I think the biggest difference for me is that I am always on stage. The work we put into it is so similar and I don’t feel like I’m doing more or less than those in the ensemble. We carry everything equally and no one could be cut out of the show.
Since you are on stage all the time, how do you keep the energy up that is needed for Sophie?
Luckily, I get so much energy from doing this job. Of course, we also built up a lot of stamina during the rehearsals to be able to do the show physically and vocally. But we give each other a lot of energy on and off stage too. And the story itself has so much energy as well. I’ll have days where I’m tired for sure, but I haven’t felt that I couldn’t keep the energy up yet. It’s just too much fun for me to do this.
How was the process of creating your Sophie during the rehearsals?
It was amazing! There have been so many girls who have played Sophie, so I had this fear that they were gonna come and say, okay, this is how Sophie is. But our director was nothing like that. He was just so good at feeling how we were as both actors and people and he made that the starting point for the characters. He always made it feel like everything came from us.
And we also just had the greatest team. René Wormark who plays Frej [Sky in the English Version] is amazing to work with. We just clicked and it felt so easy to develop the characters together. It’s been very playful and there has been a lot of love in the rehearsal room. But of course it was also hard work. Every rehearsal has been me just running from one room to the other, because everybody needed me at the same time. So that has been crazy.
You’ve seen the musical production in London last year for the very first time. Did your own interpretation of Sophie change after that?
We got to meet the cast before the show, so I got a feeling of how Lucy [May Barker] was personally. For me it was such a relief to see her on stage and see so much of her in Sophie. I had the realisation that there could be room for me in the character.
What’s your favourite thing about playing Sophie?
Going to work every day and meet the most incredible and happy cast. It’s such a unique production, because the energy of this show is so specific and everyone who is doing this needs to have that energy. And we all just love this show and each other. That’s a remarkable thing to go to work to. And I also love the feel every night of 1400 people standing and singing along to Waterloo.
It’s really special that this is such a feel-good show. It’s emotional, but also just a very happy musical.
Totally, and it’s also so down-to-earth. There are a lot of shows that are fantastic, but they are not that relatable. But this show is with such real people and real humour. Everyone can go into the theatre and see something of themselves in this musical. It’s all about family and finding out who you are, about growing up and having regrets in your past that you are suddenly confronted with.
This is the first stop, but since this is a tour production, do you imagine it to be difficult moving from city to city?
I actually feel that it is a gift to do that, because it’s not every show that has the chance to go to other parts of the country. I think it will be nice to not only play in the capital where there is so much theatre happening but also to move out so that everybody gets a part of the fun. And I don’t think it will be that difficult, because we have such a great team here.
What is it about musicals that you love so much that you wanted to be a musical performer?
I’ve always been singing and have played a lot of music. So when I discovered musicals, I instantly felt that it was an artform that resonated with me. And the combination of these three ways to tell stories, through music, drama and physicality, is just so powerful to me. It opens up so many feelings and stories that can only be felt and told in that way. And I also think that it can be easier for some people to get into. Everyone feels something when they hear music, and maybe for some it’s easier to get the emotions when there is dancing.
Do you have advice for those who are thinking about doing musical theatre professionally?
Be brave in everything you do. Because it takes a lot of guts to pursue this career and there are a lot of rejections. And you have to get more energy from this than you are giving. Otherwise you will drive yourself right out of the field.
You already said that you don’t have any specific roles that you want to play, but if you could have one wish, what musical would you like to be a part of?
There are so many. But I really want to do Fun Home. Ever since I saw it on Broadway, I have been in love with Alison - the college version of Alison. So I would love to do that. But it’s just a small thing and I don’t predict that it will be played in Denmark in the near future. So it’s a dream that I know will probably not come true. But other than that I just really wanna do musicals and keep exploring. I am just excited for what’s to come. Because there are a lot of great things going on in Denmark.
Did you have one special moment so far - either on stage or during rehearsals - that made you feel going into musical theatre was the right thing?
It’s such a vague answer, but the feeling of the whole process - from the day we started rehearsals to the day we had the premiere - just felt like time has stood still. Not in a bad way. It just felt like we did something great and we could do our thing and be in it. And for me that has been an incredible discovery, because as a person I can quickly be all over the place and not really be present where I am. So I am just happy and proud of myself that I had been able to do that. And then of course the premiere. It was just crazy and everything went so good. I will always remember that.
Back to Mamma Mia: If you had to give one reason why people should watch this production, what would that be?
To see the most amazing cast! Everybody is doing an amazing job and we really have found something very special with this cast.
Thank you very much Matilde for this interview. Have a lot of fun with Mamma Mia! both here in Copenhagen as well as on tour!
© Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos: Bjarne Stæhr
31.12.2019 Kopenhagen, Dänemark
Interview with MADS M. NIELSEN (Part II.)
2019 is almost over, a good reason to see what the coming year has in stall musical-wise: And it's gonna be (literally) hot. MADS M. NIELSEN talks about the returning musical adaptation of Ken Follett's A COLUMN OF FIRE and about the challenges as a director:
What can you say about A Column of Fire and what can people expect?
With A Column of Fire you can look forward seeing something different. It’s a combination between traditional theatre and musical - and it’s also a James Bond story. It’s actually about how Her Majesty's Secret Service got made. So it’s kind of a historical and romantic musical, with a bit of Bond - a renaissance Bond. It’s a whole different thing than Hunchback - it’s not a family show. It’s about religion and how evil faith can be, when faith is not a belief, but the belief you are right and you alone are right.
And the thing we talked about before, about changing the world: When I am directing, I wanna change the world. Then I have this drive. Because I have to figure out what the show is about and what we can do with it.
When did you hear that the musical would return again?
We knew quite early that we would like to do it again. But it is kind of a different scale this time: We don’t have any swings or covers. And because we’re only playing for a month, we had some big changes in the cast. I’m sad that some can’t be a part of it anymore, but that’s showbiz and I look forward working together with this new cast. For the main character we got Morten Hemmingsen, who I have worked with in a lot of other productions. I am really looking forward bringing him in. A lot of great people have said yes to do the show again and a lot of new great people have joined the family.
Do you try to stay close to the book or do you treat the musical as something completely different?
The book has over 100 characters, so we had to narrow it down. We also stopped the book about 200 pages before Ken Follett does. He takes one more trip into the bombing of the parliament and we didn’t do that. There is only so much you can tell from the stage, because time is a factor.
So we put some characters together in one and, of course, had to kill some darlings. That was hard but important. Lasse Aagaard, Thomas Høg and Sune Svanekier did the first work of cutting and said to me: This character and this thing should be out. And I was like: Sure, but this I think is important; so remember this and please put it into the story again.
That was an interesting work. And for me it was special that I got the chance to meet Ken Follett and say: I did this show and I hope you like it. And he was really happy with it. That was touching.
Since this is a reproduction, is the amount of work the same for a director or is it a bit easier?
With this show it’s hard to tell yet. The special thing is that the scenography is moved by the cast - it’s a bit like a ballet. The set design is kind of an homage to Hunchback, because with Benjamin la Cour we got the same set designer. But it’s also a new version, because there is no LED. It is only pure, classic theatre. And we put in some shapes that are not really abstract but can be a lot of things depending on the lights I use.
So the main thing is the choreography. It just takes a long time until all precisely know what they are doing. And we can only begin to decide what works and what doesn’t after they actually have it. Because it just takes a while till it looks good and until then we can’t judge it.
Back with Elf you wanted to bring families to the theatre and them spending time together. What is it that you want to achieve with A Column of Fire?
The main thing for me is telling this story of love vs religion and power. Then there is the subtext as well: The religious turmoil going on today. So it was important to show that Christianity isn’t that good either. Religious wars are just wrong, no matter what religion.
And it’s about empowering women. The great thing about this show is that it has these four powerful women. There are also some strong men and the main character is a guy, but the women are a big deal in this. I am proud that people saw this as a women power show and that it was empowering for them to watch something where it’s not only about men and men’s problems.
I also wanted to make a show that was so entertaining that at times had the audacity to be a little bit boring. To be like the old movies that were not in a hurry all the time.
And lastly, it was also just the challenge of turning that big a book into a musical and go: We can do this here in Denmark.
Since you are both a director and an actor, is it any different working with your colleagues you yourself have been on stage with?
As a director I try as good as I can to find the potential in people that they haven’t found yet. And I try to be as good as friends with everybody as possible. But sometimes when you’re directing you have to be hard. As an actor you can, funny enough, act with people without getting to know them at all. But as a director I get to know people at a whole other level.
I think it’s great to direct people that have been on stage with me as an actor. They don’t have to be scared of me then, because they’ve seen me making mistakes and I’ve seen them making mistakes.
What other projects have you planned?
In January, I have a repremiere of “Den sidste gud” (“The last god”), a horror-comedy starring only women singing boy band songs. Then right after A Column of Fire, I am gonna direct a show that my mum [Lane Lind] wrote about herself and where she will act and sing in. It’s called: If life were a song, I would have been happy. And for the second time, I’m also doing a revue in Helsingør next summer.
Do you ever worry about doing too much?
No, not as long as I believe I am getting better and the people around me are getting better and the audience has a good time. As long as these three things are happening, I don’t think I’m doing too much.
I’m just very happy that I get to work with my hobby and to have more successes than failures. And to still see it as work and not an obsession. I am good at doing nothing, when I am off. But it also doesn’t take a long time for me to go: What do we do next? What hasn’t been done yet?
Do you have anything specific you want to work on in the future?
I would like to work on something that is not based on anything else. Just an original story. We haven’t really done that in Denmark all that much. But there are a lot of issues in both Denmark and Europe that you could adapt. And I would also like to do a show about being a teenager. Having a daughter reminded me how tough that time is and as a grown up you kind of forget that. Then I look forward to get the opportunity to direct some theatre again. I haven’t done that in a while.
You have already started working on A Column of Fire. What is it you are doing right now?
Three days after we opened the show, my car got broken into and my backpack, my computer, the scripts, everything got stolen. I didn’t have all the changes saved, so now I am sitting and rewriting all the changes in the script and I give myself notice of what lights to change or what song I want to go a little faster. I need to be well prepared before we start rehearsing on February 10th. The repremiere is on March 1st, so we don’t have that much time. But we are gonna make it!
And I’m also just enjoying the show, while watching it again. I’m proud of what we did and proud to do it again. The exciting thing about doing A Column of Fire for the second time is that we now know that it works. We don’t have to question if it’s too long or if a song doesn’t work. Then again, there are a few things that I’d like to change to make it even better. Other than that, we can just concentrate on telling the story, being great and do some amazing songs, chop some heads off and burn people. Yeah, it’s gonna be great.
Mads, thank you again very much and best of luck for 2020 and all of your projects!
A COLUMN OF FIRE opens on March 1st at Bellevue Teatret. For more impressions watch the video below (with English subtitles):
© Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos and Video Bellevue Teatret
18.12.2019, Scandic Falkoner Salen, Dänemark
Fredericia Teater’s production of TARZAN has arrived in Copenhagen! Tarzan swings through the newly-renovated Scandic Falkoner Salen since the 29th of November after having taken a stop in Aarhus as well. Everybody has probably already heard the story of Tarzan - the boy raised by apes in the African jungle - and his fateful meeting with Jane that makes him question everything he thought he knew…
Tarzan is mostly played by Kim Ace Nielsen (you can read more about his Tarzan in our last review back in 2018 when the show played in Fredericia on our homepage), on this performance on Friday 13th it was Rune Høck Møller’s turn. His Tarzan starts out as childlike and full of curiosity. As the story progresses he becomes more mature and responsible. And though his kindness gets tested, he never loses it. The acrobatic stunts are impressive and they never fail to amaze. And despite the physical strain he manages to sing seemingly without effort.
Everybody is anticipating the moment Tarzan and Jane meet for the very first time and it doesn’t disappoint. The whole pace seems to change after that and it is through that meeting that Tarzan begins to actively seek out the place he truly belongs. The chemistry between his Tarzan and Regina Sloth’s Jane is great, the two of them act very easy around each other. Speaking of Jane, she is intelligent yet playful, possesses a childlike naivety but can also be as serious and responsible as an adult. It’s a bit of a shame that Jane gets all of the song that were newly written for the musical. Because unfortunately they aren’t that memorable per se. But Regina Sloth gives them her own personal touch and makes them stand out.
This show gives a lot of thoughts to the little details and the small moments. One of these is when Jane meets Tarzan’s mother Kala for the very first time, which is over in the blink of an eye and yet feels much longer, since it is so impactful. In this moment lies everything the musical stands for. One can feel so much love here, both between Jane and Tarzan and between Tarzan and his mother.
Since Fredericia Teater also held a series of Christmas concerts, quite a few of the principal cast members had their off days on this day. This gave the alternating actors the opportunity to shine:
Nanna Hjort Rossen portrays Kala. The grief her Kala feels for her lost child is truly heartbreaking. While Tarzan and Jane are of course the main couple of the show, it can be said that Kala is the true heart with her unconditional love for Tarzan - as well as for so many other characters. The focus is very much on Tarzan and Kala’s relationship and the struggle of Kala letting her son find his own way and maybe losing him in return. Watching Kala’s reactions to Tarzan’s “Everything That I Am” as her fear of losing Tarzan seems to come true is very touching. As is Kala and Tarzan’s rendition of “You’ll Be In My Heart (Reprise)” afterwards.
Jacob Prüser’s Kerchak possesses much authority which can be felt in both his stage presence as well as heard in his powerful voice. It is no wonder that all the other apes listen to him. But Kerchak does have a softer side as well. This can best be seen in the duet “Sure As Sun Turns To Moon” between him and Kala. Their relationship feels realistic and human - and their bickering is the source for a lot of laughter in the audience.
Diluckshan Jeyaratnam plays Tarzan’s best friend Terk. His acting and singing is on point and he knows how to grab the viewer's attention. One of the best examples is the first song of the second act: It is just so damn catchy. The use of the LED-screens really fits this scene as well and makes the stage seem bigger and deeper. The timing as the apes throw the garbage around works as well. Terk and Tarzan share a brotherly relationship and so Terk gets more and more torn between wanting to support his friend but not wanting to lose him. There is also much familial love between Terk and Kala, giving both characters even more depth. Their interactions are often priceless - especially when Terk is sulking like a child.
Everybody not named did just as a fantastic job as well. A special shout-out must be given to Arthur Wadstrøm and Albert Groth who portrayed young Tarzan and Terk in this performance. Being on stage seems to be the most natural thing in the world for them and they also show great vocal abilities as well.
Scandic Falkoner Salen is a completely different space than the smaller Fredericia Teater which gives the production another feeling. It is a matter of personal taste which theatre suits the musical better and there aren’t any big differences anyway. Fredericia Teater felt more intimate which fits the themes of family and belonging. On the other side, more people get to see and experience the apes’ acrobatics and Tarzan’s flight. Which are nothing short of amazing. Christel Stjernberg and Sita Bhuller who are in charge of the aerial choreography and direction did a great job here.
The story might not be perfect and especially the songs that were newly written for the musical are unfortunately not that remarkable, but the whole production under the direction of Lynne Kurdziel Formato and everybody in the ensemble makes one overlook these little flaws. There is just such a vivid energy in the room and so much is happening on stage - and above the auditorium too! - that it is hard to decide where to look. The scenography by Kevin Depinet is impressive and makes the jungle come alive. The combination of traditional theatre staging with LED screens and sound effects works as well. The perhaps most chilling moment is the one with the leopard. The sound effects really makes one feel as the pray, as the leopard seemingly moves around the auditorium. The hard work to achieve this effect in this theatre space really paid off!
All in all, TARZAN is the perfect family show and is suitable for the whole family. Everybody will with no doubt leave the theatre in awe. So take a tour into the jungle for this exciting and lively adventure. But be quick, the very last performance is already on January 12th.
A new place and a different time, but Fredericia’s TARZAN is still worth all of its 6 stars!
6/6 Sterne ★★★★★★
© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos: Søren Malmose
12.12.2019, Operaen, Dänemark
What turns a man into a cold-blooded mass-murderer? The answer can be found since the 23rd of November at Copenhagen’s Opera House: The infamous Demon Barber of Fleet Street SWEENEY TODD has arrived and meat is officially back on the menu, as the best worst pies in London are being served.
The performance is played in English and there is a free introduction prior to the show’s start. Here you can hear more about Sweeney’s origins, the musical version, composer Stephen Sondheim and this production in particular. Under direction of James Brining (and Caroline Chaney) the musical is given a modern twist by setting it during the 1980’s. A transformation that isn’t that necessary, but does give this production a unique touch and shows that the story (mostly) works in different times as well. Mostly, since it does open up a few plot holes. Society has changed since the victorian times and a few character choices do seem more improbable in this new timeframe - at least that’s what one likes to think... During this introduction, you get informed about the plot too, but no important spoilers are given away! You’ll also hear about the ongoing discussion if Sweeney Todd is more of an opera or a musical. It is a musical and called as such, but with its rich musical repertoire it’s no wonder that people get confused. The habit that it often gets performed at opera houses with a cast comprised of opera singers - both is the case in this production - further complicates the matter. But then again, is such a clear distinction even necessary? Fans of either or both genres will be entertained by this not so musically musical anyway.
The plot follows ex-prisoner Sweeney Todd, who returns to London to get revenge on the person who has wrongly condemned and banished him: Judge Turpin. Sweeney’s time in prison changed him into a cynical man with a growing hatred towards the whole world and a slowly crumbling sanity. It doesn’t take long until blood gets spilled and bodies pile up. A good thing that Sweeney has found a helpful accomplice in piemaker Mrs. Lovett who knows exactly what to do with the dead meat...
In this production, there are a lot of alternates for the principal roles - a good reason to think about seeing the show another time as well. (The impressions here are of the cast from the performances on the 6th and 8th of December.) As said, the cast is comprised of opera singers, which gives this musical even more an opera touch. Det Kongelige Operakor sounds impressive and gets lots of moments to shine - already right at the beginning in “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” which is a powerful theme that goes through the whole musical. One specialty in this production is that this sequence takes place in an asylum with the choir acting as its patients. This decision illustrates the theme of madness very well. However, it also feels just a few seconds too long right before the song starts.
Sweeney goes through a tremendous change in character and his mood shifts faster the deeper he stumbles into madness. Palle Knudsen’s performance is as chilling as it is exciting. He knows how to portray Sweeney as a complex and human character. One feels sorry for and sympathises with him, while also not forgetting that Sweeney is (or got turned into) a horrible person. His voice fits Sweeney’s character too, his rage and despair are conveyed in a believable manner, as is his emptiness.
David Kempster gives another moving and thrilling portrayal of the unhinged barber. His rich and powerful voice gives an impression of the inner turmoil raging inside Sweeney.
Despite his overall gloominess, Sweeney gets his happy moments as well. Too bad these happen, while he’s killing his customers, slitting their throats with such nonchalance that’s so absurd that it’s funny.
The whole cast knows how to deliver the jokes; especially Alissa Anderson as Mrs. Lovett. It shows that she has a lot of fun in that role. Mrs. Lovett is probably even more deranged than Sweeney, but like him she is not a truly heartless person. Her love for her adopted son Tobias - played by Frederik Rolin who convincingly plays a rather young and naive boy - feels true.
The chemistry between Knudsen’s Sweeney and Anderson’s Mrs. Lovett is on point - though it’s hard to find fitting words to describe their twisted relationship. One of their highlights is the very last song in the first act “A Little priest”: There is nothing more romantic than tasting different kind of humanitarian meat pies.
It says a lot to be even more depraved than the two murderous human meat pie baking characters, but Judge Turpin takes the cake (or pie?). Both Johannes Mannov and Morten Staugaard portray Turpin in a love to hate way. But they’re also making him more complex with Turpin’s battle concerning the true nature of his ‘love’ for Johanna.
The world in Sweeney Todd is not only full of vengeance and hate. This is shown through Johanna and Anthony - though their actions and goodness are also very much up to debate. It is a typical love at first sight (or maybe even sound) story, but both Cassandra Lemoine and Simon Duus make it feel believable. Their voices go together too. Thanks to Duus’ performance Anthony doesn’t come across as a stalker with a crush, but as someone who’s really concerned with Johanna and invested in freeing her from her prison. Lemoine has a feeling for giving Johanna depth and playing around with and deconstructing Johanna’s role as a damsel in distress. Renate Ekerhovd’s clear voice gives Johanna a certain kind of naivety which provides a nice contrast, since Johanna might not be as innocent as she first appears. Her songs also reveal that she knows of her situation and her strong mindedness comes through.
For such a bloody and grim story there is also much humour in it. Dark humour that is, but what else can you expect from a show where people are murdered left and right and then sold as meat pies? The music helps creating this darkly humorous tone, with its sweet melodies offering a stark contrast to what’s happening. (Attempted) murder has probably never been as fun! At other times, the music sounds a lot more sinister and makes the show feel more like a horror piece.
Love, murder and cannibalism prove to make an entertaining and thrilling theatre experience. SWEENEY TODD is now playing at the Danish Opera House until January 22nd. Just remember: Don’t eat the pies.
For a terrifically funny experience, SWEENEY TODD receives:
5/6 Sterne ★★★★★
© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos: Miklos Szabo
Fotos are of the premiere cast.
8.12.2019, Tivolis Koncertsal, Dänemark
Autumn is over and winter has officially arrived in Copenhagen: The ballet SNEDRONNINGEN (“The Snow Queen”) celebrated its premiere on December 1st. It’s based on the fairytale by H.C. Andersen by the same name and centers around Gerda and Kay. Their friendship gets tested when Kay gets struck by a splinter that freezes his heart. Bewitched he pushes Gerda away and gets caught in the Snow Queen’s clutches. But Gerda doesn’t give up on her dear friend and so she sets out on a long and dangerous journey to find him.
Sakura Inoue had her debut as Gerda at this performance on December 4th. Through all her journey Gerda never loses her kind and lively spirit. She only gets stronger with each obstacle she overcomes. Gerda’s liveliness and joy can be felt in Inoue’s dance and the audience just wants her to succeed on her quest.
Giovanni Messeri also had his premiere as Kay on that day. His depiction of Kay’s shift from a friendly to a cold-hearted boy is chilling and the change is shocking, but like Gerda one wants Kay to get saved.
Both the scenography and the costumes were designed by Her Majesty herself the Queen of Denmark Margrethe II. The pictures were often quite simple and yet with many details. These made them a delight to look at and fun to explore all these little things hidden. Combining these drawn images with digital movements gave the whole scenography its very own touch - making the stage seem like a picture-book come to life. In addition, the icy landscapes make one feel cold just by looking at them. The costumes were distinctive and fit both the production and the different characters, giving an impression of their personality.
The Snow Queen’s presence can be felt throughout the whole show - and what a presence she has. Even though she never appears physically at all - she is a hologram projected on the screens - she still feels like being actually there. Nanna Øland Fabricius (also known as Oh Land), who has also written the music, portrays the Snow Queen. Her looking at the characters and audience evokes the feeling as if we are all just pawns in her game. The decision to have the Snow Queen only appear virtually goes well together with the theme of the show - combining digital and real aspects - and fits the looming, all-powerful presence of the Snow Queen herself.
The ballet stays close to the original fairytale, but the libretto by Camilla Hübbe has some changes to make the story simpler and smoother. It is not the Devil whose mirror breaks and curses Kay but the Snow Queen herself who bewitches Kay. This makes her more of a driving force than she is in the fairytale. At some other times the changes didn’t work that well: The scene when Gerda finally finds Kay is less clear than in the fairytale. Here, he pushes some blocks of ice around, but to what aim doesn’t come across. All in all, this scene felt a bit short and almost a tad too easy for Gerda to reawaken Kay - but after that journey she did deserve her happy-ending at last.
There is a lot of built up until that moment when Gerda reaches the Snow Queen’s kingdom. And that built up really paid off: The choreography, the music, the Snow Queen’s image appearing and disappearing - as well as her haunting voice - and the costumes; it all together creates a very chilling “battle” between the Snow Queen and Gerda that is as beautiful as it is thrilling.
The music by Oh Land often feels very familiar, as if heard before in other (Christmassy) works. It fits the mood well, but a few times the tunes felt too close to already known melodies and not that personal to this story. However, Oh Land’s recurring voice as the Snow Queen felt as eerie as mesmerising and the music during the sequence inside the Snow Queen’s castle was distinctive and perfect.
With everything happening on stage, time just flew by. The choreography by Yuri Possokhov not only advances the story but also defines the characters as well. It’s easy to understand too, also because the whole ensemble brings the emotions across in such a vivid way that you instantly get them. The best example is the very first interaction between Gerda and Kay. The audience gets to experience their relationship right from the second it begins and one simply understands why those two care about each other so much. The whole opening sequence emits a special kind of magic. The first few scene changes, however, were a little too long and rough. But as the ballet progresses these became much smoother and felt more as being a part of the performance than they did in the beginning.
This is a ballet for everybody: The story is timeless, the performances are stunning and there is a speck of magic when the digital world meets the real one to create this fairytale anew. This makes SNEDRONNINGEN perfect for Christmastime and a delight for young and old.
SNEDRONNINGEN is now playing at Tivolis Koncertsal until December 29th.
For this story that proves that not even the coldest winter can beat the power of love, SNEDRONNINGEN receives:
4/6 Sterne ★★★★
© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos: Per Morten Abrahamsen
Fotos of the premiere-night cast. Laurie Nielsen as Gerda and Vincent Vernal as Kay.
4.12.2019, Fredericia Teater, Dänemark
Interview with MARTIN SKRIVER and SØREN BECH-MADSEN from THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME
All good things must come to an end. Fredericia Teater’s production of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME is no exception. We have one last interview about the show and were very lucky to meet up with two actors who have been a part of the it since the very first premiere a little over three years ago: MARTIN SKRIVER (Ensemble/understudy Phoebus) and SØREN BECH-MADSEN (Dupin/Ensemble/alt. Frollo). Read on to find out how their journey has been like, how it feels to be a part of the ensemble and why you shouldn’t miss this show:
The both of you have been a part of this show since the very beginning. How has this journey been for you?
Søren: It has been quite the journey. This is one of those shows that you remember for the rest of your life. And hopefully the people who’ve watched it will remember it as well. Now we are doing it for the third time and we have a lot of new members in the cast and this is wonderful. It gives a new energy and we have made slight changes that have heightened the show and made it even better. So it’s been a tremendous journey and it’s been a privilege to be a part of it.
Martin: I totally agree. I think Mads [M. Nielsen] who plays Frollo said that this is a once in a lifetime show. It’s not perfect, ‘cause nothing ever is, but everything is as close as it gets. It has given us many great memories to hold on to. We’ve played it at the Old stage at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen in front of a full house every night. It’s a fantastic show to play and I honestly enjoy it every night!
Søren: You can also feel that people are touched by this show and that inspires us to wanna do this show even more. When we played it for the first time, the theatre honestly didn’t expect it to become a big hit. It’s very much a dramatic piece and not for the smallest of children. But it became a tremendous hit.
What is your favourite part you get to play in the ensemble?
Søren: I am fortunate that I am also alternating Frollo. That’s one of the most amazing things I have ever been allowed to do. He’s an incredible character and I do that character with all the respect in the world and I try to make him as complete and as much of a human being as an evil guy like him can be. But I also just love being in the ensemble as well. We have so much fun.
Martin: We two have a lot of funny moments.
Søren: We do and, actually, one of the moments I enjoy the most is in “Topsy Turvy” where they find the ugliest man in Paris - their new Fool of the Year. Martin and I have built in this friendship between our characters, so he is Jacques and I’m Pierre. It’s only the people sitting on the audience podiums on stage that get to see us competing and fighting, because we are doing that behind that curtain where we stick our heads through and look ugly. These tiny details are so much fun. We as an ensemble don’t wanna distract from the story, that’s very important, but we want to create life around it.
Martin: Our director Thomas [Agerholm] told us that every time the audience needs to see something, we help by giving that our attention. I feel like we are small cameras pointing at where the audience should look. And if you see the show again, you can see all these small stories playing out. Everybody on stage is playing a story all the time and that’s so rare in musical theatre. It’s so much fun, because you never get bored.
Søren: We have to be in character, since we have the audience on stage. That doesn’t mean that we can’t have fun, quite the opposite! We have even more fun, because we have to be joyous or whatever it is the scene requires. It’s a special feeling.
Martin: It really is.
As you have said, you, Søren, are also alternating Frollo and you, Martin, are understudying Phoebus. How was the first time you were on?
Søren: My first time as Frollo was in the original run nearly three years ago. I was understudying and not alternating at that point. We did the show 69 times and I got on as Frollo on show number 67. You obviously look at the script and rehearse, but you get to a point where you are like: Nothing is gonna happen. Mads is not gonna call in sick.
And then it was a Sunday. It’s a double day and we were off the day after and then we had the last two shows. So I was already packing for Copenhagen and then suddenly the phone rang: Hey, he is not doing so well. And I thought: What?! You gotta be kidding me!
It was a lot of back and forth, because Mads wanted to do the show. It’s completely understandable, anyone would wanna do that and he was so close to having played them all. So he did the first show and that was fine. But he was really sick. So an hour and twenty minutes before show number two started, it became clear that I had to go on. And I was like: Okay, right, here we go. And I actually remember very little from that night, ‘cause I had to get in, be very focused, be in character, be there for the others, run up and ask: Where am I going in next? What’s happening now? And then had to go in again. It was just a crazy night. But I had this wonderful cast who supported me all the way around and it was a tremendous feeling when it was done.
Frollo is gonna be one of the best characters I will ever play in my life, so I’m enjoying every time I go on. It’s a daunting task. He is not a good man, but I have to find some parts of him that are human and relatable and that will make you at times feel for him. I’m very privileged that I’m able to play him. But that first time was crazy. [laughs]
Martin: I’ve never played Phoebus. And that’s fine, because I don’t have the urge to do it. I’m not alternating, so my task is to save the show if something terrible happens - like Emil [Birk Hartmann] getting sick. So I hope Emil has a good health and can play every show.
Søren: But you did get to do it in understudy runs and you were very good. So the audience really does deserve to see you as Phoebus.
Martin: It is fun to play him, but I also really like my own track. I play Quasimodo’s statue father now and I see a lot of the scenes playing out and I notice differences every day. I get to watch my colleagues being so alive in their characters and I can really see their eyes. That’s awesome. I get to learn a lot every day. And I think it’s a wonderful ensemble show.
Søren: The audience on stage gets a similar experience. So if people would want to see this show more than once - and hopefully they do - I would say the first time see it from in front of the stage and then see it from the stage. Because that is a very unique thing to experience.
Do you have a favourite moment in the show?
Martin: My favourite moment is when I come on stage with the mother statue and we sing the last two lines before the ensemble joins in and we finish the show. All these horrible things but also joyful things have happened and the world is cruel but that’s also okay. It’s just a very beautiful way to end this show and being a part of that ending.
Søren: For me it’s very hard. I would just do a cop-out and say the entire show. Because I think it’s brilliant from start to end. But there is one thing that I’ve thought about. Before we go on stage, we have two gatherings and we end both gatherings by saying “Olim”, which is also the very first thing you get to hear in the show. And Olim means “one day” or “in time”. And during “Out There” Quasimodo actually sings Olim, because in Danish he sings “One day” at that moment where he sings “Out There” in the English version. That is just really beautiful. This Olim goes throughout the whole show and it’s everything that word represents: It’s hope for a future with more love and compassion and where we don’t see people as a man or a monster but as a human being. And Olim is also Quasimodo’s hope that he will be out there and have his place - one day.
Since this show ends very soon, give one reason why people should not miss it!
Søren: Because it will be quite a while until this show will be back. And this is probably the best show they will ever see. It has an amazing story, beautiful music and it will touch you to your soul. So see it now, because it is here and now and it’s all about being here and now and about being compassionate. So rush in and get tickets.
Martin: If you ever had a hard time in your life and you like music - even if you ever only liked one musical - then go in and see it. Because as Søren says IF it comes back to Denmark, it will be in ten years, maybe more, so it’s your last chance. We will miss it for sure.
We wholeheartedly agree and will miss it as well. But here is still a little time left to see Fredericia’s The Hunchback before the curtain falls for the last time on December 15th. Make sure not to miss this musical!
And thank you both very much, Martin and Søren, for giving this interview, hope you enjoy the last couple of shows and the best of luck for all your future productions!
© Lisa A. Murauer
1.12.2019, Fredericia Teater, Dänemark
Interview with EMIL BIRK HARTMANN and OLIVER AAGAARD-WILLIAMS from THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME
Quasimodo, Esmeralda and Frollo already had their turn, and now it's time for our dashing Captain Phoebus and energetic Clopin to be in the limelight. Read what EMIL BIRK HARTMANN (Phoebus) and OLIVER AAGAARD-WILLIAMS (Clopin) say about their experiences joining Fredericia Teater's successful production of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME , what they enjoy most about their characters and more:
How was it for you to join the cast, since you guys were new to this show?
Emil: It was a little nerve-racking at first, because this was such a big and well received show. But not only that, it was also a big reunion for those who’ve done it before and it felt that they were already this close family. There was just something extremely special about what they went through together. But then this production became its own thing and we made new memories together.
Oliver: I agree. I think it also helps that Emil and I are quite different than the two actors that we replaced. We both gave our characters our own touch and I feel this gives something new to the show. It was also a bit comforting, because those who knew the show were very good at helping us and including us.
Emil: And it’s cool that so many just knew the vibe of the show right from the start. So you can just put yourself into what is already there and just react to that.
Oliver: They already give you so much and you can just use that foundation to create the story. This was really helpful.
Emil: Lars [Mølsted] could have played Quasimodo from day one, ‘cause everything is so ingrained in his body. And there is something about playing across from him when you are still on script that is a little nerve-racking but also comforting. You feel like: If I do anything wrong, you got me, because you know this by heart.
Are your characters still evolving, maybe not every day but over the course of the show?
Oliver: I actually feel that they evolve every day. You always get something new every night. Sometimes you go off stage and think: Why don’t I try this instead? And then you do that the following day and it takes you somewhere else.
Emil: It’s so much fun to keep exploring what your character can do. I think the show as a whole changes slightly all the time, but I also have this very specific point that has become different: It’s when I run in and Esmeralda is dead. It wasn’t planned, but the lines I say there have changed. All of a sudden, I began to say things like: “I am sorry” or “I can’t” or “You can’t be dead.” The last 30 minutes are just a big breakdown for my character and I’ve been building up so much sorrow that I am actually weeping. That period of time of falling in love and then seeing that person dead in front of you is so short here. In real life, if you were discovering someone you love dead, you would go through more stages. I get to do that here, but it’s different and prolonged over the two months we’ve played so far. So every time I do that scene, I kind of get quicker to the point where I was the day before. That gives me a bit of time to go deeper into that specific moment. And that has evolved into becoming new lines or doing it a bit differently.
Oliver: We just get more time to discover these moments and also more nuances of the story, our character and the relationships to the other characters. I think it’s also something we naturally do as actors to keep it interesting. If I’m ever asking myself why I’m standing there, that gives me a second to think about that and discover the reasons why I’m doing what I’m doing.
What is your favourite thing about playing your characters?
Oliver: I always love to play these energy bombs. I’m a high energy person, so I need an outlet for that. That is why I especially enjoy doing the Topsy Turvy scene. It just has to be big, since Quasimodo sees the outside world for the first time. I need to catch the audience’s attention over and over again. But another thing is that Clopin starts out as this friendly guy who has this party for everybody and I am used to being that guy throughout a show. But I get to do a twist on it here. I get to show a darker side of the character which is really exciting.
Emil: Phoebus might be the one who develops the most throughout the show. He goes from being an arrogant asshole to someone who has learnt that there are people who have it even worse than him - and Phoebus has been through a war, so he’s been through a lot - and he experiences what you have to go through for love. He has an incredible journey and sometimes that’s the most interesting thing to play. But sometimes the most fun thing to do is his very first song “Rest and Recreation”. All the ladies just want Phoebus and that is a hilarious show number to do, because I feel like I’m not doing anything. The girls are acting so over the top and I just have to react to them. And then sometimes when I’m a little bit depressed, it’s really nice to just go in and let that hardship bleed out through the character and be like: I’ve had a rough day, Phoebus has also had a rough day, so that fits. So it really depends on the mood what I enjoy the most.
This show has become a huge success again. Is there something that you find especially touching?
Emil: There are so many universal values and struggles in the show and I think part of its success comes from the fact that you can find a lot in it that you can relate to - regardless of where you are in life. We can all relate to feeling different and being left out. And the show is also so easy to understand. My girlfriend is from Sweden and when her family was here - and they don’t understand Danish that well - they still understood it. Because the show is just so very honest. If someone is sad, we get to see why they’re sad. So there are a lot of things that touch me.
Oliver: What touches me the most is that honesty and courage to go for the unhappy ending. This show sort of has no winners and that’s not what you typically expect. We like to create all our stories with a happy ending. But here we get to see how hard the world is. It’s cruel but also real that Quasimodo doesn’t end up with Esmeralda. This show is just so honest to you and I feel like we are honest in telling the story.
Emil: During “In a Place of Miracles” Phoebus and Esmeralda have their big falling in love moment, and Quasimodo says: Now I understand why I’ll never be that guy standing there. It’s not because those two are evil. They were just falling in love. It’s just that the world doesn’t work with me as the lead. It’s never gonna make me completely happy. Because I’m ugly.
Oliver: And the show doesn’t turn around so he ends up with the girl in the end. That just really gets me. This honesty.
Unfortunately, there are only a few weeks left to see this show. So give one good reason why people should make sure not to miss it!
Emil: This is a show that you don’t get to see that often. I’ve never met anyone who was not very moved by it. This is a show that they are gonna talk about in ten years. It’s just unique. And it’s not gonna come back again real soon, so don’t miss it!
Oliver: This show really is something unique. And I’m just blown away by how much of an all in kind of show this is. There are no compromises and it never felt like there were made any shortcuts in production. So if for nothing else, see it because of this. You don’t often find a show where everything is just 100% all in.
Thank you again very much Emil and Oliver. We wish you all the best and enjoy the last two weeks at The Hunchback!
© Lisa A. Murauer
27.11.2019, Musikhuset Aarhus, Dänemark/Tourproduktion
THE BOOK OF MORMON - Tour production
Long ago, a simple man called Joseph Smith discovered something in his backyard that would change the world forever. That’s how the Book of Mormon was born and several hundred years later young Elder Price makes it his mission to become the best Mormon there ever was. But not everything happens as planned. Instead of being sent to his favourite place in the whole world (Orlando), Price’s mission will instead take place in Uganda. And his mission partner Elder Cunningham, who has a bad habit of lying (pardon, using his imagination), doesn’t seem to be of much help either – at first. Together those two learn the true meaning of belief and that Disney movies might not always be an accurate representation of the world…
Kevin Clay takes up the role of Price. Ambitious and arrogant Price can easily become unlikeable, but with Clay this was not the case. He gives Price’s journey from the self-absorbed but hopeful Mormon to someone questioning his very beliefs credibility.
Conner Peirson plays the eager but a bit bothersome Cunningham. His comedic timing is on point and the way he delivers Cunningham’s lines makes one just laugh out loud – even though the jokes often follow statements that are harsh and anything but funny.
The slowly developing friendship between Price and Cunningham is pretty much the heart of the show, which is why the chemistry between those two is so important. Clay and Peirson make a perfect duo, they just play so easily off each other. Their voices go together just as well as can be heard - among other songs - in “You And Me (But Mostly Me)”. This also serves as one of the best examples of their chemistry.
In that performance on November 23rd, the role of Nabulungi was played by Olivia Foster-Browne who made her professional debut in this tour production. Nabulungi’s sweet but also eager personality came through in her performance. With “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” Nabulungi even has her own Disney princess-esque song that is not only played for laughs but also very beautiful – plus Foster-Browne gets to shine here.
Literally every song has the potential to get stuck in one’s ear. It’s no wonder, since composer Robert Lopez has written the music to many other famous productions (among them Frozen or Avenue Q) too. They also show that an abundance of swear words can make up a good song – though not for singing loudly in public - like the infamous “Hasa Diga Eebowai”. Which is a shame, because the tunes are just so catchy. The songs also often make fun of other musical numbers with melodies reminding of something heard in Wicked or Les Misérables for example. Fittingly, because the whole show likes to challenge and satirize the musical genre itself.
The choreography by Casey Nicholaw is as important to the humour as the spoken jokes - sometimes it’s even funnier. In addition, the dancing is just great in general. The cast is giving its all, mastering these upbeat and high energy dance numbers seemingly with ease and most often, since that is what a good Mormon does, while brightly smiling. Everybody performs with enthusiasm and joy and seems to have much fun with their parts and the musical in general. And that shows. At times, it’s very hard to decide where one should look. There is often so much happening on stage – not only because of the choreography but also because of the reactions of those not being at the centre of attention.
Though this is a tour production, the scenography by Scott Pask is detailed and wonderful to look at. From painted sceneries to the quite graphic Ugandan village, it all makes the show come alive. The lighting by Brian MacDevitt is beautifully done too – blackouts get used in unusual ways as well.
This is not a show for everyone and it’s especially not for small children. The jokes are offensive and there are things where you ask yourself: Am I allowed to laugh at that? There might also be some which aren't that funny to all in the audience. Then again, it is hard for a show with this many jokes that all of them manage to make every single person laugh. This crude humour shouldn’t come as a surprise. Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are also the men behind the not so kid-friendly South Park tv-series. But just because the show crosses the line - twice, thrice or even more often - doesn’t mean that it’s only about provocation and out to shock people. At the end of the day, The Book of Mormon is also exploring what the true meaning of belief could be and it does that in the most hilarious way possible.
You can say “Hello” to the Mormons in Aarhus until December 6th, their mission then continues in Zürich from December 10th until January 5th.
For this fun afternoon, The Book of Mormon deserves:
5/6 Sterne ★★★★★
© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos: Paul Coltas
24.11.2019, Scandic Falconer Salen, Dänemark
Interview with REGINA SLOTH and KIM ACE-NIELSEN from TARZAN
Fredericia Teater's production of TARZAN comes to the Danish capital after having played in both Fredericia and Aarhus. Before making its official debut on November 29th, we got the chance to talk to Tarzan and Jane themselves: KIM ACE-NIELSEN and REGINA SLOTH who offered us insight into this exciting production:
About one year ago, Tarzan has already played in Fredericia. How was it for you coming back to the characters after that time?
Kim: It was the easiest thing I’ve ever done. When we met in rehearsals in Aarhus, I even said to Diluckshan [Jeyaratnam], who plays Terk, that it was so weird that it felt like it had only been last week since we’ve done it.
Regina: Almost too easy for the two of you. (laughs)
Kim: Of course, Regina and I haven’t played together that much in Fredericia. So some of it was actually new, when we came back to rehearsals. That was nice. But it has been really easy. Back in Aarhus Søren [Møller] also said that he feels like the show improves a little bit every time we get to come back. It gives you a chance to rethink and question what you are doing.
Regina: It has more depth and more levels for each character now. And the relations, like between Kim and me, are developing a lot. That feels really good. But as Kim said, we were not playing together a lot in Fredericia, as I was alternating Jane. This round I was able to collect a bit more of my natural first feeling of a way to do a scene - kind of like an instinct to do something differently. So it all feels closer to me now than it felt before.
Since this is such a high energy show, how hard is it to keep this energy up - especially if it’s a double show day?
Regina: Yeah, double show days are really tough.
Kim: There is so much natural energy in all the scenes that it doesn’t really feel heavy in your head, though it can be hard on your voice. But for me it’s just that the legs die after sitting in that crouch position for so long. The first week in Aarhus, I thought that I’m never gonna walk again. Today as well since we’ve started rehearsals yesterday. But it’s gonna get better the closer we get to the premiere.
Regina: When we’ve done it a few times, your body gets used to a lot of it.
Do you have a favourite part in the show?
Kim: “You’ll Be In My Heart (Reprise)” with Tarzan and his mom. It’s a really nice tender moment and I enjoy every bit of it. Also because after that the show wraps up so fast. So this scene always feels like a relief, because I think: Yes, we’ve made it again.
The very last scene in the first act is also great, when Tarzan and Jane meet for the first time. We’ve found some funny moments in that moment. And I think that’s when the show actually starts. A lot happens before, but I feel the plot doesn’t really start until Tarzan and Jane meet.
Regina: One of my favourite moments is in the middle of “Strangers Like Me”. When the light dims and Kim and I are totally alone. You really look at me and it’s just so cute and beautiful and I just feel drawn to you. Then we are going up the stairs and I’m meeting Tarzan’s mom. That moment is so important for Jane and her whole experience, watching this love between Tarzan and his mom. There is just so much intimacy, honesty, love and joy right there. And all of that only takes about 30 seconds.
What is the one thing you love the most about playing your characters?
Kim: I remember reading that someone at the premiere thought Tarzan was a bit too serious. And I thought: Maybe you’re right. I then talked with my husband about that and he was like: Why do you listen to that, there were 50 other reviews that loved it. And I said: I don’t just want a pat on the back. Somebody criticised something and it was a thing I could work with, so I would be stupid not to listen to it. So I try to make Tarzan more playful and happier. Because he is happy and he is supposed to be about 18.
Regina: Tarzan is a teenager. It’s not even playing young, it’s just being aware that a teenager’s mind is not always so settled.
Kim: And he is dumb. I mean how dumb was I, when I was a teenager? So yeah, that’s fun to do.
Regina: What I like about Jane is that she’s super smart, but she is also fooling around a lot. She can’t control her emotions, because she is not a grown up yet. She doesn’t know how to react and when she reacts it’s big. I also have fun playing around with her trying to be a grown up and actually being a woman, because that’s what she is. She is a woman.
You are also coming into the auditorium a bit. Do you notice the viewers or do you try to not see them too much?
Kim: The few times Tarzan is in the audience, everybody is super focused about what’s happening on stage, so the interaction is kind of minimal. But I always treat them as if they are there; like they are animals in the jungle. Tarzan is so focused on Jane. It’s the first time ever that he sees someone that looks even remotely like him; there are just so many thoughts going on inside of his head. So I see them, but I’d find it weird to interact with them. I also try to hide and be quick, because I’m not supposed to draw attention. But I can always feel all the children noticing me right away. I don’t know if it’s a sixth sense that we grow out of or if adults are ‘polite’ and just look at the stage, because that’s where stuff happens. But I just feel all the kids’ eyes on me as soon as I’m there and then they won’t stop looking. At that point I want to acknowledge that they are there. I don’t want to ignore them.
Regina: I’m not out in the auditorium that much, but I have moments where I am very much front stage and I can’t ignore that there is something there. But it’s more of a picture than a single person that I see. I use the energy and the focus when people are looking at me to imagine energies like a night sky for example. Sometimes you even sort of have eye contact with people, but more in a dreamy way. It’s a little weird, because there should be a fourth wall, but there is no wall. It’s something completely different. So it’s a landscape and you need to use that.
Sadly, Copenhagen is the last stop for Tarzan. What is it that you’re going to miss the most?
Kim: I’m just dreading the last night. I’m gonna be a mess. Nothing is ever gonna be like this. I just can’t name one other leading man that can top Tarzan. Maybe some have more songs, but then they don’t have to crawl around or fly in the air. Of course, it depends what you do with the character, but that’s also what makes it great. I know working so many years as a dancer has made me able to do stuff with the role that other people can’t. That’s special. It’s not the only part in the world that’s like that, but it’s the one part that suits me really well.
Regina: It really does.
Kim: I believe most of us think that this show is a special thing. Of course it’s gonna be a great last night, but it’s gonna be a horrible night too.
Regina: I feel the same way. I will remember this, because this was my first job. And that is a truly emotional thing for me. The tears and stars I got in my eyes, when I got the part - that was just beyond. This opportunity is what you dream of.
Kim: It is a dream role. When they announced the show, I thought that it was never gonna happen for me, because I was on the older side by then. But it did happen. And that makes it extra special. Tarzan really is a once in a lifetime thing.
Thank you again very much for doing this interview Kim and Regina - especially after those two tiring rehearsal days. We wish you both good luck for the premiere on November 29th and much fun with the remaining time on TARZAN!
© Lisa A. Murauer
18.11.2019, Kopenhagen, Dänemark
Interview with MADS M. NIELSEN (Part I.)
Fredericia's Hunchback has done it again: Because of the high demand it got renewed once more - playing now until December 8th. After talking with the heroes, it is now about time for the bad guy who makes their lives literally hell: Frollo played by MADS M. NIELSEN.
But Frollo is not all there is to Mads. He is also directing some exciting projects coming up. One of those is the return of the musical version of Ken Follett's A COLUMN OF FIRE. We will feature all of that soon in Part II. of this interview!
What was your reaction, when you heard The Hunchback will return to Denmark?
I knew that we were eventually going to do it again, since it has been so well received and I knew that fans would come back. So I’m not surprised that it happened, I am surprised that it happened now. You could argue that it is maybe a bit too soon, but in the given situation it was the best decision they could make.
But doing a big show like this again that has been so popular is a little frightening. You ask yourself: Was it just luck the last time? And there are also these thoughts about making it better. It’s always a bit strange to return to something. But it has been nice to revisit this show and be confirmed that it is one of the best books written in musical theatre with one of the best scores - it’s nearly perfect. It’s a beautiful show and people enjoy it and I enjoy doing it every night.
Did you want to return as Frollo right from the start?
After I did The Prince of Egypt I said to my daughter - who is a really important part of my career, because when I work I don’t see her, so it has to be important work - that I thought that I had my share of Fredericia for the time being and that it was okay to take a break with that. Then she asked: What if they’re doing Hunchback again? And I said: Well, then I have to return to Fredericia.
So when it was announced that they were doing Hunchback again and they asked if I wanted to return, I just had to come back.
Did you have a lot of freedom with your interpretation of Frollo?
Yeah, I had a lot of freedoms. I take a lot of freedoms. That’s how I am as an actor.
So I just asked our director Thomas [Agerholm] if I could bring the sword in during the Place of Miracles scene for example. To make Frollo invulnerable when he comes in. And Thomas agreed. But the others didn’t know. So we did a run-through and when Oliver [Lundqvist] saw me with the sword I said: I am experimenting. And he was like: Oh no, this is gonna go so bad!
But that really changed the energy of the scene.
Other than that, it was kind of just like Thomas making sure that Frollo wasn’t only the cartoon villain. He wanted a bit more moral ambiguity and wait with the evil for later. And I try to wait. I try to play a man with a lot of authority who is just having a good time until the evil arises. But when I feel that the show is not really flying, I just put the evil in.
So my co-work with both Thomas and Lynne [Kurdziel Formato] has been one of the best processes I’ve had as an actor.
Does working with the alternate actors change your own performance?
It’s another conscience you have on, when working with the alternate cast. But we’ve had four Esmeraldas and I’ve done a lot of shows with Oliver [Lundqvist], because he has been alternating Quasimodo right from the start. It’s really interesting to see how much he has grown, since doing it the first time. So I am used to work with alternates.
But you do have a little more responsibility when Oliver and Katrine [Jenne] are on. To make them feel safe, so they can do their thing without getting nervous. When you then go back to the original cast, everything is a little bit easier and THEN you have to worry, because you can lose your concentration.
You told me that it was the perfect time to do The Hunchback back then when it played in Fredericia for the first time - because of all the political things going on three years ago. Do you think the show is as relevant today and that the people come because of the political reasons?
I don’t think the people come to the theatre, because of the political relevance of the show. They think about the story and the music and they come to see the cartoon. And then they get something else that they didn’t expect. Who is the monster and who is the man? What is love? All these universal questions are a big part of the story. And I can always see that the moment after the whipping really hits people. When I take Quasimodo’s crown off and, instead of being gentle and loving, I am hard on him. We all know that feeling of being bullied and of not being supported by our parents. That’s why the show is so relevant.
But one of the most relevant things that happened is that Notre Dame has burned. We actually had the discussion about how people might react when we burn it now during Hellfire. If it had happened now, we would probably have changed it.
So there have never been any real plans to change Hellfire?
We talked about it, but decided that people have moved on since then. There are bigger problems now than this really beautiful cathedral - which has not only done a lot of good but also a lot of bad as well! - that has burned. And it will be rebuilt again. So we have greater issues to struggle with.
As Frollo you interact a lot with the audience. Other actors sometimes need to stay in their own bubble and try to not notice the audience. Is that something you don’t need to stay in character?
That is something I have always done. I just have this radar, so I notice people. Sometimes I actually have to consciously turn it off and be like: Stay in character. So it is one of my bad habits. But here I use it. Frollo is checking everybody out all the time and seeking everybody’s eyes. Hopefully, I get around to almost everybody every night, so they get a glimpse of just pure evil.
Frollo is also kind of a mirror of the worst things a person can be. Jealousy, sexual harassment and racism, he mirrors all of that. What I try to do is kind of ask the audience: I know that you think you are not like this, but can you feel yourself in him?
And everybody enjoys Frollo. But he is a really awful person.
I actively interact with the people sitting on stage as well. Because sometimes the show is not staged for them and they don’t get to experience everything. So I really take care and use every opportunity to say: Hi, I know you’re there.
It’s always great to connect to the viewers. I don’t believe in the fourth wall. We are all together in this room. But you can risk ruining the illusion by being too much out there with the audience. So I have to balance that. But it’s something I enjoy doing.
You said that you especially like scaring the audience.
Yeah. Frollo should be scary - but also sweet sometimes. He thinks he is good. Up to a certain point. Then he knows he is just fucked.
Do you have a favourite moment or song?
Hellfire. There are a lot of favourite moments all over the show, but nothing beats Hellfire. And nothing ever will! That is the ultimate challenge and the coolest number to do. It’s just marvelous watching the people’s reactions to what is happening on stage and I am no longer in focus. I can do whatever I want, because everybody is just looking around. And for me it was a thing that I didn’t think I could do. So learning to do it in my own way, not perfectly, but in my own way, that’s something I am really proud of. I enjoy doing it every single time.
Lars [Mølsted] said that he has the hope that this show can make the people just a little bit better. Is that also a reason why you are going on stage and do what you do?
No. I think if theatre can save the world, then it can also make it a worse place. Then you can only do good theatre, otherwise you are ruining the world. And I don’t want that responsibility.
So I have no intention of changing anybody or saving the world. I have a hope that people will think and that they will then change themselves. But that’s not my responsibility as an actor. My responsibility is to give the best possible performance, do the best possible show and tell this beautiful story - showing the viewers what’s in the world and show them emotions. I do that, because I like doing that and because I think it’s important. My biggest hope is that people have a nice time at the theatre and think: That was a great evening; I will do this again sometimes.
Then of course, if the people are happy, then the world is a better place. So you could call that a change. But the change should already start before they come into the theatre. They should be open for the experience, don’t talk during the show and turn their phones off. There aren’t really that many people that listen anymore.
I think it’s important to tell stories and that we listen to stories. And it’s also important to tell a story without having a hidden agenda of why I am telling it. I am just telling it for you to listen to it. And then you can do what you want with it.
Thanks again Mads for taking so much of your time for our extensive talk! Best of luck for the last weeks in The Hunchback - as well as for all your other projects!
Stay tuned for Part II. which will focus on the work as a director and especially on one of Mads' coming projects: A COLUMN OF FIRE!
© Lisa A. Murauer
08.11.2019, Fredericia Teater, Dänemark
Interview with KATRINE JENNE and OLIVER LUNDQVIST
Fredericia Teater's Klokkeren fra Notre Dame (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) has now been playing for about one month - with great success! Performers KATRINE JENNE (Florika and Alternate Esmeralda) and OLIVER LUNDQVIST (Frederic and Alternate Quasimodo) were so kind to share their thoughts about this production as well as their experiences acting as an alternate and as part of the ensemble:
First of all, congratulations that The Hunchback got renewed yet again!
Last weekend, you both had your debut as Esmeralda and Quasimodo. Of course, it’s a different experience for the both of you. You, Oliver, have alternated as Quasimodo in the last productions too, but for you, Katrine, it is your very first time as Esmeralda. How did you both feel before going on stage?
Katrine: It’s been a special process for me. I know the story, because I was in the show the last two times we did it – just not as Esmeralda. Esmeralda has always been very special to me. Ever since I first saw the movie when I was five – I fell in love with her in a way. I never really thought that I would get to portray her!
I had butterflies in my stomach that Sunday, but those went away, ‘cause we had the matinee, where I did my usual performance in the ensemble. Doing that felt normal and then everything went so fast that I didn’t really have time to think too much. So, I was pretty calm, until the moment right before Esmeralda’s entrance. I stood there behind the curtain all by myself, since everyone else was on stage. But there was one of the girls working at the theatre with me. And she said to me: Go kill it. Then my nervousness went away and I was like: Yeah, I’m gonna go and kill it! And it was just a crazy night.
Oliver: I told you, that moment is so nerve-racking! And I had that experience three years ago. This was the first show I ever did right out of school. This time, I felt calmer. I’ve had more practice alternating major parts in big musicals without much rehearsal – this summer I also shared Ramses in The Prince of Egypt with Lars [Mølsted]. Though I’ve done this show before, I was pretty anxious as to what kind of experience this was going to be. It’s new people and a whole other mood. Despite this nervousness, I found that I had gotten a long way since three years ago. Both as a person and as an actor.
It was also a really nice experience going in with Katrine. When I’m alternating, I am normally the new energy on stage that the others pay extra attention to. It was great to get to share that with Katrine and also get to share my own experiences with her. It helps you ground your own performance, when you have to direct your attention at someone else, instead of directing it inwards – which I tend to do in a stressful situation.
Did you have a lot of freedom in creating your own interpretation of the characters?
Katrine: In some ways, we did. We’ve gotten the same instructions as to what our director [Thomas Agerholm] wants us to do, and it is important to share all the technical stuff, standing at a certain location or delivering specific lines in a certain way. But, of course, we are different people from Lars and Bjørg [Gamst], so we do the parts our way. I think, Esmeralda feels different to me and my body than she feels for Bjørg. So, in that lies our freedom.
Oliver: Yeah, we have that freedom. That said, there is also a set character. It wasn’t us in the rehearsal space that walked the path and explored everything with the director. So, a lot of the inspiration for our characters comes from Lars and Bjørg and their way of doing it.
Katrine: Of course, it does! And you talk to them about it. I had many chats with Bjørg about Esmeralda. What she was thinking about specific scenes and how she thought about the character, things I wanted to hear her opinion on.
Oliver: Most of my talks with Lars happened three years ago, as we were creating the part – but we still have them. They are mostly about technical stuff this time around. You don’t miss the emotions, but it’s the little things you do miss as an alternate. For example, why I’m doing a certain movement in a specific scene, which I’ve only done, because I’ve seen Lars doing it like that every time.
And, as a person who has shared the role with Lars in three productions and having watched Lars evolve the character and improve the way he performs it, while still having to maintain my idea of who Quasimodo is, has been very interesting. And like with Katrine, Quasimodo has been very special to me for a long time. This was the movie I watched as a kid and I love this character. This is the one part I wanted to play more than anything, so I’m really happy that I get this chance. This is probably the last time I’m gonna do this part in my life, which means the shows I’ve got left matter. So, every time I’m on, I do the part with everything that I’ve got.
When you’re acting in the ensemble, you play a lot of different parts during the show. Do you create a specific character for each one you’re playing?
Katrine: When we started three years ago, I invented names for all the different characters I play and relationships to the other people in the ensemble. That’s what makes it fun and gives you a basis to play around with. That has stayed in this version, but it has changed a little, since we are different people.
Oliver: You also do the Florika part now. You play Quasimodo’s mom that you didn’t before. Did that affect the way you view your statue character?
Katrine: Yeah, it actually does and it also affects the way I look at Christoffer [Skov], who plays Quasimodo’s dad. Because when we are not mom and dad, we are kind of replacing them as two statues in Quasimodo’s life.
Oliver: My track – which is the term used for the different ensemble characters we do during the show – is a little different, because I appear mostly as the same character. When we first did this show, we weren’t as ventured in having alternates being a permanent part in a production. It was easier to have me be just one part, so that another person can go in and not mess anything up in the ensemble. But we’ve grown as a theatre and as performers in the technical aspects of doing musicals. We have three alternates now and all has been planned. While I still do most of the same things that I did three years ago, Katrine’s track has changed a little and the same with Søren’s [Bech Madsen], who alternates Frollo.
Katrine: We have mixed it up a bit. Mine is a combination of the girl who played Florika before me and then some of the track I originally did.
Oliver: It’s a different experience if you’re in the ensemble track or a small supporting part. I do have a character that I’ve been working on and that’s mostly for myself and my fellow actors. We don’t want audiences to think too much about our characters, we want them to see a person who is alive and reacts in a way that fits the story’s flow. I play lieutenant Frederic, who is one of Phoebus’s mates. Emil [Birk Hartmann] and I have found a nice camaraderie that makes it really fun doing their relationship, which feeds Phoebus’ character – and that is important.
In this show, people sit on the stage. How does this closeness of the audience affect your performance?
Katrine: We have to stay in character all the time. And for me that’s really precious, ‘cause that means that the focus of the show stays throughout – for everyone. Even when you’re off stage, since you have to be quiet. I think that helps this show be as special as it is. We are staying in this story-world from the moment the public comes in until the very end.
Oliver: You also don’t want to get caught by an audience member doing stuff that’s not part of the show. So, whatever lollygagging I wanna do with my fellow actors on stage, I need to do in character.
Katrine: It forces you to be creative.
Oliver: Yes, everything we talk about and do on stage, needs to fit the style of the show.
Does your relationship with the audience change depending if you are playing Esmeralda/Quasimodo instead of being a part of the ensemble?
Katrine: As Esmeralda during topsy-turvy, I take the viewers in. I look at them and sing to them. But I have more chances doing that as an ensemble person, since it is also part of the choreography to interact. So, some of us talk, smile, sing and even give high-fives to them. But there are also places, where we don’t look at them. They are still there, we acknowledge them and we can still open up our bodies to take them in, but we don’t include them.
Oliver: They are there, just not in the same way. But we do see them – all the time.
Katrine: One time, I saw a mom and her son sitting right next to the catwalk. She was sobbing and holding him. That really affected me. She didn’t see me noticing her, until the bows, where I looked at her. We were both still crying and I smiled at her, which made her look so happy. We shared that moment, even though we are strangers. And I loved that. I try to find that whenever I can, because for me that too is what the show is about – what it does to the people.
Oliver: It’s intensely cathartic. And that is one of the things that this show has going so well, the cathartic interactions with the audience through the music and the story.
When I’m Quasimodo, I don’t see the viewers at all – except one place. That’s completely new in this production. In the end, when Quasimodo has his awakening, he takes the audience in. And though it might seem like a little thing staging wise, it’s a huge thing to do, because it’s both powerful and strange. You are in a really emotional place, it’s overwhelming. And I’m still learning how to cope with it, because that’s the only thing that you can’t rehearse at all without an audience actually being there.
Speaking of emotions, since it is such a touching show, how difficult is it for you to let go afterwards – especially if it is a double-show day?
Katrine: It does take me some time. I do think, I’m better at it this time around, because I know what I am going into. Back then, we sometimes came down into the wardrobe still crying, ‘cause we had to get it out of the system. Now, it heals itself quicker.
Oliver: You just do another show, because that’s what you have to. And it’s also very exciting to get to tell the story one more time with different experiences in your body. But you can’t have that dictate the way you experience the next show. It does feel very different doing a double-show as Quasimodo than doing my regular track. Quasimodo is such an intense part, but I like that you can feel your work in your body.
Katrine: I like that too. This story means a lot to me, so I enjoy that it costs a lot to do it every night.
If you had to pick just one, what is your favourite part of the show?
Oliver: Personally, I have a lot of favourite moments in the show.
Katrine: I have that as well.
Oliver: There are so many amazing parts put together. Making Quasimodo in the beginning – or the whole finale. There is no break there, so physically it’s very draining and it also takes a toll on my emotions. But I always enjoy these last 25 minutes or so, because I don’t get to think, I don’t get to be Oliver, I just get to be Quasimodo.
Katrine: The last time I did Florika and you were on as Quasimodo for the first time, you made me fall apart completely. When you looked at me during that part in the finale, I died. I really tried to hold it together and I did during my singing, but then I cried.
Oliver: I have one favourite moment that’s specific with Katrine. In the beginning of the interview, we talked about us being different from Bjørg and Lars – and we have an entirely different dynamic between us. One scene, I really feel we two together made ours, is “Top of the World”. Because we’ve known each other so long and it’s just very peaceful. With Bjørg it’s also magical, but in a whole other way. So, that is one of my favourite moments with you.
Katrine: Mine too. It’s also the scene where Esmeralda gets to be truly happy. She can be herself and doesn’t have to be afraid of anything – or anyone. That feels really great, especially doing that with you, since we know each other so well. That’s just a freeing moment.
Lastly, give one reason why people must watch this production?
Oliver: Okay, one good reason: “Hellfire”.
Katrine: That’s a great reason!
Oliver: It’s an overwhelming experience. I remember the first time that we were shown–
Katrine: The whole stage, the scenography and–
Oliver: How the stage shakes.
Katrine: What the LED did and what the sound was gonna do.
Oliver: We were just sitting there and screaming.
Katrine: Like we were at an amusement park.
Oliver: In addition, the reason why I think this story is as relevant now as it was when Victor Hugo wrote it is that right now – and also in the last couple of hundred years – we have a lot of white religious men being in charge and deciding what other people get to do with their lives. And Frollo is that. He is the church, the white man that controls the disabled, the immigrants and the people who think otherwise. And “Hellfire” is the foundation for why Frollo is doing everything. It is him dealing with so much, it’s criticising the church as well. The greatest antagonists are the ones we sympathise with and that we understand.
Katrine: And that is just the content – which is the most important thing. But even besides that, it’s just an experience in itself: Sitting in the auditorium and looking, hearing and feeling that. That song is incredible.
Oliver: And Mads [M. Nielsen] has only improved in the last three years – especially as a singer. He has come to a point where he’s just awesome. I really enjoy it, so props to him for that, it’s just amazing to keep evolving like that.
Katrine: True. Hellfire is a great reason, but I also think this is a show that everyone can relate to, in general. You can see this show in your own life. No matter who you are, you can relate to someone or something in this show. And that is just special.
Thank you again very much for this insightful talk, Katrine and Oliver. We wish you all the best in the remaining weeks of The Hunchback - and beyond!
© Lisa A. Murauer
05.11.2019, Folketeatret Dänemark
SKATTEØEN (Treasure Island)
Based on the book by the same name written by Robert Louis Stevenson, SKATTEØEN (Treasure Island) follows the journey of young Jim Hawkins. Jim finds himself searching after the famous pirate treasure,after stumbling upon the map that will lead him right to treasure island. But there are many dangerous obstacles to overcome and it often proves difficult to see the difference between the good and the bad.
Written by Preben Harris, this show has long been a part of the Danish musical repertoire, with its premiere dating back to 1986. This production opened in Copenhagen at Folketeatret on October 10th and it proves that it still manages to captivate young and old alike.
Danish musician Sebastian provided the music. It offers a contrast to the time the story is set in with its rousing rock-beats, and fits this pirate adventure. The tunes are entertaining and fast-paced. Director and choreographer Birgitte Mæs-Schmidt has a sense for both timing and flow, and she knows how to keep the audience on the edge of the seat. Most songs are, while certainly good and fun, not that memorable, and the sound-mixing makes it sometimes hard to hear the lyrics. There are exceptions and one of those is “Fuld af nattens stjerner” (Full of the stars of the night): Sung beautifully by Szherley, she gives a touching interpretation as Jim’s mom too.
The adventure start even before the curtain rises: Pirates invade the foyer and engage in a rousing battle, promising exactly what the viewers will await during the show: action. From start to finish, there are only a few moments to catch one’s breath. To not take too much of the surprise away, the beginning itself can only be described as bombastic, and the second act attracts the audience’s attention just the same – though in a very different way. There is a focus on violence, not unfitting for the story’s setting. It can be rather brutal at times, as well as loud, which maybe makes this show not suitable for the very smallest family members.
The scenography by Terry Parsons is as dynamic as the story itself. It is impressive how little it takes for all these transformations to happen on-stage – be it from the tavern to the ship to the deserted island.
It’s not all about fighting, however, there is also a lot of heart. Jacob Spang Olsen gives an impressive performance as Jim Hawkins. His Jim proves to be every child’s hero. Not only because of his courage, but even more so because of his kindness, which he keeps despite the gruesome world that surrounds him. (The role of Jim Hawkins is shared by Jacob Spang Olsen and Alfred Kann).
Kasper Leisner plays antagonist John Silver with both charisma and authority. He is just how one imagines a pirate must be, and he fits the theme of the show – that the world is not black and white – as well.
The rest of the cast seems to have a lot of fun with their characters as well – be it the good or the bad guys. Noteworthy is Kristian Boland as doctor Livesey. His calm demeanour and dry form of humour works even better in this otherwise action-packed musical, providing jokes which makes all audience members laugh – regardless of their ages.
SKATTEØEN is entertainment for the whole family, and the fights make the time fly past. It is now playing at Folketeatret until December 8th. From January 23rd onwards, the musical sets sail for the tour all around Denmark – with a stop in Leck (Germany) as well.
4/6 Sterne ★★★★
© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos: Gudmund Thai
30.10.2019 - Fredericia Teater, Dänemark
Four newly written musicals produced within 24 hours. This is the concept behind 24TIMER MUSICALS. It aims to not only give (new) artists a chance to prove themselves, and create a environment to produce art, but to support Børnecancerfonden – a great cause supporting children with cancer. After all involved came together the previous evening, each team – consisting of one director, one scriptwriter, one songwriter, one conductor, one assistant and four performers – got to present their work on October 21st at Fredericia Teater.
Each musical had a length of about twenty minutes, the same band (minus the conductor) and incorporated the scenography already there, which was the one from Fredercia’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. However, here is where the similarities end.
The first “I medgang og modgang” (“For better or for worse”) starts at a wedding. As Christina (Christina Marie Skodborg) is about to get married to Christian (Christian Collenburg), she begins to dwell in the past: Not only does she remembers their relationship but also that of her parents (played by Ulla Ankerstjerne and Kim Brandt) as well. Suddenly, she isn’t so sure, if that marriage is what she wants. Everybody’s performance managed to make you feel for these characters – in such a short time. This piece was also just beautifully staged: The time-jumps, the scene changes, everything was so seamless that it is hard to believe, this show was created in under 24 hours.
While the first musical was realistic, the second one went into the complete opposite direction – in every aspect. “Fire fugle i et bur” (“Four birds in a cage”) is about three birds (with a forth joining them later on). As soon as the birds came on stage, the audience erupted with laughter. It wasn’t just hard to keep it together watching the actors behave like birds – including sounds and movement, which they kept doing for the whole thing – it was impossible. So, kudos to Anna Jørgensen Kaack, Jesper Asholt, Maria Skúladóttir and Teit Samsø for this unique avian-performance. Though primarily comedic, this piece also deals with serious questions: Is freedom worth its price? Or is it better to stay in captivity where it is safe?
The second part started with another comedy: “Superhelt søges” (“Superhero wanted”) tells the story of a boy called Daniel, who asks for a superhero online. His call is answered, as energetic UmbrellaGirl appears. Fearing UmbrellaGirl will leave again, if she discovers that Daniel called her just because he was bored, Daniel gives her the name of the only villain he knows: his overbearing mom. This is a happy-go-lucky piece and though they all must have been exhausted (like everyone else involved in this insane concept), it can truly be felt that the actors had much fun with their roles. Sara Gadborg was just on point as the mom, while Daniel Livbjerg Bevensee, Niklas Frandsen and Anna Mette Roest – whose entrance as UmbrellaGirl was hilarious – made it easy to believe they were portraying teenage kids.
The last musical presented was “Håb” (“Hope”) and it deals with exactly that. An angel (Rikke Lillevang) is sent to Odense Universitetshospital to look after a young boy. After all this time, the angel has become tired of her lonely missions, since no one ever notices her. This changes, however, when said boy – played very convincingly by Jonathan H. Jespersen – does see her. With his help, not only the angel dares to act on her own dreams, but the lives of a seemingly self-centred but lonely doctor (Joachim Knop) and a hardworking nurse (Winni Ellegaard Nielsen) change for the better.
It’s amazing what a group of dedicated people can achieve in such a short time, creating musicals that are engaging both story-wise and musically. And best of all, it also supports a great cause. So, thanks for this unique evening and all your hard work, it really paid off!
© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer
03.10.2019 - Fredericia Teater, Dänemark
KLOKKEREN FRA NOTRE DAME - The Repremiere
The hunchback has returned: Fredericia Teater brought its most successful production back to life, which celebrated its reopening on October 4th. Nothing said can really capture the experience that is KLOKKEREN FRA NOTRE DAME. It is a magical show, unable to explain. One simply has to witness it for oneself.
Speaking of the stage seats, they offer a unique experience in themselves – not only because you can get close to the action. You become a part of the show itself. You can look in the auditorium and see how spellbound the audience is. There is a whole different energy on stage, the whole cast is in character all the time – whispering to each other or performing other actions – and you can feel their presence. There are a lot of moments specifically designed for those sitting on stage which can’t be noticed from anywhere else – and they are often very touching. These cancel out the disadvantage of not being able to see some scenes in its entirety. Although, it has to be said that there is one specific moment that feels much more epic sitting in the auditorium – we’ll get back to that later. Therefore, it is definitely worth coming back for a second time, to enjoy both options.
Director Thomas Agerholm returns once more and much of the original cast members reprise their roles as well: Lars Mølsted again puts on the hunch as the titular hero. His performance makes one instantly feel for him, especially in Kold som sten (Made of Stone). It is heartbreaking to watch a broken and disillusioned Quasimodo. As he collapses at the end, one feels that hopelessness as one’s own. That song is just as intense vocally. Lars Mølsted nails even the highest of notes and his rendition is as forceful as it is delicate.
The lighting by Martin Jensen is on point throughout the whole piece. It heightens the emotions and simply enchants the viewers. The scenes inside the cathedral seem to come straight out of a fairytale and are nothing short but astonishing.
All eyes are on Bjørg Gamst, as she makes her spectacular entrance as Esmeralda, acting as the story’s turning point. Her dance is powerful yet full of grace – representing Esmeralda herself perfectly. She shows that kindness is a strength and not a weakness at all, taking Quasimodo’s side when no one else dares to act up on his behalf. One gets, why everybody becomes enthralled by her: Her liveliness radiates in all her movements, in her voice and in all her actions – which she never loses, even in the darkest hours. This is evident in En ny verden (Someday), one duet between Esmeralda and Phoebus. Bjørg Gamsts portrayal is full of hope in a seemingly hopeless situation and thus painfully bittersweet.
Mads M. Nielsen as Frollo is everything – and then some more. His Frollo is not only acting as the bad guy, but also as a source of humour. It takes talent to pour the right amount of comedy into the performance. Mads M. Nielsen achieves just that. He makes the audiences laugh, without taking away Frollo’s credibility as a truly terrifying villain. He possesses a tremendous stage presence and it takes just one glance to feel that power – and terror, for there lies that spark of Frollo’s madness. His Frollo lies in duality. He is merciless but not without doubts, cruel but not heartless. He is painfully human, flawed, but not a monster – and nothing is scarier than realising that.
You don’t need to sit on the stage to feel like you’re a part of the story-world. Hardly have scene changes been this impressive. Thanks to the scenography by Benjamin la Cour, one feels the movements while riding down the bell tower, after Lars Mølsted’s touching interpretation of Himlens skær (Heaven’s Light), which leads to:
Helvedes ild (Hellfire). It is impossible to not talk about this song, though words fail to capture this. The staging, the lighting, the choreography – and of course the performance of Mads M. Nielsen and the ensemble – everything culminates and creates a spectacle without equal. As the performance reaches its burning finale, Notre Dame itself is engulfed in infernal flames, taking the audience right into hell itself. These images are even more devastating now, since they have become reality just a few months back. There is a rapturing applause, almost as thundering as moments preceding it. There is a saying that there exists no such thing as perfection, but this puts that statement into question.
Following that showstopper is a short scene, which is just as memorable – though for the exact opposite reasons. Frollo approaches King Louis to get Esmeralda arrested, but the audience doesn’t exactly go as he has envisioned. It plays out like something straight out of a comedy piece. And the contrast works so well. Christian Collenburg shines as King Louis, his condescending treatment of Frollo – the interactions between those two are also just comedy gold – his posture and demeanour have the audience laughing out loud.
Emil Birk Hartmann nails Phoebus. Phoebus de Martin’s motives seem to be clear: he just wants to enjoy his life, far away from the war that still haunts him. He keeps up a mask to conceal his pain, a mask that crumbles, as the story progresses. It is when he gives into his emotions and vulnerability that one feels his despair as their own. For the city turns out to be just another battlefield and Phoebus finds himself torn between his orders and his growing feelings for Esmeralda. Soon he must ask himself if it is better to be a good soldier or a good man.
The gypsies’ king Clopin is played by Oliver Aagaard-Williams and he immensely enjoys his part: He is playful and mischievous, yet also fierce in protecting his people. Right from his first song, Vendt på hovedet (Topsy Turvy), his Clopin overflows with vitality, carrying the audience away. That choreography is also just one of the examples of the stunning work done by Lynne Kurdziel Formato. There are the monumental movements of the choir, Esmeralda’s arrival, and the little dance between Frollo and his vision of Esmeralda in Helvedes ild – making that performance even more dynamic.
This production achieves the highest aim: Though fleeting by itself, it is nevertheless unforgettable. This is theatre at its best! So, if you haven’t had the chance to experience the show the last time, now is the chance! KLOKKEREN FRA NOTRE DAME is now playing at Fredericia Teater in Denmark until December 15th – after its running time has been renewed a couple of times due to the high demand. Don’t miss it, no matter if you even understand Danish at all. There just is nothing else like this, not in the whole world.
Fredericia’s KLOKKEREN FRA NOTRE DAME receives 6/6 stars. Though it feels a little wrong – for of the most positive reasons! – since it deserves much more than that.
Bewertung 6/6 Sterne ★★★★★★
© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos: Søren Malmose
03.10.2019 - Fredericia Teater, Dänemark
Interview with BJØRG GAMST and LARS MØLSTED
Before the re-premiere of Fredericia Teater’s successful production of Disney’s THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, BJØRG GAMST (Esmeralda) and LARS MØLSTED (Quasimodo) granted us the chance for an insightful interview about their work and their feelings about this very special show:
Since it is rather special occasion that Fredericia Teater brings back a past production – especially after a short time – what was your reaction, when you learnt that The Hunchback of Notre Dame will return to Fredericia?
Lars: I got the news a week before the rest of the staff. Fredericia Teater really hoped that I wanted to do it again. I was overwhelmed and incredibly happy to be able to do The Hunchback once more. Though I’ve also forgotten, how hard and exhausting it is. But it was the best news ever, because I didn’t think that I would ever get the chance to do this show again. I have kinda said goodbye to the part. You also have to approach this show with a sense of respect. It’s kind of like putting on your work clothes again and saying: Okay, let’s do this, I’m ready. Otherwise, this show will kill you – in many different aspects.
Bjørg: I’ve moved a little to producing. So, I was actually part of the process of deciding that we were going to do it. On a producing level, it was the obvious choice to bring The Hunchback back. On a personal level, however, it didn’t feel so good – I was originally supposed to be doing Tarzan. So, I thought that I wasn’t going to be a part of The Hunchback and that made me feel a bit sad. I knew that was the right decision, though, so that was what I pushed for. But, after some time, we decided that I was gonna do Esmeralda instead. And, when The Hunchback has finished, I was to return to Tarzan.
I’m very happy to be doing this show again. I jumped into the production for the run in Copenhagen back then – and I only had a week’s rehearsal. It’s really great that this time we actually have a real rehearsal period. It’s different as well, since I’m not starting from scratch. Even though I’ve done the part many times, I feel like I keep discovering something new. I’ve also had time to try out different things, which I couldn’t do last time.
Lars: It’s the same for me, because we have a whole rehearsal period. It’s a bit shorter, since most of the cast knows the show, but we’ve had six weeks. In a remount it’s usually about three. It has been a lot of hard work this time, but almost no homework like learning lines. This makes all the difference! You have a limited amount of energy that you can only spend on so much. All that energy that we didn’t have to use for homework, we could direct into funny new things to try out on stage instead. To rediscover a show and to discover a whole new level underneath all the basics – that we thought we knew – has been fun and tough and hard and emotionally draining.
Would you say that you learnt something from the last time that you wanted to change now in this production?
Bjørg: Not exactly change something. But acting is a continuous process, and in life you get better too. You are never done and you’re stuck if you think you are.
Lars: And then you don’t belong here. (laughs)
Bjørg: You shouldn’t think that you weren’t good enough, when you did it the last time. As soon as you start thinking that way, you lose your self-esteem. You were good enough, though that doesn’t mean that you can’t find new things. However, I didn’t have the feeling that I wanted to change scenes. It’s more about going in and questioning why some things are like that. Why I move a certain way or if I were to do something different. It was about all these new possibilities that emerge from that.
Lars: We’ve had the air and the space to spark our creativity once again, to discover something new. It’s not like the old things we did were bad - I never think like that – but this time it’s been a whole new creative process. Because we’ve been building on a castle that’s already there.
Bjørg: Usually, you start from scratch. You have to find out who the person is that you’re playing. But now you start pretty high and then add a little bit of topping. I think most in the audience won’t notice, but for us it feels a little different – maybe it will also for some of the audiences. I also notice all the things that we discover when we are doing remounts now. And I’ve only just come to the realisation that, yes, I am better than I was the last time. That’s natural, because I keep learning all the time.
Lars: We get older and we have learnt more things. It’s impossible to not bring that to the character. The older and more experienced we get, the more experienced the character can get as well.
This production has been very successful with audiences and critics alike. A lot of that success has to do with the characters, because they feel so real and manage to touch people. Is there something in particular that manages to touch you?
Lars: It would be easier to explain what doesn’t touch me! The music disarms you right from the beginning, so you’re able to receive the story – which is about humanity and about how cruel but also beautiful we all are. It’s one of the most human stories. It doesn’t matter, where you are in your life or who you are, something – if not everything – resonates. And it also resonates with us on stage. So, the very last moments always get me.
Bjørg: It’s a story that has been written a long time ago, but it never gets old or out of fashion, because it is so humane. It’s about not feeling normal and feeling out of place. I think everyone can relate to that.
Lars: We’re all monsters and we’re all men. It’s what we choose to be. On the lowest levels, it’s about bullying. You can start there and build your way up to the whole human condition.
Bjørg: It’s also about migration and things that will always be relevant. It is extraordinary to be a part of telling this story. I don’t know what exactly it is, but there is something about that moment at the end: When the bells are ringing, and the whole ensemble comes back on stage together and sings these very high endnotes. It’s so emotional and you can feel the audience’s presence and we’re just standing there and looking at them – for me it’s also the first time really looking at them. The audience has been through a lot of things, and then we’re just standing there and it’s all over. There is this certain energy in the room. I know from the ensemble as well that there is just something special about telling this story, no matter where you are in the production.
Lars: It is quite extraordinary, because what the ensemble tells us is that most shows aren’t like this. The characters do touch the people, but it is as much the ensemble. If they don’t invest emotionally, you are left with 4-5 principle roles that have to take that load. And they can’t. Not in this show, because it’s an ensemble story.
Bjørg: The first fifteen minutes are just mostly the ensemble. It is up to them to set the energy of the show.
Lars: If the ensemble can invest into it emotionally, then it becomes even more than a show. It becomes a story. The particular storytelling takes make this production so powerful. We have chosen to stage that we are 100% storytellers at first, and then we are 100% in character. In the end, we rip the characters off, I literally take off my costume on stage and just talk to the audience – which is brutal. It’s impactful, but you also have to give 100%. Otherwise, the whole show would fall apart.
Bjørg: At one point, Søren [Møller Fredericia Teater’s head of theatre] said that it will probably only happen once in a lifetime that you hit a show which has a great script, the most amazing music maybe ever written, a fantastic set design and great actors. Not one part lets you down and all amounts to something extraordinary.
Lars: The parts together equal more than the total. They become more than each individual part. That’s what’s happening here. And we invest into it the best that we can. Because this is what the show and the story deserve. That’s kind of funny, because I’ve never thought it like that. And everybody in the cast and house can feel it. That’s why it hits the audience.
Speaking of the audience: It is a big part of every production, but it’s special here that audience members can sit on the stage. Does their presence affect your acting?
Bjørg: I’m the kind of actress that usually doesn’t see the viewers. I don’t look or notice them unless I can’t avoid it. Usually, I have this kind of bubble around me, so it all becomes a blur to me. I have to stay in my own universe. This show affects it, of course, because you can’t avoid seeing those people. And we also have the catwalk. I’m lying up there and I can feel people very close to me. It’s very in your face. But I also use their presence during the show. In the very first scene, when I enter the market place and I have my dance, I pretend they are people in the marketplace. But in my other scenes, I try to stay in my bubble.
Lars: I never watch the audience, unless I can’t help it. If the audience is sitting in the auditorium, it is easy to build up a 4 th wall. But what we have here is like having a lot of cameras on each side, so you can never rest. If you have your back to the viewers, you can cheat a little, but here they are always looking at you. It forces you to be completely in character – at all times. Which is hard, but also makes it more fun. I have to find new ways to play with my toys or say hi to the statues and gargoyles. However, I do remember that the very first rehearsal here was really intimidating. I’ve never tried having an audience right there. You can’t hide – ever. That was my first thought. And then it transformed into: Well, I can’t hide, so I’ll make the best out of it! And it became really fun and I love it now.
Bjørg: But even though I try to block them out, you do see audience members that you know and you can’t avoid noticing.
Lars: Sometimes you can’t not notice, especially if it’s the same person night after night. We’ve had some of those super fans who wanted to watch the show every night, and after five to seven shows, you kind of notice that it is the same person. Which is kind of funny, though I have to spend a little more energy to block it out. Because I still have to pretend that they’re not here. But it’s really fun and most of the people on stage have already seen the show from the auditorium, so they want to have a different experience. And the things we do with the seats on stage always come as a surprise.
Now it is just one week to go until the premiere. What is it that you are most looking forward to?
Bjørg: I was looking forward to the rehearsals – which are almost done now. So, I am very much looking forward to present the production now. When you are this close to the opening night, there always comes a point at which you want to meet the audience.
Lars: The thing I look most forward to, is getting the flow of doing this show and of getting the sense of the production under my skin. And then getting the viewers and showing it to them. Because I know, in my head, what it does to them. But my heart doesn’t yet.
Bjørg: I look very much forward to that moment of singing the very last notes of the epilogue, with just all the ensemble standing there holding hands. To the emotion you get from singing that part and to that energy of both ensemble and audience. We’ve been through the experience together. It’s not the same every night, but we’ve had this experience together. That is what theatre is, it’s in the moment.
Lars: The hope, my hope, is that every night the audience members – and we as well – get out of the room a little bit better. That’s theatre. We get to put on this story about humanity every night. It is filled with sorrow and despair, but the beauty is just there! And we are all so close to each other. It always surprises me how physically close we are to the audience and how close they are to us. Being on stage, it feels like we are further away. The big changes in the world don’t happen with theatre, but the small changes can – and then they can become big changes. So, that is what I hope for, every night.
Thank you both very much, Bjørg Gamst and Lars Mølsted, for this interesting interview! We wish you all the best and pøj pøj med premieren!
KLOKKEREN FRA NOTRE DAME/THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME returns on the 4th of October. Don't miss this chance to experience this production.
14.07.2019 - Theater am Hechtplatz, Zürich (Schweiz)
Im Theater am Hechtplatz werden die Toten wieder zum Leben erweckt: Ein Grund zum Weinen ist dies allemal – vor Lachen. Am 4. Mai feierte Mel Brooks YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN seine Schweizer Premiere. Schon beim Hineingehen in das kleine Theater, fühlt man sich in einen Kinosaal versetzt. Eine passende Stimmung, basiert das Musical doch auf dem gleichnamigen Film aus den 1970ern.
In Transsilvanien gibt es allen Grund zur Freude! Mit Victor von Frankenstein ist endlich der letzte Frankenstein gestorben. Nun heißt es Schluss mit den Monstern und der Angst. Doch einen Frankenstein gibt es noch: Frederick Frankenstein, der sich in Zürich bemüht, sich von seiner verrückten Verwandtschaft zu distanzieren. Und genau ihn verschlägt es nach Transsilvanien. Es dauert auch nicht lange, bis Frankenstein der Ehrgeiz packt und er seine ursprünglichen Reservationen gegenüber der Forschung seiner Ahnen hinter sich lässt. Unterstützt von seinem Assistenten Igor und der hübschen Inga steht er kurz davor, in die Fußstapfen seines Vorfahren zu treten und einen Toten zu erwecken. Ob das wirklich eine gute Idee ist?
Die Titelrolle wird von Flavio Dal Molin dargestellt. Die Entwicklung zu einem selbstbewussteren und gleichsam auch selbstloseren Menschen nimmt man ihm ab. An Frankensteins Seite sind Assistenten Inga und Igor. Gespielt von Isabella Flachsmann und Fabio Romano sind die drei ein eingespieltes und harmonisches Team. Insbesondere ist dies beim Timing der Witze zu erkennen, denn dieses sitzt.
Martina Lory übernimmt die Rolle von Frankensteins Verlobter Elisabeth Benning. Es ist bewundernswert, wie lange sie einen Ton mit ihrer starken Stimme halten kann.
Anikó Donáth spielt Frau Blücher, die streng wirkende Hausdame des alten Frankenstein mit Inbrunst.
Eric Hättenschwiler als Monster beweist, dass man sogar ohne (verständliche) Worte Eindruck hinterlassen kann. Seine Mimik ist einfach zum Zerkugeln. Nur mit seinen Augen vermag er es, das Publikum minutenlang zum Lachen zu bringen.
Die Melodien von Mel Brooks bleiben im Allgemeinen hängen, der eine Ohrwurm ist aber nicht auszumachen. Der Humor ist typisch für Mel Brooks, orientiert sich an The Producers und noch mehr an Spaceballs. Der Fokus liegt deswegen auf Slapstick, teilweise ist er auch recht schwarz und geht deutlich unter die Gürtellinie. Die oftmals wunderbar überdrehte Choreographie von Jonathan Huor trägt immens zum Humor des Stückes bei. Gleichzeitig ist sie mitunter sehr fordernd. Der Höhepunkt ist hier sicherlich die mitreißende Tanzeinlage bei „Puttin‘ on the Ritz“, die dank den Stepp Coaches Daniel Borak und Ursina Meyer beeindruckend ist. Hier beweist das gesamte Ensemble sein Können.
Diese Schweizer Produktion hat sich das Musical wahrlich zu eigen gemacht. Hier ist die Übersetzung wirklich gelungen und auf das Schweizer Publikum zugeschnitten worden – komplett mit Schweizer Mundart. Auf Nichtschweizer wird hierbei allerdings Rücksicht genommen, das meiste wird nicht in der Mundart gesprochen. Ebenso wurden die Handlung, Orte und viele der Witze adaptiert, es gibt zahlreiche Referenzen auf die Schweiz sowie auf die Spielstätte selbst. Genau so gelingt eine Umsetzung.
Ebenso liebevoll ist das Stück auf die Bühne transportiert worden. Das Bühnenbild ist charmant-witzig gestaltet, es lassen sich viele nette Ideen ausmachen. Es ist eben dieser Sinn für Details sowie die Leistung aller Cast Mitglieder, die einen über so manch eine Schwächen des Musicals – die teilweise darauf beruhen, dass manche übernommenen Filmelemente unzeitgemäß wirken –hinwegsehen lassen.
Im Theater am Hechtplatz sind Freunde schräger Musicals abseits vom Mainstream auf jeden Fall gut aufgehoben. Zu Recht gab es für YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN und den engagierten Cast minutenlang Standing Ovations.
Vom 20. September bis am 13. Oktober ist die Inszenierung noch einmal am Hechtplatz zu sehen.
Bewertung 6/6 Sterne ★★★★★★
© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos: Theater am Hechtplatz
17.04.2019 - Fredericia Teater, Dänemark
URINETOWN/ TISSEBYEN - The Musical
When a musical opens with the conductor taking a (metaphorical) leak, before taking a bow and starting the overture, you get the feeling that this will not be your typical show. But then again, what else can one expect from a musical with a title like Urinetown? There is even an apology about the poor title choice (as well as an explanation that it had been easier to sell tickets for Grease).
Conceived by Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann the show depicts the not so distant future after a devastating drought. This water shortage led to drastic measures: Toilettes are neither private nor free. Everybody who skirts the law will be sent to the ominous Urinetown, a place no one has come back from. After his father gets dragged off to Urinetown, young Bobby Stærk decides to take matter in his own hand and fight for a tomorrow where everybody will have the privilege to pee.
The whole premise is just so absurd, but this musical makes it work. The songs are also catchy and upbeat, a stark contrast to the dark lyrics. Some of the melodies have a certain Sondheim-feeling to it and are bound to get stuck in one’s head. They shouldn’t have the right to be as good and clap along-able as they are, considering they mostly revolve around peeing (or murder). Which is why it’s going to be difficult to sing them out loud in public.
Diluckshan Jeyaratnam is the story’s hero Bobby Stærk. He makes Bobby likeable and instantly gets the viewers on his side. One of his highlights – as well as one of the show’s – “Run Freedom Run” is a true show stopper. In this energetic gospel number Diluckshan Jeyaratnam can showcase his immense vocal range. In addition, it’s a really motivating and inspiring song, even though it basically revolves around running away.
Frederikke Maarup Viskum portrays Håb Tårnhøj, the naïve daughter of the pissoir-monopoly president. While being an affectionate parody of other musical heroines, her Håb is more than that. Although the show plays with tropes and clichés, it still lets its characters become their own. Frederikke Maarup Viskum’s gentle, bright voice suits Håb’s carefree nature perfectly. However, as the story progresses, she demonstrates her powerful side too, which she does just as good.
Bjørg Gamst plays Lille Sally, one of the few truly kind-hearted characters, serving as a commentator and audience stand-in at times. Acting with a shrill little girl voice while still sounding good can’t be easy, but Bjørg Gamst makes it work.
Lars Mølsted nails the role of Strunk. Suave and ever so slightly amused, he is prominent whenever appearing on stage without being brash. It’s no secret that Strunk gets some of the best lines, though their delivery can be tricky at times. Lars Mølsted doesn’t struggle, however, and delivers them with such nonchalance as well as confidence that even the subtler jokes manage to land. Vocally Strunk’s songs are also very demanding, but Lars Mølsted always hits the right notes, be it deep or high.
Kim Ace Nielsen’s facial expressions and dramatic gestures as police inspector Stram are priceless, especially together with Lars Mølsted’s more laid-back Strunk. The two of them make the perfect comedic duo. As choreographer Kim Ace Nielsen managed to grasp the musical’s atmosphere and convert it into the movements, making those sometimes the primary source for laughter. Seldom has the dancing itself been such a powerful factor in adding to the humour. One such highlight has to be “Cop Song”, where Strunk and Stram, among other police officers, break into a catchy dance number while recounting all the tales about people who have been sent off to Urinetown (the place this time, not the musical). It’s so over the top that it's impossible to keep oneself together. Countless references, from Gangnam Style to Dirty Dancing and Thriller, evoke additional laughter.
Maria Skuladottir plays Mona Møntfod, the warden of the poorest loo in town. Her songs are pretty demanding with most notes ranging in the high key spectrum. Maria Skuladottir hits them all with immense power and passion that one forgets that the lyrics mostly centre around having to pay to pee.
Kim Leprévost as Håb’s father Troels R Tårnhøj is just charming enough to not be completely unlikeable while still portraying a credible antagonist. It’s hard to hate the villain when he gets some of the best songs in the musical. “Don’t be the Bunny” especially stands out, also because of the adorable/disturbing bunny projections. Speaking of the scenography: done by Nevena Prodanovic, it’s absolutely excellent. It plays with the different layers and combining them with the status of the characters, having those in power at the top and the poor on the lower floor.
There is nothing the production doesn’t play with and it’s evident that everybody involved had a great time. Everything together – be it light, staging, costumes, choreography and everything else – created a wholesome comedic experience that offers something to everybody. The passion for details and the little details are the icing of the cake. And why shouldn’t the cast list be printed on toilet paper and handed out to the audience? There is even something happening on stage, before the musical starts. Commentaries ask the viewers to turn the mobile phone off - friendly and convincingly of course. All these little extras put one in the right mood and shows how much thought goes into every aspect of the theatrical experience.
Fredericia Teater managed to land their next big hit – even with an (allegedly) horrible title. It’s new, it’s fresh and it’s unlike any of their previous productions. With Michelle Tattenbaum as director, Urinetown has been given an original spin, transforming it into a success. Its play with musical tropes and character archetypes are hilarious – not only for those familiar with the different shows referenced throughout. And while it is an affectionate parody with no 4th wall, it still conveys its own solid story. It’s really no surprise that the musical extended its runtime, before it even had its premiere on April 12th.
URINETOWN/TISSEBYEN – THE MUSICAL is currently playing at Fredericia Teater until May 4th. Make sure not to miss URINETOWN (the musical, not the place!) before it’s too late!
Bewertung 6/6 Sterne ★★★★★★
© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos: Søren Malmose
07.10.2018 - Fredericia Teater, Dänemark
Denmark let the apes out and brings another animated classic to life. TARZAN celebrated its premiere in Frederica on October 5th and Frederica Teater goes out of their way to deliver a magical theatrical experience from start to finish. The foyer is decorated accordingly, with a scientist’s camp built in one corner, green lighting and boxes as tables. It really feels like stepping into the Disney movie, when setting a foot into the theatre.
The musical is for the whole family. It is about the meaning and importance of family, about home and belonging. The story follows Tarzan who, after his parents fall victim to a leopard, is raised by gorillas. As Kala has lost her child, she decides to adopt Tarzan as her own, much to the disdain of pack leader Kerchak. Looking notably different from his fellow companions, Tarzan wonders who he really is and where he truly belongs. The chance meeting with Jane Porter brings Tarzan closer to his true heritage, as well as to Jane herself.
Kim Ace Nielsen as Tarzan definitely looks the part. He also delivers a great performance, his physical efforts, like swinging through the theatre, earns him a round of applause more than once. He clearly shows the differences in Tarzan’s communication between apes and humans. Even though he starts his communication with Jane through utterances alone, it doesn’t take anything away from Tarzan’s emotional range. Vocally Kim Ace Nielsen proves to be just as strong and expressive as proven in "Den jeg er" ("Everything That I Am"), where Tarzan discovers his past heritage, and the following "Du er mit hjerteslag (reprise)" ("You’ll Be In My Heart (reprise)"), where Tarzan promises his adoptive mother Kala that she will always be with him no matter where he will go.
Bjørg Gamst brings something to Jane Porter that makes one instantly like her. Naïve, careless and too lost in her thoughts, but brave and with a good heart, her Jane is a true Disney heroine. Though it is a rather typical love at first sight concerning Tarzan and Jane, their chemistry manages to have the audience root for them. Apart from a genuineness in her portrayal of Jane’s emotions, Bjørg Gamst manages to accentuate Jane’s humorous side as well, making the audience laugh with ease.
Maria Skuladottir plays Tarzan’s adoptive mother Kala. She gets the audience to feel with her, making Kala’s grief over her lost child almost tangible. Kala is a good mother, she is always on Tarzan’s side and puts his needs before her own. There is just something inherently good about the character that lets one sympathise with her and Maria Skuladottir does a great job in portraying just that. Their relationship goes through ups and downs, but one can really see that Kala and Kerchak truly love each other, especially in “Nu og for evigt” (“Sure As Sun Turns To Moon”). Apart from singing great on their own, their voices fit perfectly together as well.
Teit Samsø expresses Kerchak’s authority as the apes’ leader with every fibre of his body. Only having his family’s safety on his mind, Kerchak doesn’t allow himself to trust Tarzan, since he knows what men are capable of. It can be seen, however, that he doesn’t like pushing Tarzan away. That inner turmoil is shown through Teit Samsø’s performance.
Concerning the acrobatics, Diluckshan Jeyaratnam as Tarzan’s best friend Terk is doing a spectacular job as well. Effortlessly he jumps in and out of the hoop, even swings around upside down while singing without giving any indication of that physical strain in his voice or movement. Terk’s songs have a groovy touch which Diluckshan Jeyaratnam uses to bring out Terk’s confident attitude.
On the premiere evening Arthur Ditlev Wadstrøm and Albert Mahesh Witthorf Groth played the roles of young Tarzan and Terk as if they’ve done so their whole lives. Their performances come natural without any sign of nervousness, despite their young age.
Cunning and self-absorbed, the hunter Clayton goes from a seemingly ally to Tarzan’s enemy. While Jane and her father represent the good in men, Clayton represents the evil, destructive side Kerchak has always feared. Jacob Prüser’s performance makes one just love to hate Clayton, while giving him some depths in the comparable short screen time he receives.
Hiring Lynne Kurdziel Formato as director proved to be the right choice for this musical. Being a choreographer herself, the choreography with the aerial choreography by Christel Stjernbjerg and Sita Bhuller is nothing short of phenomenal, which is especially important in a piece like this where movement plays such an essential role. Both the dancing and the acrobatic feats are beautifully staged and the hard work involved in perfecting it certainly paid off. The jungle comes to life and the ensemble members portraying the gorillas really have the monkey-movements down.
The scenography by Kevin Depinet is just as impressive. As Tarzan’s parents strand on the island, they hang in the air, giving the impression as if they were floating in the water. They continue to walk vertically on the stage, before they slowly change to walk normally as the projection behind slowly changes accordingly. The whole set emits the jungle-feeling. The light by Mike Holm and Martin Jensen helps to accentuate that atmosphere with keeping greens in the stage lighting. There were also gasps in the audience, as Tarzan and Jane rose above the jungle top and the bright sunrise splashed into the auditorium.
Another highlight is the portrayal of the leopard. Starting with a pair of eyes and some unsettling growls, the theatre is soon in complete darkness with nothing but the sound of the leopard lurking and moving around. With the sound coming from different sides, one gets the feeling of the beast moving around, keeping the audience on the edge of the seat with the expectation of an imminent attack.
Fredericia Teater continues its streak of success with no end in sight. Tarzan again proves to be theatrical entertainment on the highest level for both old and young with its spectacular staging and themes relevant for today’s society.
Don’t let the language barrier intimidate you and make sure not to miss TARZAN with the unforgettable songs by Phil Collins, playing now at Fredericia Teater with an extended run until January 13th! If one can’t make it to Fredericia there will be more opportunities in Aarhus in September 2019 and Copenhagen in November in 2019.
© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos: Søren Malmose
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
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
14.12.2017 - Kopenhagen (Dänemark)
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 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 Esmeralda is a joy to watch. She has 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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.