perjantai 21. lokakuuta 2011

Tanz der Vampire - Seinäjoki, Finland (10 September 2011, premiere)

Warning, this is going to be long. First some general impressions that are probably perfectly enough if you're a lazy reader, after that the cast/characters, and then some specific scene descriptions for the hardcore fans who want to know more about how things are done in this production.

© Ari Ijäs / Seinäjoen kaupunginteatteri

General impressions:

Vampyyrien tanssi is easily the best musical production I have ever seen in Finland, and tops most musical productions I have ever seen anywhere, including the big international stages in West End. It's done with love, passion and devotion, every detail has been thought of, the atmosphere is unbelievable. Granted, the theatre is quite small and they don't have resources for sets as huge as in Germany etc., but they make that up with lots of creativity and sense of style and have chosen the quality-over-quantity approach. And it works. I thought I would compare it to the standard directing when watching but in the end I didn't, and I think that's the best way to watch it, as an independent production. It has its flaws of course, but nothing major, just a detail or two like Sarah's too red wig.

To those who wondered it, the storyline and the songs follow the basic European productions and there have been no changes for example in the text. Olli-Matti Oinonen's directing highlights different things and brings a different mood into the musical, but the basics are still there. The directing concentrates very much on characters and their feelings: how the characters relate to each other, how they interact, what their motives are, how the motives are displayed and how the characters react to the happenings and the world around them. In that sense it feels more like a play than a musical spectacle, it gets more directly into your feelings, is more realistic and strips everything out of the light sugar coating that sometimes defines big musicals like this. It's a fairy tale for adults, amusing and beautiful, but feeling-wise there's also something very rough and brutish behind it all, quite a cruel undertone. Characters like Professor Abronsius, Herbert and Rebecca are no caricatures but real persons, and the humour comes from what they do or say, not from what they are, if you get what I mean.

The ensemble is excellent, there aren't weak links in there. The Finnish translation (by Marika Hakola) is a bliss to listen to, it has depth, wittiness and style and it fits the mood of the scenes perfectly.

The sets (by Marjatta Kuivasto) are beautiful. The crypt is impressively gothic, the library huge and very library-ish, the big staircase effective, and the castle itself is solid and stark and has a very brutal feeling in it, with two big fire torches at the iron gate. Chagal's inn, on the other hand, is a clever and cozy collection of stairs and different levels and family photographs.

I also really like the costumes (by Leena Rintala). Sarah has a plain white dress (and an awfully red wig, it looks a bit weird but the actress is so good that she could wear old mop on her head and still be awesome), and her red silky ball gown is beautiful. The Professor is wearing a brown suit, and Alfred goes around in the familiar red coat and white trousers. Herbert is deliberately over-the-top, pink and fluffy and laced and adorable. Krolock has a long black fur-edged cloak only for outside use, in the castle he wears long coats and looks deadly stylish. And his hair is absolutely gorgeous.


© Ari Ijäs / Seinäjoen kaupunginteatteri
The Cast:

Count von Krolock - Jyri Lahtinen: What a voice! A velvety baritone with both opera and popular music background, and as a Krolock he's a good mix of the both and can effortlessly (so it seems) sing the role perfectly. Definitely one of the best singers I've ever heard in the role.

Lahtinen's Krolock is a noble gentleman; cultivated, polite, sexy, a tiny bit sarcastic when needed, and definitely dangerous. Krolock is at first kept as a bit distant mystical figure that’s spirit kind of haunts the inn (not literally, just my feeling), but gradually his multifaceted personality and being is revealed more and more to the spectator. In Unstillbare Gier he's a tortured almost-human, at some point lying on the ground on his side/back and singing, but when he bites Sarah the savage beast inside him comes out. The bite scene is relatively harsh and brutal. These clearly are no nice and romantic ittybitty Twilight vampiwes – these are Vampires, closer to the old-school horror movie type.

Professor Abronsius – Esa Ahonen: An excellent actor and an excellent singer, one of the stars of the show. This Abronsius is not silly, daft or senile but clever and sharp as a knife – at least when it comes to his theories. He's also very fixed to his scientific goals and tends to forget everything else. Something in him reminded me of British comedy. He's subtly funny and has perfect timing, and he has quite an attitude to his work. Easily one of my favourite characters in this production.

Alfred – Ville Salonen: A sweet, sympathetic young man, well-meaning and innocent, loyal to the Professor and Sarah but also searching for himself. I hate stupid Alfreds and Salonen thankfully isn't one of those; his Alfred is just sometimes a bit helpless and, well, young and new to the world. It's lovely to see how he grows during the story. Salonen nailed Für Sarah perfectly, his voice is awesome. His comical timing also worked perfectly. Salonen is older than Alfreds usually but you don't notice it from him on stage, he's the type of guy who'll still play 20-year-olds believably when he's 50.

Sarah – Raili Raitala: An adorable, down-to-earth Sarah with strong will and strong voice. The role very easily becomes a Christine-like emptyheaded girl who just follows this cool handsome man, but Raitala avoided that nicely and made Sarah a strong young woman seeking for her own freedom, even if the cost of it would be her death. I loved her in Die roten Stiefel / Das Gebet, the decision between the safe home and the wild freedom felt so real.


© Ari Ijäs / Seinäjoen kaupunginteatteri

Herbert – Jouko Enkelnotko: Herbert is probably the biggest shock for those used to the standard productions and their pretty-boy Herberts. You know the teenaged girl type with too tight trendy clothes, too much make up and badly blonded hair with dark root growth? Mix that with a 1,90 m hairy robust man and a lot of pale pink or cream-coloured silk and satin and lace, and you have the Finnish Herbert. I know it sounds unbelievable, but the character works extremely well and is probably the most Herbert-y Herbert I have ever seen in my life. You just have to see it. He's grotesque, daddy's spoiled little princess, used to get everything he wants. Like his father, Herbert is oozing danger, and I felt so much pity for the somewhat hypnotized Alfred when Herbert took his hand in the Act I finale and led him in the castle. Enkelnotko's Herbert already has a horde of fangirls, and I don't wonder it. You can't help loving him.

Chagal – Heikki Vainionpää: Probably the only actor I did not like very much. Vainionpää sings very well and his human!Chagal is tolerable, but the character doesn't feel funny. He overacts too much for my taste, licks his lips and giggles and runs around, and his funny lines fall a bit flat. In vampire!Chagal it becomes even more clear.

I do like it how much Chagal and Rebecca (Leena Rousti) feel like a married couple here, though. They dance together in Knoblauch, clearly have fun and like each other, but Chagal apparently happens to be the type of person who can't settle with one woman. You can see that the Salami Scene has happened dozens of times before with different girls.

Rousti's Rebecca kicks ass, by the way. Rebecca is not an old ugly hag but a normal middle-aged, albeit rather strong-willed woman who probably is the person really running the inn. Rousti is an excellent actor and a great comical talent with an impressive voice. I very nearly started to cry when she mourned over Chagal and Sarah. Rebecca can also hear the vampire choir going "Sei bereit!" which makes me think that she may have been in Sarah's situation herself in the past but has chosen differently than her daughter will. She's also clearly a loving mother, cares for Sarah and is worried about her. Generally there's a lovely family-like feeling among the innkeepers.

Magda – Anne Vihelä: Magda definitely had some girl power in her. Now when I think of it, she came across almost cynical. She had a cold in the premiere, but her voice is powerful and I liked hed Tot zu sein ist komisch.

Koukol – Antti Railio: The Finnish Koukol is not exactly a hunchback, he reminded me more of the classic Igor-kind of manservant of gothic horror stories. Railio is a big man and he's made even bigger with a thick fur coat and a top hat. With all that fur and beard there was something almost animal-like in his appearance. Reminds me of shamans.

© Ari Ijäs / Seinäjoen kaupunginteatteri

Next some scenes that are different from the standard production. Don't read further if you're going to see the production and don't want to know details yet.


***Spoilers***Spoilers***Spoilers***

* Even in Nie geseh'n Chagal and Rebecca act as kind of a team. Rebecca comes down from their room and accidentally hits the Professor, who collapses on her arms. Chagal comes from Magda's room, sees Rebecca "hugging" the Professor and does some half-hearted "And here's my wife with another man, what a disgrace!" mimicking. I may be wrong, but I think they did some "You take him! - No, you take him! - Dammit, this is bad for our business!" kind of panicking and pushed the unconscious Professor back and forth. Finally Chagal takes the salami and knocks out the waking Professor, whom they then push back to his room. Problem solved. Rebecca takes the salami back and concentrates again on Chagal who runs to sleep.

* Gott ist tot: Krolock sings in a pale spotlight behind a transparent canvas (there's probably an English term for it), with everything else being dark. During the choir part he walks across the stage in the dim light, still behind the canvas, and around him there are human couples slowly dying, trying to comfort each other, hugging and lying on the ground. It's also the humans who sing the choir part (ie. repeat Krolock's words) which I like awfully much, because it in a way brings the worlds of humans and vampires more together and shows that there's partly the same pain on both sides. On the other hand the lyrics also get new meanings when sung by humans.

* In the Prayer scene Rebecca, Magda and eventually the whole village's women (might have been some men, too, but not Chagal) come outside the inn, clearly to pray for Sarah to stay with their God and in the safe village community. In the end Sarah turns and is indeed about to return to her mother, but then hesitates and stops. Rebecca sees Sarah's face, and she clearly realizes that her daughter has decided to go and there's nothing she can do to stop her and keep her home anymore. The desperate Rebecca stutters back to the inn and Sarah escapes to the castle. I adore the scene, it shows so well how an individual struggles between staying as a part of the safe community and going out to search for freedom.

* The Professor snores. The first notes of Carpe Noctem soar in the air. Someone invites you to share their night in a high, clear, heavy-metal-like voice – and that someone is Koukol. With a top hat, fangs and a huge whip. The sight made my jaw drop, but it works perfectly, and the contrast to the growling Koukol who brings breakfast after the scene is impressive. It also adds a nice extra layer to Alfred's horror when he wakes up and sees this creature that two minutes earlier controlled his nightmare by lashing around with a whip.

But back to Carpe Noctem, which continues with Alfred "waking up" in the bed and joining his own dream. There is an Alfred double who does the actual dancing, but also Alfred himself is drawn into the dream with the Sarah Double and the Black Vampire and is attacked by the vampire ensemble. Alfred and his double have some very nice moments when they look at each other and interact, but I'd need a video and ten repeats to remember all what is going on in the dance scene. It's great, anyway. There's Herbert and Magda singing their own solos (Herbert has a pale-pink corset), a group of decayed vampires dancing around and so on, the usual stuff as well.

* Alfred and the Professor walk on front stage in search for the crypt, when the stage suddenly starts to rise and with it rises the crypt from under it. Alfred and the Professor remain on "the roof" and look down to the crypt, but the Professor is too frail to manage to go down, so Alfred goes to the coffins. Krolock and Herbert really are in the coffins, so it's not just dolls. When Alfred drops the hammer and the stake with a noise, both suddenly sit up, open their eyes in mild surprise (but are still clearly asleep) and then fall back to sleep. In the performance I saw Herbert rolled over to hug his pillow.

* The Ball: Alfred and the Professor don't knock out anyone, Alfred just steals a bundle of clothes. When Krolock has come down the stairs and the attention is focused on him, Alfred and the Professor pretend to be guests coming late. Koukol, who seems a kind of a night club bouncer, starts to take a closer look at them but they nod to him and greet him happily and he loses his interest. Alfred is wearing a pirate-ish costume with an eye patch, and the Professor is dressed up in a black, velvet-glittery ball gown, completed with a pretty hair accessory with some ivy leaves. The sight is rather priceless. He doesn't seem too happy about his disguise, but when Alfred faints the Professor fans him with his hoop skirt, and when they escape, he lifts his skirt and triumphantly moons to the vampires (he's still wearing his trousers, don't worry).

* We see Koukol running across the stage a couple of times after the escaping dinner. At some point the Professor lets Alfred and Sarah run on, draws a long sword-ish knife from his umbrella and stabs Koukol, who stutters offstage. The Professor looks at his knife with a "I'm a theory-loving scientist, what the heck did I just do?" expression and sits down while Alfred and Sarah sing the Draussen Reprise. And boy, do those two have fun as vampires, they're all over each other. In the end they leave their separate ways, though, Sarah through one side of the auditorium and Alfred through the other, randomly "attacking" the spectators.

Oh, and Koukol sings in the Finale, too, wearing fangs.

maanantai 10. lokakuuta 2011

Szentivánéji álom (A Midsummer Night's Dream) - Budapest, January 2009

The cast:

Oberon - Homonnay Zsolt
Titánia - Füredi Nikolett
Lysander - Dolhai Attila
Hermia - Vágó Zsuzsi
Demetrius - Bálint Ádám
Heléna - Peller Anna
Puck - Kerényi Miklós Máté
Theseus - Jantyik Csaba
Hippolyta - Csengeri Ottília
Zuboly - Bereczki Zoltán
Vackor - Csuha Lajos
Dudás - Sánta László

The basic Shakespeare story, with a mixture of every possible kind of music and some parody of the clichés of the Operettszínház musical productions.

The cast was great and can't find any complaints in any of them. I've never been a huge fan of Zsolt Homonnay, something in him has simply annoyed me, but now he really impressed me and acted and sang wonderfully. I'm a fan. Nikolett Füredi has to have one of the most beautiful voices in the city. Miklós Máté Kerényi was an adorable Puck and seemed to have fun with the role. It was also nice to see Attila Dolhai and Zsuzsi Vágó on stage, although the young couples were quite uninteresting as characters and could have done with some more changes to develop the characters. I liked Attila's big Greek-style solo, though I have no idea what it had to do with the story. I've seen László Sánta many times as Alfred in Tanz der Vampire and seeing him as Thisbe was priceless. He's got a pretty soprano. ;) And, well, Zoltán Bereczki tends to be great in everything he does. Even when dressed up as a donkey and having sex with Titania.

The musical must be partly written for the actors of the theatre. We cracked up when Attila sang something like "I want my face in posters on every wall", because when you walk out of the theatre, you can see him at least in five different huge musical posters on both sides of the street. Zoltán Bereczki's "death scene" as Pyramus consisted of several minutes of him hitting himself with his sword all over again and going "I'm dying. I'm dying. I'm dying.", which oddly reminded me of his death scene as Mercutio in Rómeó és Júlia a week earlier. At least these people know how to laugh at themselves. Oberon and Titania had a very Death&Elisabeth-ish feeling in them, which probably is even more visible with Szilveszter Szabó and Kata Janza in the roles.

The visual side of the production was awesome. I usually dislike Operettszínház's way of filling the stage with everything possible, but dream-like and weird sets and hordes of ensemble actually fitted the musical very well. Especially the fairies had amazing costumes and make-up. Photos.

In general the musical was... interesting. It's hard to describe as a whole because it feels like someone put the Operettszínház into a mixer and made a musical out of it, but despite some flails it was very funny and beautiful. And quite dirty, but I still don't know how Hungarians manage to do that with much better taste than for example Finns. About 2/3 of the music was quite boring and didn't stay in my memory even to the end of the song, but there were some really catchy and good pieces as well. Especially Puck and Oberon had some nice melodies. There was a bit too much ensemble scenes, and the role of Hippolyta felt like written because they wanted to show that Ottília Csengeri has breasts and can sing, in this order. There were details I didn't understand, like the flying skeletons in black robes (I won't say "Deaths" because in this context it usually means something else) during Puck's song, and the point of some songs was somewhat unclear, but with some development it could be very good. At least it was funny, people were dying of laughter especially during the play in the end.

torstai 6. lokakuuta 2011

Cabaret - Tampere, September 2008

I've never been that fond of the musical Cabaret but since it happened to play near me and had good actors, I figured I might give it a try. I was yawning in the first act, but luckily I got into the mood better in the second act when Sally stopped being too annoying (or was less on stage...).

I was afraid of what Heikki Kinnunen, one of the very legendary actors in Finland, would be like as Emcee. He is a good actor, but he's quite old and not the type of man you would desire to see in Emcee's costumes, hugging a plastic Barbara. He definitely was an excellent Emcee, though, in a very twisted and scary way. I'm not going to get over the image of him and a whip in a while. :P Like a twisted nightmare you can't help liking. Seeing him slowly rise from under the stage in a nazi uniform, with red light coming from under him, illuminating his grin... It's a sight I won't easily forget.

Elsa Saisio as Sally Bowles was good as well, though I can't stand the character. But what a voice she has! The American man whose name I never heard properly was nice as well, though nothing spectacular. But I adored Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schulz, they were so sweet together! I was so sad to see him in the train with the other Jews in the end. :'( This was again one of those musicals where I was more interested in the other characters than in the story of the young lovers. Though I guess that in this case the older couple represented the real young lovers.

I loved the staging and the atmosphere it created. They had made the stage look like a railway station, with only a bed and some plain movable walls that had been made to look like cars of trains in addition to the pillars, clock, etc. of the station. The orchestra was playing in the back of the stage. The conductor was dressed in only a black vest and trousers and he looked so much like the Black Vampire in the Hungarian Tanz Der Vampire that I couldn't help laughing. Especially when he came to the actual stage during bows and turned out to be a short and quite tubby man very unlike Ákos Tihanyi. ;)

keskiviikko 5. lokakuuta 2011

Wicked - London, June 2007

Apollo Victoria Theatre, London, Saturday matinee 23.06.2007.

Wicked was actually the most positive theatre experience I had in London. The theatre is modern and the seat was pretty good, though I still needed binoculars, and no one was eating or chatting near me, so all in all I could almost perfectly concentrate on the musical. It's actually funny that there were lots of kids and teenagers in the theatre and they behaved better than the middle-aged people in Phantom.

I knew the story beforehand so I pretty much knew what to expect, but some details still managed to surprise me. Before I actually saw the show I was disappointed of how fluffy the musical seemed to be despite its dark themes, but to my great joy they had changed the most idiotic jokes in London (or at least I think so. I can't remember the jokes but I got the *facepalm* reaction only two or three times in the theatre.). Wicked is probably the only American musical I like, I find the story mostly even interesting and the music catchy. Even the irritating songs like Something Bad, Wonderful and Sentimental Man didn't annoy me nearly at all in the theatre.

Apart from the Wizard and Fiyero I saw the first cast and the actors impressed me. Kerry Ellis has a wonderful voice, and after hearing her as Elphaba Idina Menzel seems to be screaming too much, which makes me hope that there'd be a London cast recording. Helen Dallimore as Glinda was good as well, though the character is every now and then a bit too stupid and stereotypical blonde to be really believable. I had the same problem with Fiyero but he got more sense rather quickly. Besides, Oliver Tompsett was quite cute as Fiyero... I've got no complaints about the rest of the cast, either, and they managed to create a real good atmosphere into the theatre.

I loved the sets and costumes. I adore colours in general and they had used them very nicely, and there were interesting details everywhere. I wish I had sat closer to the stage. I didn't get the point of the giant dragon over the stage or the clock theme, and I still didn't get them after reading the novel.

All in all I enjoyed the show a lot and can easily understand why it has so many fans. It isn't a perfect musical but good enough. I was even back then a bit too old for it, so the more teenager-like parts like radical need to save the world and hot boys in school weren't really for me. Nevertheless, a couple of hours spent with a good-quality show.

tiistai 4. lokakuuta 2011

Phantom of the Opera - London, June 2007

Her Majesty's Theatre, London, Friday evening 22.06.2007.

My seat was quite lousy, second row on the highest balcony. I really regretted that I had forgotten my dear binoculars at home. Luckily I had nothing blocking my view, I just had problems in seeing the actors' facial expressions, but the binoculars you could get at the theatre helped at least a bit. I did have to sit on my jacket to get the crucial 1,5 cm higher to see better over the hairdo of the lady in front of me. I also had a little discussion with the sweet middle-aged lady next to me, we had fun complaining together about the seats and glaring at the woman behind us who was eating something noisy during the show. I wonder why sweet ladies always start to talk to me in theatres.

I didn't see the cast list of that night anywhere but I asked some worker and he told me I saw Earl Carpenter as the Phantom, Leila Benn Harris as Christine and someone else than Michael Xavier as Raoul, probably Oliver Thornton. I have no idea of the rest of the cast but as it was Friday evening I assume it was mostly the first cast. Everybody was pretty good. At first Christine seemed even more air-headed than Emmy Rossum, which I had thought would be impossible and which was scary. Like the Christine in Terry Pratchett's Maskerade would have suddenly taken over her mind. After Think of Me she started to sound a bit more normal, to my great relief, and the rest of the show she was as likeable as a Christine can be to an almost-feminist who has gotten used to sensible and powerful female musical characters like Elisabeth. I have seen and heard better actresses in the role but she was good.

Raoul was a bit funny. He didn't seem that bright, either, and he and Christine totally earned each other. I think 'a fop' would be a good word for it. He was kind of sweet but slightly too boyish and heroic for my taste. Anyway, a good Raoul, that's the way the young and innocent young boys can be.

Earl Carpenter then... To be honest, he was the only actor who managed to make me so absorbed in the musical that I completely forgot everything else. His Point of No Return was gorgeous and the Final Lair one of the best I've ever seen. If I would be the kind of person who cries in theatre I would have cried during the Lair. I almost even enjoyed Music of the Night. (Don't hate me but it simply bores me to death, I can't help it). This far only Thomas Borchert has made me actually like the song so I was rather surprised to find myself really concentrated in it in the theatre.

Otherwise... Well, I like the musical and it is certainly the best one ALW has ever gotten out of his brains (I always wonder what he was eating when Point Of No Return was written, and if someone could give it him again), but I can't help thinking that some fresh air wouldn't hurt it, it seemed that even most actors were a bit too used to playing the characters everyone knows too well, and the whole show was like covered in invisible spiderwebs. I was slightly shocked when I noticed that I was rather bored during too many scenes. It felt like I would have seen it all a dozen times earlier and it hardly roused feelings in me anymore, and yet this was my first time seeing PotO. I also saw Rebecca six times on stage and never got the feeling with it. I admit the cases are a bit different, but still it bothers me that I should have enjoyed the musical more, considering how much I still like it. Of course it was well made, the actors were good, the sets and costumes beautiful, the music lovely and so on, but something was missing, some general spirit that would have made the whole thing alive. It may be that I had too great expectations and a better seat would certainly have helped, but I have a feeling that it's not the only reason. I still enjoyed the evening very much, definitely don't regret that I went to see the musical, it could have been much, much worse and I also have seen worse musicals. I'm probably just spoiled or have weird opinions, but in general I think the Germans and Austrians have more feeling on stage than their colleagues in West End, at least judging by the three musicals I saw there. The quality was good but something was always missing.

Btw, why does Christine get scared twice during The Point of No Return? I can understand that she recognizes the Phantom under the cape and is shocked, but she did it twice, and as far as I can remember that's the way Christine's do all over the world. I tried to explain to myself that the first time was Aminta being scared of what she was going to do with Don Juan, but the both times looked too much like Christine suddenly realizing it's the Phantom she's singing with. And even Christine can't be that stupid.

Lord of the Rings - London, June 2007

First I must say that I'm not a huge fan of the story. I've read the book, seen the movies and I love the world Tolkien has created, but I don't like the story itself that much. Frodo and Sam always irritate me, and there are too many fights and battles which made me yawn especially during the second movie, so I was happy to notice that they had cut almost every battle from the musical and I could concentrate on admiring how they had created Middle-earth. The sets are amazing, they had changed the whole theatre to Middle-earth and before the show began the hobbits were partying and catching fireflies and everything among the audience. During the second intermission (just a quick break for a set change) Orcs came to run between the seats and scare people. There was some school class watching the show and the girls screamed like pigs and ran around in panic and all in all behaved like total idiots when the Orcs came. I don't really have words to describe the sets and costumes and Ents and Sauron's eye and so on, but they were brilliant. (There are photos and video and sound clips on the official site.) Especially Lothlorien was amazing.

The plot was of course very much shortened. They had left out all the big battles except Helm's Deep and the last battle outside the gates of Mordor, and the parts in the lands of men were cut to dying Boromir asking Aragorn to save his nameless father from the dark side, later Aragorn roaring something to the father and the father going "Wahh, you're my new king, I love you and will follow you to death!". Apparently a mixture of Denethor and Theoden, called simply the Steward of the Land of Men. No Eowyn, Grima Wormtongue or Faramir in sight. The story was still relatively logical and as easy to follow as the story in general can be. In fact, I think the cuts made only good to it, but I'm not a Tolkien fan so perhaps I'm not allowed to speak. ;)

The actors were mostly quite good. I didn't see any cast list but judging by photos I saw the full first cast, possibly apart from Merry and/or Pippin. Sometimes it felt like the actors just sang through their lines and lacked some feeling, but in general I had nothing to complain. Galadriel and Arwen had great voices, and I got a little crush on Aragorn, but it's no wonder because he's my favorite character, anyway. Gollum was absolutely amazing! His movements, voice, everything; the character basically made my jaw drop. I actually don't understand why most people laughed at his moving and the argue between Smeagol and Gollum, it did look funny but was after all very tragical. He resembled the Gollum in the movies a lot, but it's much creepier to see a real living person do the role than to watch a bunch of pixels moving. I don't know who the actor was but he was damn good.

The music was pretty much what you can expect from Värttinä and A. R. Rahman and most of the time it suited the scenes and characters well (happy folk songs for hobbits, chanting for elves, etc.). LotR isn't exactly a musical, it's more just a play with music though everyone has their solos and there's music in the background all the time. I can't remember most of the songs or melodies but in general I liked them, especially the cheerful Hobbit songs and Lothlorien.

All in all I definitely don't regret that I went to see the musical, I enjoyed it quite a lot, but it's not the best one I've ever seen. 'Nice' would be a good word for it, I think. I'd have to see it again to get an opinion about certain things because I've forgotten some scenes and everything was new to me, so I used much of the time just for staring at the wonders in front of me. And for glaring a couple of teenaged boys sitting next to me, they had problems in staying still and quiet, though I was pleased to see that my glares really worked and the nearest boy was wise enough to look ashamed for a while. :P

Links:
Official website

maanantai 3. lokakuuta 2011

Tanz der Vampire - 10th Anniversary Concerts, Vienna 2007

I saw three of the Tanz der Vampire 10th Anniversary Concerts in Vienna in 2007, first on Sunday Feb 4th and then on Thursday 8th and Friday 9th.

The concert was about 1,5 hours long. They sang the most important songs and practically had no dialogue at all, though the plot was still logical and easy to follow even if you didn't know the story. The sets were quite minimal, the orchestra was in the middle of the stage and behind it was kind of a platform with stairs on both sides of the orchestra. They also had two simple doorframes, which later served as frames of the library, an open (rather coffin-like…) box which was used as the bathtub, and a closed box as a bed, bench, etc., and some pillows and blankets. All in all very simple, but it just proved that when the cast is fabulous, you don't need big and fancy sets to create the atmosphere. Most of the time I didn't even notice the orchestra, though it occupied half of the stage, I just stared at the actors. They did have some problems with microphones, especially in the Knoblauch scene on Sunday, and it seemed that Marjan Shaki’s (Sarah) mic was always a bit too loud, probably because otherwise her voice would have been drowned under Thomas Borchert's (Count von Krolock) voice.

After Ouverture and He Ho Professor came a very short version of Knoblauch, and Chagal (Thomas Bayer) led Professor Abronsius (Gernot Kranner) and Alfred (Lukas Perman) to their room and presented the bathroom with Sarah, and after that Chagal sang Eine schöne Tochter ist ein Segen. Then came Nie geseh'n, sung only by Sarah and Alfred with their candles and dreamy walking and so on. In Gott ist tot, lots of identical vampires in black cloaks came to stage with their backs turned to the audience, and you couldn't see which one of them was Krolock until he turned and the lights concentrated on him. A really nice effect. After that Chagal, Magda (Suzanne Carey) and Rebecca (Tina Schöltzke) sang Alles ist hell, Professor and Alfred came to stage and Professor began to sing Wahrheit without any dialogue about Koukol in between. In fact, there wasn't any Koukol in the concert, and the part where Abronsius refers to "the servant of the count" in Wahrheit was explained by an ensemble vampire coming to stage and dropping a log when Abronsius sang the high note of Wahrheit. :)

In Einladung zum Ball the "Krolock" was standing in the box in the first balcony (wish I had sat there!), but otherwise that, Draussen ist Freiheit and Stärker als wir sind / Die roten Stiefel were pretty normal, though I've never seen any Sarah cry during the prayers. It was a nice touch, since after that you could really see her gathering her strength and making the decision of going to the castle. Chagal didn't run after Sarah, there was just one vampire who laid him down on the bench and covered him with a sheet, when Magda sang Tot zu sein ist komisch. In the end of the song she walked offstage and Chagal sneaked after her with his teeth revealed, so we never saw the actual biting part.

The vampire choir in the beginning of Vor dem Schloss made me crack up. The rhythm was something like jazz or swing, and the black-dressed vampires walked across the stage in line, dancing in the same jazz/swing style. Every time the Professor and Alfred turned around to look at them suspiciously, the vampires froze and stopped singing and continued again when they turned away. It was brilliant and looked and sounded absolutely hilarious! Vor dem Schloss was quite short, just the dialogue between the Professor and Krolock, and Herbert (Tim Reichwein) coming to stage, and when Abronsius followed him offstage, Krolock sang the "Vertrau mir / Im Traumland der Nacht" part to Alfred. Borchert’s facial impressions during the dialogue were great, and when he turned away in the end of the song, for a moment it looked like he would bite Caspar Richter (the conductor) who was right behind him.

Totale Finsternis was wonderful, probably the best performance I’ve ever seen. In Carpe Noctem they had the dance solo right after the "Folg mir nach, vertrau die Nacht" part, and it was the real Alfred who danced with the black vampire and "Sarah". In the end Herbert and Magda dragged him next to the wall, where he slowly recovered and started to sing Für Sarah. When he finished, the Professor came on stage, sang Bücher, Bücher and gave Alfred the small book with advice for lovers, which he began to read. Then he heard singing and found Herbert in the bathtub. The choreography of the scene was great. Herbert pushed Alfred to the bathtub, stood on the edge of the tub and sang "Ja, heut' Nacht ist Ball, ich lad' dich ein" in completely same position as Krolock sings Einladung zum Ball for Sarah. Also the walz was slightly different, and in the end of the scene Herbert chased Alfred offstage and a couple of seconds later Alfred jumped / was pushed onstage again. ;) He asked the professor in panic "Sind wir hier sicher?" and Krolock appeared on the platform behind the orchestra to sing "Sie irren, Professor!".

Ewigkeit and Unstillbare Gier were normally made, though Gier with little shortening. In Tanzsaal it was the real Krolock who was singing in the box on the first balcony, without his cape (<3). I've heard Borchert sing "Ist ein Jahr mager, wird das nächste Jahr reich!" and "Haben wir je davon genug?" with his own little melody before, but now they had apparently decided to put also the ball guests to answer in the same melody, which sounded really nice. When Sarah came onstage, Krolock disappeared from the balcony and appeared a moment later on stage (I was so nervous that he wouldn’t make it in time…) and bit Sarah. Finally in the end of the reprise of Totale Finsternis only Krolock and Sarah were on stage, Krolock still without his cape and Sarah lying on the ground. Krolock left her there and Alfred came to look after her and they sang Draussen ist Freiheit and so on, and then the professor came to sing "Wir sind entkommen, etc." and the final scene began. I'm not a big fan of the original choreography, it seems a bit too scattered with so many vampires on stage, but now it looked really nice with a smaller ensemble. The bows began in the middle of the song with the ensemble still dancing in the background, and the "rap" part was sung by everyone. I've never seen Krolock, Abronsius or any of the main characters rocking together on stage, but now they did. Krolock kicked Alfred's butt when they were bouncing around. :P At that point the atmosphere was unbelievable, they had so much fun on stage and the audience was screaming and clapping and… It was heaven.

 Copyright VBW

The costumes were from the Polish production, they were a bit simpler than the original ones but very pretty anyway. Especially I liked Sarah's ball gown, Herbert's shirt and some of the Ewigkeit dresses, though I still don't understand the vampire with scattered wings and a leopard-spotted, caveman-like cloaky thing. I've always loved the lady with the ship in her hairdo, and it was nice to see it live. Only Krolock had a completely new costume, and what a costume! It was the most gorgeous one I've ever seen, with just a few small changes in the cut when compared to the original Vienna/German costume, but they made the count look perfect. I must mention the trousers; they didn't look like someone had stuffed them with several pairs of socks (like for example Mathias Edenborn in Berlin), which is the biggest problem for me in the costumes of the German productions. Yes, Krolock has some erotic aspects, but I think the impression should come from something else than highlighting his *cough* lower body parts and making him look like an eager B-class porn star. Now he had perfectly normally cut trousers, and he looked better (and hotter) than any of the counts I've seen before. Borchert didn't have a cloak in Tanzsaal so you could see the dress coat really well, and also that was the most beautiful I've seen this far. I worship the costume designer.

The cast:

Mostly very good. First of all, Thomas Borchert. I saw him as Krolock in Hamburg in summer 2005 and thought he was really good, my favourite count after Steve Barton, but nevertheless some things in his count disturbed me, like the sarcasm in Unstillbare Gier and certain coldness and lack of emotions in some scenes. The change between the Krolock in Hamburg and in Vienna was bigger than I could have ever believed; now he was simply perfect. Alive, having so much fun, rocking the house, almost like a rock star giving his all in a concert. I've always liked his voice, but in the concerts he sang much better than I had ever thought, lower and with more feelings, and still he had some very funny moments especially during Vor dem Schloss. You could hear the emotions of the lyrics in his voice and see them in his face. Thomas Borchert may not like his fans that much, he may be distant when not on stage, but he's one of the best actors and singers I've seen and heard. And very nice to watch, I admit. ;) I have never before or after that seen him act so well, he was on fire every time he stepped onto the stage.

Gernot Kranner as Abronsius, then… Well, what can I say? He *is* Abronsius, definitely the best professor I've ever seen. He was hilarious, I enjoyed every little gesture, tone, every facial impression he made, and of course his singing. I don't know who got bigger applauds, he or Borchert. His Abronsius was visibly flattered by all the screams and applauds of the fans, which looked really cute, and his Wahrheit and Bücher, Bücher! were incredible. All in all, brilliant. Later in the Vienna revival he got a bit too old and silly for my taste, but here he gave one of the best performances I've seen from any Abronsius.

I had my prejudices about Lukas Perman as Alfred, since he has never played the role and there's something that irritates me in his face and singing. For example Nie geseh'n was indeed a bit too pop-like, and his impressions in He Ho Professor too helpless and exaggerated. His face and tones in Bücher and when he read the book were enjoyable, though, and I liked his Für Sarah. The boy has zero comic talent so it was good that there wasn't actually any dialogue and Alfred's more subtly humorous parts had been cut.

Also Marjan Shaki has never been one of my favourite actors, somehow I can't stand her face, but she was a fairly good Sarah now. I did like her quite a lot in Stärker als wir sind, but otherwise I'm still not a fan of her. Both she and Lukas seemed better when seen from the second balcony. ;)

Tim Reichwein's Herbert was better than in Hamburg, he didn't have such stereotypical manners now. I liked him there, but after that my opinions about him have changed a bit and I didn't expect him to be very good. He had a great choreography in Wenn Liebe in dir ist, which saved a lot and made me enjoy his performance much more than I had thought. It was a bit confusing to see him flirting with female vampires in Tanzsaal, though. And I still dislike his voice.

Suzanne Carey as Magda was great, one of the best ones I've ever seen or heard in the role. Carey reminded me of Eva Maria Marold, and her voice is amazing and I liked her flirting with Alfred.

Rebecca (Tina Schöltzke) was good, I liked her interaction with Chagal (Thomas Bayer) during Knoblauch. Chagal sang well, but he was a bit too nice and lacked certain Chagal-ness, especially in the end of Eine Schöne Tochter ist ein Segen. The rest of the ensemble was really good, their acting, dancing and singing was great and the simple vampire costumes really effective.

Despite the minor flaws with the actors, I loved every second of the concerts. The shortenings of the songs were done much better than in the German productions since now you barely noticed them, the great actors really were great and made me forget the less great ones, there were some really funny little details… The atmosphere was amazing.

Some more photos in KulturChannel's blog.