I hate the story. It could work as a really fluffy and plotless Romeo and Juliet musical, if someone hadn't come up with the idea of having Crown Prince Rudolf as the main character. The story hasn't got much to do with Rudolf as a real person, the name just gives the male lead a reason to sing angsty solos between the romantic scenes so that the romance won't be the only story material. There's nothing interesting in the story, nothing very surprising or funny, no development, it's just romantic fluff for brainless teenaged fangirls who like to wear a heart-shaped necklace with the text "I was born to love you". No offence to teenaged girls, it's more the musical that offends them for underestimating the audience's ability to use their brains.
I don't see anything romantic in committing a suicide together and I hate the way it has been made to look like the ultimate sign of love. It also doesn't suit the story at all and feels extremely forced, no matter how much Rudolf plays with the gun during the whole musical and Mary keeps going on on how it's better to die quickly than a bit every day. After the ten-minute happy love song in the end they could have perfectly well escaped together and live happily ever after in their pink fluffy world, but because someone decided to name the characters Rudolf and Mary, they suddenly have to climb to a bed surrounded by candles and the rest of the cast and shoot themselves. Couldn't get much cheesier. In the first performance people started to cheer when Rudolf and Mary died, and I happily joined them.
The scenes with Crown Princess Stephanie and Marie Larisch were almost the only that were worth watching, the ladies were witty and easily the most interesting persons of the musical even though the actresses didn't have much chance to develop their characters. They also had the nicest songs.
- The obligatory brothel scene is way too long. And wtf, how can a 17-year-old baroness suddenly come there in a corset and stockings without it being a huge scandal?
- Frank Wildhorn, what happened to your ability to make great ensemble songs?
- I'm sure we can see the bright red box with the Important Paper even when you don't make it glow in the dark.
- Stephanie in a church with the heart urns of Habsburgs: "I occasionally come here to remind myself that also Habsburgs do have hearts". One of the best lines of the musical. Another one was when Stephanie saw Rudolf and Mary discussing in a ball and went "I see you're fishing again, but I thought one is supposed to let back the ones that are too small".
The actors. They're good and save what they can with the poor character development of the story.
The sets. They're beautiful and I often found myself concentrating on pretty visual things instead of following what the main characters are up to. The colours were beautiful, with lots of blue, dark red and for some reason green, and I loved it how they used the red curtain that occasionally divides the stage. The only staging that didn't work for me was "Fäden in der Hand", it felt ridiculous. Also the ending was awful, I wonder why the bed wasn't heart-shaped because it would have made the überromantic effect perfect. The skating scene worked very well and looked great.
The costumes were quite nice-looking, too, though for some reason Mary's costumes had really weird colours. She dies in a shiny silvery dress that looks like taken from a cheap scifi movie set in 1800's.
The music is quite nice, but apart from about five songs I can't remember any tune of it. I like Wildhorn's catchier upbeat songs, but his love and angst songs seemed to be even lamer than usual. Mary and Rudolf had especially boring songs to sing, even though "So viel mehr" surprised me by being one of the rare Wildhorn's love songs that I actually like, mostly because of the beautiful refrain. Taaffe's songs could have been good without Uwe's shouting, and generally the smaller characters had much better songs and scenes than Rudolf and Mary.
Drew Sarich - Rudolf: He was good, as good as a Rudolf can get with that material to perform. He sounds nice, though he doesn't exactly match the idea I have of Rudolf. I totally cracked up when Rudolf wondered if there is a land where princes are not slaves, because it made him sound like a 13-year-old boy whose mother has told him to clean his room. At that point I lost my last respect for him and couldn't take the musical seriously even the little I could before.
Lisa Antoni - Mary Vetsera: For some reason Mary's character does nothing for me, I don't have any sympathies for her even though I normally like strong female characters. She just wasn't very believable as a strong female character, she was more like a silly girl with some political obsessions. I also didn't understand the "I'm a strong and independently thinking female character with political inter- OMFG Rudolf let's die together because it's romantic!" idea that they seemed to have, it was like watching two different Marys. Lisa sang mostly prettily and acted well and got big applauds, but her songs are boring and so is her character.
Uwe Kröger – Graf Taaffe: A bit too much arrogance and "Uwe plays the bad guy"-stereotypes, though later Uwe started to have some self-irony in the role, too. His voice totally wasn't enough for the role. "Fäden in der Hand" didn't sound as horrible as I had feared, but the duet with Mary was awful, even though I like the song itself. They were both more shouting than singing the song, and I had to hold my ears during the refrain, because it hurt. Taaffe also seemed to have quite a close relationship to the globe in his office, he was hugging and kissing it. The audience loves Uwe, no matter what he does and I admit he has charisma, but I appreciate my ears too much to wholly join the opinion. I used to like Uwe as Death back in the Essen times, but he simply can't sing anymore and didn't impress me with his acting, either.
Wietske van Tongeren – Crown Princess Stephanie: I liked Wietske as Stephanie, she had spark and I could totally understand why she was so frustrated with Rudolf. Her solo "Du bleibst bei mir" made Stephanie sound like a possessive bitch, which annoyed me a bit because I don't see her as that, but I like the melody of the song and it's one of the few I still remember.
Carin Filipcic – Marie Larisch: She saved my evenings with her scenes. Carin is adorable, she's got charisma and her voice is awesome and I even liked her songs, so it's a pity that she didn't have much to do in the musical. Larisch seemed to have quite a close relationship to Rudolf, they were almost kissing when he came to give his letter to Mary and they acted more romantically in that scene than Rudolf and Mary ever.
Claus Dam – Franz-Josef: I liked him, even though his songs aren't that interesting and seeing FJ being dramatically angsty and desperate felt weird, because my image of him is quite calm and passive.
The rest of the ensemble was good as well, although for some reason I couldn't much hear what they were singing and saying. I don't know if the problem was in the theatre's sound systems, but even though I understand German I couldn't understand most of what people were saying. I've seen most of the actors before and know that they can articulate, so I don't know what was wrong now. On the other hand, what I did understand didn't impress me that much because the lyrics aren't exactly a masterpiece, so perhaps it was better this way.
So, it wasn't worth the money, except perhaps for the 5,60 € I paid for a Stehplatz. The first row in the middle of the 2nd balcony was almost empty so I sneaked there and had an excellent view.
Production page on VBW's site