sunnuntai 18. maaliskuuta 2012

Rebecca - Helsinki, Finland (2008–2009)

Rebecca was played in Helsingin kaupunginteatteri (The Municipal Theatre of Helsinki) in the season 20082009. I was in the show presentation and the director told that he has made quite a different production compared to the Vienna one, but there weren't much differences in the way the story was told and staged. Except for a very radical plot change or two. They had cut "Wir sind Britisch", though, which IMO was only a good solution because in Vienna it cut the dark atmosphere created by the scenes before and after it. Otherwise the scene order was the same as in Vienna.

Sari Ann Moilanen as Mrs Danvers,
with a painting of Rebecca in the background.
© Helsingin kaupunginteatteri / Tapio Vanhatalo
The other big change was that Rebecca herself was seen on stage as an "invisible" ghost that danced around in Manderley. She was also shown in a portrait. Considering that Rebecca's absence is an essential point in the story, I found this a bit odd, but I haven't got much against the idea in general. It could work well if it were done right, but in this production it clearly hadn't been given enough thought and the result wasn't very ominous, oppressing or scary. Rebecca just kept popping in in some scenes and dancing very modernly in a plain purple dress. Most of the time she didn't have any point in the scene, she just jumped around and seemed crazy. She also wasn't the Rebecca's spirit that would loom around the house, she just was there. The only scene in which I liked her was in the reprise of "Die neue Mrs de Winter", where she danced/ran around in the house and tried to stop servants throwing away her belongings. She was also in the burning house, I think. If you go to Helsingin kaupunginteatteri more often, you'll notice that they have apparently (had?) a contract with the dancer and "must" find some use for her in productions. She was the fairy in Beauty and the Beast and danced in exactly the same way.

The fire scene was more than confusing. Mrs Danvers walked around in the house with a torch and set things on fire and finally she went to Rebecca's room and was sitting on the bed and hugging Rebecca's nightgown when the house "collapsed". Yes, all good this far. Seconds before the stage went dark Maxim suddenly ran up the stairs to Danny and died with her in the burning house. What the heck? Ich sang "...is my home" in the epilogue where she's supposed to talk about her and Maxim. Then Maxim appeared on stage and kissed Ich and, I don't know, took her to heaven with him or something. Like, hey Mr Director, how about staying true to the original story and not killing characters? They later changed the lyrics to "is our home" (had someone complained?), but Maxim still stayed in the burning house, which made the ending even more confusing.

Sets:
If you don't count the cheap-looking cliffs very clearly painted on a cardboard and the slightly too simple room of Rebecca, I liked the sets. Manderley was airy and light-looking and could be rotated to show different rooms, and the columns were also used in the court scene, which btw looked really good. In the morning room there was hanging a rather confusing pair of some huge pink flowers that probably were supposed to be orchids but looked more like giant female sexual organs. My friends and I came to the conclusion that someone had wanted to highlight the hints that Rebecca or Mrs Danvers or both might have been lesbian.

Sie ergibt sich nicht. © Helsingin kaupunginteatteri / Tapio Vanhatalo
Costumes:
Especially Ich's dresses and hair totally didn't fit the era. They didn't fit any era, she had shapeless cardigans and skirts and a ponytail but it looked maybe more 90's than 20's. Ich's white ball gown was beautiful, but the point of it was a bit lost because all the masquerade guests were dressed in white, too, so she wasn't anything special after all. Also Mrs van Hopper's dress was white, but at least her giant wig with pink feathers made it easier to recognize her among the guests who looked very similar to each other. Danny's black dress was a bit odd in its ankle-length and shape but it didn't disturb me as much as I thought it would. Generally the leading cast's costumes were oddly cheap-looking, shapeless (not in the 1920s way) and ugly, like in some school play.

Translation:
Mediocre, but much better than in Elisabeth (not by the same translator). Some parts worked, some didn't. There weren't any big factual mistakes and the language was good with mostly grammatically correct sentences, but the words didn't fit into the music, and all in all it sometimes sounded like someone had used a big hammer to match the notes and the syllables. Maxim's songs were nearly impossible to sing. I felt like the translator had often just used the first approximately matching word or expression and hadn't stop to think if something else had worked better. An example: Mrs Danvers sings "Palaa, Rebecca!" (Come back, Rebecca!), but because in the music both notes in the word 'palaa' are long, it has to be sung as "Paalaa Rebecca!", which can either mean "Make [hay, etc.] bales of Rebecca!" or "Bale, Rebecca!", and I don't think the song is supposed to have any agricultural meanings.

The ball of Manderley. © Helsingin kaupunginteatteri / Tapio Vanhatalo
Actors:

Sanna Majuri's Ich was confusing. She had her shy moments, like in front of the servants, but in general she was outgoing and confident with strange people, didn't hesitate to answer to Maxim when they first met and so on. She was more just over-the-top clumsy and didn't always know how to act in new situations. And she giggled. When she broke the statue and had to hide behind the desk, she actually giggled like a mindless teenaged bitch because hey, I just broke something and now those adults don't know I'm hiding here. Whatever. I liked her at first, but eventually she started to irritate me more and more and didn't feel like the character anymore.

Sanna Majuri & Kari Arffman.
© Helsingin kaupunginteatteri / Tapio Vanhatalo
Sari Ann Moilanen as Mrs Danvers was great, moving, twisted, mad, everything a Danny must be. Her voice wasn't always enough for the songs, but generally she could sing well. Moilanen is quite a nobody here, she has done some TV ad dubs and played small parts in some revues, etc., but she was definitely the star of the musical. Her "Nur ein Schritt" was scary.

Kari Arffman as Maxim was quite stiff in the beginning, but he got more lively especially in the second act and angsted very well. I've seen Uwe Kröger six times as Maxim and since Uwe is very Uwe-ish no matter what role he plays, it took me time to get used to un-Uwe-ish Maxim. I like Arffman's singing, though he apparently hasn't got that much experience with musicals and you could sometimes hear it. It didn't help that Maxim's lyrics didn't match the notes. The poor man seemed to be in agony sometimes, but then again it suits Maxim's character.

Riitta Havukainen. © Helsingin kaupunginteatteri / Tapio Vanhatalo
Riitta Havukainen as Mrs van Hopper annoyed me. She wasn't symphatetic at all, she was a mean bitch who seemed to dislike Ich. She had her funny moments and she has a nice voice, but her portrayal just didn't work for me at all. "I'm An American Woman" was over-the-top, but somehow in the wrong way; the humour in it was too... Finnish. Straightforward. It's a bit hard to explain, but in Finnish humour things aren't funny if they don't include naughty words. I prefer my humour more subtle, it isn't funny for me that someone kisses someone else's ass and grins.

The same applies to Jack Favell. I hated already Carsten Lepper's Favell, but I hated Antti Timonen's Favell even more. Favell acted like Edward Hyde in the Vienna production of Jekyll&Hyde. He kept laughing madly every time he had said something, no matter what he said, there just was this automatic laugh after it. He groped Ich, "kissed" her hand by licking it up to her arm and was just very, very eww and way too over-the-top. He could sing, though, and didn't laugh as much in the second act. He actually could have been good if someone (the director?) hadn't told him that Jack Favell likes to rape everything he sees. Tuukka Leppänen as the 2nd-cast Favell was much better, he did the licking probably because the director had told him to but he didn't highlight it and concentrated more on making Favell a believable character.

Beatrice (Emmi Kangas) and Giles (Matti Olavi Ranin) were adorable. Beatrice's "Was ist nun los mit ihm?" was wonderful and somehow even "Die Stärke einer Frau", a song I strongly dislike, sounded quite nice. Toni Wahlström as Frank Crawley was also good, though his microphone was too quiet and I couldn't hear what he was singing in "Ehrlichkeit und Vertrauen". Every now and then he sounded so much like André Bauer that it was already scary, I don't know if he had listened to the Vienna recording but he often had exactly the same tones. Ben (Sami Uotila) was also sweet, though his singing and acting didn't always have much to do with each other.

The boat house in Strandgut. © Helsingin kaupunginteatteri / Tapio Vanhatalo

The musical had the usual problem of many Finnish musicals: the actors sang even their duets facing the audience and not each other. They mainly just stood there and sang, like in a concert, and it looked stupid. All in all there wasn't always much logic in the directing, like when Frank was encouraging Ich with his song but Ich didn't react at all, and after a while she just walked away in the middle of the song, like "Oops, I have to change clothes before the next scene". How about some interaction between the characters?

I don't know why, but our actors often can't articulate and I sometimes have the feeling that I'd need subtitles in Finnish TV programs rather than in the foreign ones. This time I could also hear what people, even the ensemble, were singing and saying, which definitely was positive. I liked the ensemble especially in the servant songs and in "Strandgut", they sounded really good.

The trailer:

All in all... Actor-wise and visually not as bad as I had feared, but they had done some some very very odd changes that did not work. In the premiere the atmosphere was good, but later it felt that the actors were just doing their job, they didn't manage to put feeling into the performance.

Links:
Production homepage
Photo gallery
The souvenir program

2 kommenttia:

Elwingda kirjoitti...

Wish I'd have had the chance to see this! They are doing a Broadway production of this soon I think, with Sierra Boggess in the lead role.

ihmepensas kirjoitti...

Yeah, the Broadway production was supposed to premiere around these days but it got postponed and now the premiere should be in autumn. I'm curious to see what it's like. Now they're playing the musical in Stuttgart and St. Gallen (Switzerland) and I'd love to see the productions, but travelling costs a bit too much.

Rebecca is not my favourite of musicals by Kunze&Levay, but I like it and have seen four different productions of it, because somehow I've always managed to live in the same city when a new production has opened. :P This has been the worst one of them, but there were still aspects I liked, like the sets and the ensemble (Frith the Butler was brilliant!). The later Finnish production in Kouvola was IMO much better, though.