lauantai 3. maaliskuuta 2012

Tanz der Vampire - Seinäjoki, Finland 2011/2012

I'm so in love with this production that I don't know how I'll survive after it ends. It looks and sounds and feels so... excellent. Addicting. The musical has become quite a phenomenon in Seinäjoki, but that would deserve a blog post of its own. Once I have time.

The trailer

I'm not going to rewrite my whole first review, more just update it because people have developed in their roles and I've had more chances to think about things. While Olli-Matti Oinonen's directing has some minor details I don't always agree with, I nevertheless adore it. The musical isn't directed in the most obvious megamusical style á la big and melodramatic hand gestures, but more like a straight play, which IMHO gives the characters depth nicely and suits the smaller theatre. The musical doesn't take itself very seriously, and it works perfectly with a parodic show like this. They are having so much fun with the show and getting incredible amounts of humour out of it, and yet it has a very serious, bittersweet and brutal tone that gives me goosebumps. In the end I don't know if I should laugh or cry.

Essi Hannuksela & Sami Vartiainen.
© Ari Ijäs / Seinäjoen kaupunginteatteri
The whole cast works incredibly well together, the Chagal family really feels like a family and generally the characters are persons and not caricatures. Krolock isn't the only character who gets attention; everyone gets their own share of the booming applauds and fangirling. The characters' feelings, motives and thoughts are shown extremely well and they've grown so multilayered that it'd take ages to describe them perfectly. The cast enjoys performing the show, and you can definitely see it: they keep having fun on stage, doing different things on different evenings, giving their all. Everyone can also sing and act and dance on the same time. This isn't typical in Finnish musical productions, and this must be one of the most best-casted musical I have seen here. Nobody has gotten in just because of their famous name; these people definitely have talent.

Jyri Lahtinen. © Ari Ijäs / Seinäjoen kaupunginteatteri
Count von Krolock (Jyri Lahtinen) is evil. The character is closer to the traditional Byronic vampire: an aloof nobleman who has travelled much, probably read his whole library through and is in every situation in control. I love it how his personality and being is gradually revealed to Sarah and the audience. He's a distant voice, a dashing seducer, a sarcastic nobleman, a predator, and a fallen angel full of anguish. In "Unstillbare Gier", the only moment when he's alone, he lets out his weaker side, the side that still has feelings, and I'd want to hug him and pat his head and tell that it'll be all right. His facade crumbles down for a moment, and the change to the ball is breathtaking. There we again have the undefeatable boss and alpha male in control of the universe. Krolock nips Sarah's ear a bit with his teeth which creates a rather erotic impression, but the bite itself is brutal. As a little detail I absolutely adore the nonchalant, self-confident and noble way Krolock descends the stairs. Oh, and I'd kill to get Krolock's hair.

Alfred (Ville Salonen) is a bit naïve, inexperienced and scared, but he's also very sweet and has sense of humour. No hints of stupidity here! I love it how he develops during the story, how after every drawback he pulls himself together and tries again. Finally Alfred is the one who wants to stay for the vampires' ball, he finds the disguises for himself and the slightly resisting Professor and convinces him to stay. Alfred does faint when Sarah is bitten, but afterwards he gathers his courage again. In the end he isn't dragged along by Sarah; they both go their separate ways and Alfred practically eats his way through the audience.

This production is very strongly the story of Alfred growing up. I don't understand why some productions have cut Alfred's "They have feelings! Like we do!" line, because it's a crucial turning point in the whole story. In it Alfred realizes that a) becoming a vampire doesn't mean that you become a cold beast, and, especially in Finland, that b) Krolock has his weak spot, he's just like everyone else after all and can thus be defeated.

Esa Ahonen & Ville Salonen.
© Ari Ijäs / Seinäjoen kaupunginteatteri
Professor Abronsius (Esa Ahonen) is an interesting character. He takes the whole trip very scientifically, clearly makes mental notes and is all happily excited of the events because they give him new research material and evidence, even if the said events include a robust pink vampire showing interest in Alfred, Krolock claiming that Alfred has sold his soul, and Krolock biting the maiden they're supposed to save.

When Abronsius gets enough adrenaline in a really tight spots he's capable of everything, but he has his cowardly and human side as well, for example in the crypt. He's the leader of the excursion, but if he has time and a chance, he delegates the dirty jobs to Alfred. Only in the very end, when they're running from the vampires, the Professor suddenly draws out a big knife from inside his umbrella, stabs Koukol, kicks him in a very action-movie-ninja-like way and then sits down and carefully, when nobody's noticing, smells/tastes the blood on the blade, clearly out of curiosity and for scientific purposes. The two vampire hunters balance each other nicely. Alfred is a coward and knows it, and the Professor is a coward but doesn't admit it, and in the end they both show courage and are indeed the fearless vampire killers they're called. Too bad that it's a bit too late to save the world and the maiden.

Abronsius also knows how to party, and he gets quite carried away by the dancing. He's disguised as an elderly lady, with a glittery black velvet ball gown and an ivy-decorated hairdo. When Krolock sings his welcome part, another elderly vampire lady mimics "Isn't he absolutely gorgeous?" to Lady Abronsius, who heartily agrees, blows kisses to the Count and in many ways expresses how his heart beats to Krolock and Krolock alone. The two 60+ fangirls are absolutely adorable.

Raili Raitala. © Ari Ijäs / Seinäjoen kaupunginteatteri
Sarah is often overshadowed by the male leads in this musical, but Raili Raitala is still awesome. She's not your typical empty-headed gothic heroine who's tossed around by males, but a sensible growing woman who makes her own thoroughly thought decisions, knows what she wants and is prepared to make some sacrifices to get it. Sarah clearly likes Alfred and is sad to leave him behind, but Alfred seems to represent the unrealistic and dreaming escapism for her, whereas the vampire count paradoxically is the realistic way to get out of the village. Thanks to this attitude in her acting, I get huge kicks out of "Draussen ist Freiheit", and "Stärker als wir sind" must be one of my favourite musical scenes ever, it's so touching to see a girl make the decision to depart from her familiar village community and home.

Jouko Enkelnotko.
© Ari Ijäs / Seinäjoen kaupunginteatteri
In Herbert's case I'll just copypaste my earlier review: Jouko Enkelnotko's 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? The Finnish word is 'pissis'. 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 noble family, 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 has a horde of fangirls and -boys, and I don't wonder it. You can't help loving him. In fact, Enkelnotko was voted for the best actor of 2011 in the theatre's poll.

Rebecca (Leena Rousti) rocks, kicks ass and owns the stage whenever she opens her mouth. She's not an old ugly hag but a strong-willed woman with tons of personality, and even if Chagal cheats on her, you can see that he also respects her and they like each other in the 20-years-of-marriage way.

Leena Rousti, Anne Vihelä & Heikki Vainionpää.
© Ari Ijäs / Seinäjoen kaupunginteatteri
Chagal (Heikki Vainionpää) is pretty much the only character I still don't like in this production. Vainionpää does the character in a very sketch comedy-like way, with dirty gestures and mad giggling and general overacting, and that kind of humour has never made me laugh. Most people seem to find Chagal very funny here, though, I just like my comic characters more subtle and intelligent. Chagal may be one reason why also Magda's character stays a bit distant for me, because in the comedy scenes with Chagal Anne Vihelä has gotten closer to Vainionpää's acting style. It makes them work better as a comedy pair, but I prefer Magda's more cynical, hurt and serious attitude in the first act and then the rock chick vampire in the finale.

Antti Railio.
© Ari Ijäs / Seinäjoen kaupunginteatteri
Oh, and Koukol (Antti Railio/ alt. Mikko Kesäniemi) rocks, too. Alongside his usual growling duties, Koukol also sings the first solo in "Carpe noctem" and controls the vampires with a whip, and the effect is jaw-dropping. In fact, the whole scene is amazing; the vampires just suddenly crawl all over the bed like insects (you know those nightmares with your bed suddenly being full of snakes or something?), Alfred is drawn into his own dream and then he kind of splits in two when the White Vampire emerges from inside the bed. It's so cool. And the Black Vampire (Sami Vartiainen) has the most beautiful arms I have ever seen. Plus he's evil, too. And grins. And moves so lightly that it's heavenly to watch. Generally the solo dancers deserve all the love they can get. As does the whole ensemble, and the costume and set designers, translator, light designer, conductor andandand the pianist who slips funny little melodies here and there, like in the jazz parts of the crypt scene.

Another, early trailer, with more impressions than real scenes from the production:


Ahem, yes. I hope I have made here clear that this production is one of the best theatre experiences I have ever had in my life.

Links:
Production homepage (Finnish & English)
Facebook (Finnish & English)

2 kommenttia:

Vic kirjoitti...

This production looks really wonderful! I'm a little bit tired with Baltus' replica productions all over Europe (great as they are) so it was a pleasure to read about one so different and yet so well done!

Laura kirjoitti...

Thanks for the comment, Vic! I agree, I'd love to see more non-replicas. The standard production has is positive sides, but I feel they're playing it to death and slowly killing the artistic freedom every theatre piece should have.