|Suvi-Sini Peltola and Anna Liisa's wedding dress fabric.|
© Jyrki Tervo / TTT
The story is so well-known that they don't even tell it in the program but assume that everyone is familiar with it. I'm in the minority who has never seen it on stage or read it in school, so I knew nothing about it beforehand. It was nice to go and be surprised, for a change. The musical version is composed by the Finnish rock/folk/etc. lyricist and singer Pauli Hanhiniemi and the modern folk music group Hehkumo, and both also perform in the musical. They even released a cast recording, though the songs are in wrong order and the CD case claims that it's a soundtrack. :-P
The Cast & Visuality
The cast was very good, could sing and act and even dance the sometimes quite challenging-looking choreographies that were done by the modern dance group Tanssiteatteri Tsuumi. Especially Suvi-Sini Peltola in the title role was almost breathtaking, anxious and scared but not overdoing it. She also sang and moved beautifully and had great chemistry with others. Jari Ahola was rather perfect as Mikko, he was an arrogant bastard but you could still see why Anna Liisa used to liked him. I've previously seen Ahola as Billy Flynn in Chicago and in the title role in Schaeffer's Amadeus, and I really like him. Mika Honkanen as Mikko's mother was excellent, sort of a comic relief but still the bad, um, guy, and I adored his dance moves. (I only now realized that it was he who played Frank'N'Furter in the legendary Finnish Rocky Horror Show production in Seinäjoki in 1995. I'm kind of glad I didn't recognize the name before the show...)
|© Jyrki Tervo / TTT|
My favourite part of the musical was its sets and lights. The sets were quite minimalistic, with mostly open stage with only a stool or two and a dark spruce forest or a lake in the background. There was something skeleton-like and threatening in the spruces, and they created the perfect visuality for Anna Liisa's guilt-ridden and in the end nearly crazy mind. The costumes were a bit boring and ugly and felt a bit out-of-place against the darkly beautiful sets (which was probably intentional), but I liked Anna Liisa's dresses.
They used Canth's original play in the spoken text parts and had just made some minor cuts and added the songs. I'd have hoped that they would have used Canth's original text in the lyrics and used songs to take the story on, but now the songs mostly stopped the action. In fact, the musical was more just Canth's play accompanied with songs. All in all I sometimes got the feeling that the person(s) who wrote the music didn't have a very good sense of drama or of what works in stage context and what doesn't, but as such the music was still better than I've heard in other original Finnish musicals.
Many songs were sung by the cast, and some of them were a part of the plot and added something new or deeper to it, like "Siksi", "Kuusenpihkaa" and "Suolammen vettä". These were my favourites and the most meaningful ones, and they also had the most impressive lyrics. Many songs (too many for my taste), though, were kind of just comment songs sung by Pauli Hanhiniemi, the ensemble or some cast member. Often those songs didn't have much to do in the plot and they could easily have been cut without losing anything, and even their lyrics were a bit lame. Especially the second act had many of these, like "Ootteko nähneet mun sydäntäni" sung by Hanhiniemi and some woman, and "Täs on metsän kaunis tupa", a totally random wedding song sung by Pirkko, Anna Liisa's little sister. Anna Liisa herself had only one short song.
|© Jyrki Tervo / TTT|
The ending was a bit confusingly made. After Anna Liisa confessed and was taken to prison, Pirkko started to dance and sing the reprise of "Kaikki ilo", a very joyful and energetic song that started the whole musical. I'm still not sure what they wanted to tell with the song, but the lyrics didn't fit the situation at all and the song felt a bit too much like a poor attempt to wrap up the story. It also didn't feel like a "life goes on so let's try to get over this" song, but that's still the best explanation I can think of. Or then someone had an odd way of showing that people are happy because Anna Liisa at least got peace of mind.
|© Jyrki Tervo / TTT|
Generally the show was quite meta-textual, with people telling or commenting the story and thus distancing it from the audience. The band also played on stage and sometimes took part in the scenes. I'm not sure if I'd have chosen the meta way myself, but it was interesting and suited the play well.
The musical version was quite modern in many ways and not a musical in the most traditional sense of the word, and I found it very refreshing. It's far from being my favourite musical, but as a theatrical piece it was mostly well done and interesting to watch. There were parts that didn't work, like some of the songs, but as a whole the musical worked well.
Tampereen Työväen Teatteri
A TV reportage from the rehearsals in Yle Areena