28 maaliskuuta 2012

Tanz der Vampire: The Finnish Fandom

Jouko Enkelnotko &
Ville Salonen.
© Eclipsis ry
Tanz der Vampire had a small fanbase in Finland already some years before the Finnish premiere in Seinäjoki, but also new fans quickly found the musical. In the end the theatre had quite a fan phenomenon in their hands, with people seeing the show over and over again, fighting for tickets for the last shows and drowning the cast in presents. In Finland theatre has traditionally been for elderly people, so I was happy to see lots of younger people in theatre, too. On the other hand, judging by the reactions also the grannies - and even middle-aged men! - seemed to enjoy the show, so thinking that all that older people want to see is Sound of Music is definitely underestimating people. Do it well and with attitude, and they'll enjoy it. Elisabeth in Turku did the mistake of trying to make the show more fit for "conservative" taste and it didn't work, but the crew of Vampyyrien tanssi hit the nail with daring to give their all.

© Starlene at DeviantArt
Something in the musical made people more open, cheerful and wild. Finns, who quite rarely freewillingly talk to strangers, suddenly started to spontaneously chat with people sitting next to them, asking how many times they had seen the musical, and interacting with each other also online. I know many people who got new friends through the musical. Someone even tried to hit on me at the theatre. :-P I think this was also the first time in the history of Finnish theatre that a show got enthusiastic stagedoor stalkers who waited for the actors after the show, took photos with them and brought them presents. The usual way to bring flowers to actors in Finland is to leave them to the foyer staff who then deliver them to the actors for the final applauds. Also the press noticed this and did some interviews with hardcore fans who saw the musical 20 times, took tattoos, dressed as the characters and draw fan art.

A fan's tattoo in Jouko Enkelnotko's (Herbert) handwriting.
© Seinäjoen Sanomat
The final show was a blast. The fans sang a Thank You song to the cast, made in the melody of Carpe noctem <Video>, and after that it was possible to take photos of the cast members on stage. <Results here, here and here>

All this is familiar to those accustomed to Central European, Broadway or West End fans, but for Finns this is something new. I'm glad to see people get more active and actually show their love instead of just applauding politely, though of course it also has some downsides if actors don't want to talk after a hard day of work or feel weirded out by random people who want to hug them. Back in 2006 I was in the derniere of Elisabeth that also gained a big fanbase, and there everyone settled with a bit longer standing ovations and then went home. There has clearly been some development after that.

© Starlene at DeviantArt
Other links:
* About the fan phenomenon in Seinäjoen Sanomat: <Link>
* The Finnish national broadcasting company YLE showed an interview with a fan in TV, with lots of footage from the show. <Video>
* A fan interview in the local newspaper Ilkka after the premiere. <Link>
* Interview with two fans in the local newspaper Seinäjoen Sanomat. <Link>
* Photos taken in the last show in Ilkka. <Link>

There was also some fan action provided by the theatre, like a Halloween backstage tour where people were shown the sets and costumes and they could meet some cast members. There were also Meet&Greets with Jouko Enkelnotko (Herbert) and Ville Salonen (Alfred).

I'm going to miss the atmosphere in the theatre. The cast enjoyed what they were doing and you could feel it, and also the fans started to feel like one big family. I honestly think the theatre closed the show too early, goodness knows why because it was practically sold out, but I guess we just have to live with it.

Memories in the theatre's foyer.

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.

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
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.

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

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.

Production homepage
Photo gallery
The souvenir program

11 maaliskuuta 2012

Tanz der Vampire: About bites and kisses

You know the essential ingredient of any vampire musical, The Bite? Traditionally vampire's bite is connected with kissing, sex and whatnot, it seems to be a useful metaphor for a big variety of things.

Thomas Borchert on the Hamburg trailer.
In Tanz der Vampire, many Krolocks nowadays kind-of-kiss Sarah right before they bite her. Quoting myself: "I adore the way he [Géza Egyházi] almost kisses Sarah in 'Tanzsaal', right before he suddenly lowers his head and bites her instead. Their lips almost touch, and he has this look in his eyes, a bit like 'I could do this and I'd like to, but we're the centre of attention now and I'm expected to do this  instead. So wait until the guests are gone, honey.'" There are different ways to do the almost-kiss, and Géza's is just one interpretation  - or, rather, this is just my interpretation of one Krolock's way of almost-kissing Sarah. Some Counts are more cruel, some almost pitying or apologing, some just romantic.

The screencap above isn't from a performance but from a rather Twilight-styled trailer back in the times of the Hamburg production in 2004, and I don't think Krolocks did the kiss on stage there. I certainly don't remember seeing it until in Hungary about four years later, but I've understood that the tradition started during the 2006 Berlin production.

The almost-kiss in the Géza Egyházi style, ca. 2009.
Drew Sarich and Marjan Shaki in Vienna, 2011.
© VBW / Rolf Bock
But why a kiss? Krolock is usually not some Edward-like romantic vampire, after all. On the contrary.

In addition to adding a nice erotic touch to the bite scene and connecting bites and kisses more clearly, it's also a clear reference to Sarah's daydream earlier in 'Die roten Stiefel'. In the end of the dance sequence about Sarah dancing with multiple Krolocks, the dream-Sarah is first kissed by Krolock in a most romantic way...

Die roten Stiefel in the Russian production in 2011.

...which turns into Sarah taking over and kissing Krolock fiercely...

The Hamburg production 2004.
...after which he carries her to his white horse away. So, the almost-kiss in the vampire ball shows the contrast between dreams (or romantic vampire fiction?) and reality. The ball turns out to be quite different than Sarah has imagined: in the end there's no romance, and Sarah isn't in control of the situation. Sarah's freedom has its price, and she should probably be careful about what she dreams about because it might come true. ;-) Depends on the way the Krolock does it and how Sarah reacts to it, of course. I think some Sarahs especially in Hungary and Finland know what's coming even when they allow themselves to wallow in dreams for a while. In Finland's non-replica production the dream-Krolock kisses the dream-Sarah's neck gently right where he would bite her, too, and later in the ball the Count nips Sarah's ear in quite an erotic way before he bows down to bite her brutally and then throws her to his vampire minions.

08 maaliskuuta 2012

Elisabeth - Turku, Finland (2005–2006)

The Finnish production of Kunze&Levay's Elisabeth was performed in the Municipal Theatre of Turku for 1½ years in 2005–2006 and was a great success, always nearly sold-out. It had its faults, sometimes rather big ones, but it was nevertheless done with passion and love. It also opened the way for Kunze's musicals in Finland: we later got two productions of Rebecca, and Tanz der Vampire is currently a big thing in Seinäjoki.
(I got a bit excited with the photos, sorry, but the production doesn't have a website or that many fansites anymore.)

Thérèse Karlsson & Mika Kujala.
© Turun kaupunginteatteri / Robert Seger
The storyline followed the 2004 Vienna revival and the staging was based on that production, too, but they had also had some own ideas in the visuality that mostly worked very well. I really liked the colour palette they had used for the sets. It was warm-toned, darkish and somehow decayed in a way that reminded me of forgotten statues covered with green and grey moss. Death's carriage was the most impressing I've seen. In the beginning the scenes were more light-coloured. Bad Ischl was full of warm pink roses, both in the gobelin-like back canvas and in Sophie's and her servants' clothes. Elisabeth and FJ sang their first duet in the basked of a balloon that was hanging in mid-air with a blue sky behind them. It was cute, and the transition to the wedding scene with corpse-like guests and doomsday atmosphere was impressive.

Ilkka Hämäläinen & Kirsi Tarvainen in Bad Ischl.
© Turun kaupunginteatteri / Robert Seger
They also had amusing and great little details in the staging. The scenes of Elisabeth's marriage were shown on a little stage with curtains and all, so they really were little scenes like in a school play. When they talked about Elisabeth loneliness, they first showed her sitting next to her baby's cradle, then closed the curtains,  re-opened them and on the place of the cradle was someone dressed as a parrot.

"Nur kein Genieren" was bizarre, ugly and ridiculous, but they also didn't take everything out of it and the scene fell quite flat. Only in the derniere they really overdid the acting and dancing so that the scene worked as a whole. The prostitute costumes were weird and the sets looked like decorated with Christmas lights, though I'm not sure if the point was to show the cheapness of the prostitute world. But why would anyone pick a girl for the emperor in a place like that?

Kristina Raudanen & girls.
© Turun kaupunginteatteri / Robert Seger
By the way, I really liked the way they used the Death's Angels in the production: they for example drove the bumper cars in "Fröhliche Apokalypse" (the cars were borrowed from the Särkänniemi amusement park), were nurses in the lunatic asylum, rioted in "Milch", and the prostitute chosen for Franz-Josef was in fact a female Death's Angel in a shorter and tighter prostitute version of the normal DA costume. In that way the Death's presence in the decayed and falling Habsburg empire was shown very nicely.

Kirsi Tarvainen & Tomi Metsäketo.
© Turun kaupunginteatteri / Robert Seger

Thérèse Karlsson & Tomi Metsäketo.
© Turun kaupunginteatteri / Robert Seger
Voice-wise I loved the cast. The Death (Mika Kujala) and Rudolf (Tomi Varho) were bliss to listen to, and I think the Finnish Elisabeth & FJ combination is still the best I've heard anywhere, including cast recordings. Also Sophie (Kirsi Tarvainen) was excellent, scary but after all sympathetic in "Bellaria". Acting-wise you could see that for example Thérèse Karlsson (Elisabeth) usually performs in opera and Tomi Metsäketo (Franz-Josef) is a singer, because they both mostly stood stiffly still when they sang. On the other hand, I have seen both Karlsson and Metsäketo act better elsewhere, so I think the problem might have been also the director. Lucheni (Ilkka Hämäläinen) wasn't my type of Lucheni, he somehow didn't feel anarchistic enough, but later he got more energy and I started to like him (which has nothing to do with the fact that he spent one performance flirting with me *grin*), and in the derniere he absolutely rocked. The ensemble couldn't always stay in rhythm in the choreographies, and there was someone in the orchestra who always played in different rhythm in the dialogue music than everyone else, but generally the cast, ensemble and orchestra were good.

Thérèse Karlsson & Mika Kujala.
© Turun kaupunginteatteri / Robert Seger
I wasn't a fan of the director's view about the Death's character. There was very little chemistry and interaction between Elisabeth and the Death; the Death worshipped Elisabeth like a lovesick but frustrated puppy, but his presence didn't seem to have much to do in Elisabeth's life or in the story in general. They didn't have much to do with each other, and the Death's part in the story felt somehow forced while Elisabeth was all about herself and her own liberation. During "Der letzte Tanz" she just leaned on Franz-Josef and looked ill and scared and didn't even glance at the Death while he stood/bounced on the bridge and sang his song practically to the audience. In the end they sang "Der Schleier fällt" together and kissed after that, and then Elisabeth sang the reprise of "Ich gehör nur mir" and walked up the bridge to a bright light with the Death following her, again like a puppy. I had a big problem with that, because it made Elisabeth seem rather heroic, which I think she isn't in the musical. Yes, there is a feministic tone in the story, but I felt this production highlighted it too much and tried to minimize Death's role in Elisabeth's life. As if they had tried to make it less shocking for grannies, or then the director wasn't very interested in the Death's character and he kind of just came with the packet while the ultimate story of a tragic feministic empress went on around him.
Thérèse Karlsson & Mika Kujala.
© Turun kaupunginteatteri / Robert Seger
Mika Kujala got the best out of the directing, though. His Death was bouncy and bursting with energy and stage presence, and you couldn't help loving him. I also really, really liked his voice. Without his stage-filling charisma the Death would have felt like a minor character. I loved his expressions when the little Sophie died: the Death presented the child's corpse like a gift to Elisabeth and seemed totally surprised, ashamed and disappointed when she didn’t like it at all, very much like a puppy proudly bringing a dead mouse to his owner who then screams in disgust. The Death was ardently in love but also frustrated, cynical and proud. His interaction with Rudolf was excellent, too, and Tomi Varho remains one of my favourite Rudolfs.

Translation ranting

Thérèse Karlsson.
© Turun kaupunginteatteri / Robert Seger
The translation was bad on so many levels. It was perfectly singable, but there were silly grammar mistakes, overuse of short words that mean nothing but fill the gaps nicely (siis, niin, -kin, vai, varmaan, kai, nyt...), resulting in lines that had one or two meaningful words and 3-5 words or suffixes that added nothing to the sentence. Often the lines simply made no sense and were downright impossible to understand. It sounded like the translator hadn't really understood German, because many lines sounded like someone had taken a dictionary, looked up the most important words of the sentence and then written a whole new sentence(-ish) based on those words. An example that remained etched in my mind:

("Eine Kaiserin muss glänzen"; Finnish, the Finnish translation in English, and the original German text)

Countess Esterházy: Suunne aukaiskaa! ("Open your mouth!") (Öffnen Sie den Mund!)
Sophie: Keltaiset ei olla saa! ("[Teeth] may not be yellow!") (Die sind zu gelb, das darf nicht sein!)
Elisabeth: Tammalla saa! ("Mare's [teeth] may!") (Bin ich ein Pferd?)

So... Instead of asking why they're treating her like a horse, Elisabeth thinks she is a horse and can therefore have yellow teeth? Oddly, "Bellaria" was significantly better translated than rest of the musical and actually sounded beautiful and made sense. There were also factual errors, like Rudolf complaining to Elisabeth that he must get married, when at that point of the story he had, in fact, been married for several years. The translator passed away half a year after the derniere, though, so maybe he wasn't at his best anymore when he did the translation.
Friends gather to hear Ludovika's news about Helene's engagement.
© Turun kaupunginteatteri / Robert Seger
All in all I miss the production, and I hope the musical will someday be made again in Finland, preferably with a new translation and a director with a different view to the story. The cast was good and I loved the visuality of the production.


03 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.

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