Nur ein Blick – Thoughts on Sunset Boulevard

The open air theatre of Tecklenburg is one of the more special things to happen in a musical theatre nerd’s summer. Tecklenburg is a small town in western Germany and it’s literally so small it does not even have a trainstation.

Ever since I have been into musical theatre Tecklenburg’s summer festival was something like a place to be in summer, to see their productions. After my last visit two years ago when I went wth my family to see Michael Kunze and Sylvester Levay’s Marie Antoinette, this year my second ever visit happened there. This time alone and kind of as a stop in my journey to Frankfurt, where I was visiting a friend. (by now the production is closed….this seems to be a thing on this blog these days – oh, boy!)

This season they happend to show to musicals of Andrey Lloyd Webber – which I am not a huge fan of, but their second production, Sunset Boulevard, appealed to me because you can hear people say Sunset is one of his really good shows.

Because I wanted to go for the uninformed audience-member all the way, I’ve never really listened to the score before (of course I knew all these big time popular songs), when I sat down and the music director came on and started conducting I knew nothing about the structure of the show. (I have to admit, I quite like this perspective…it basically makes you an investigator.) – That’s probably why I had quite a few “That’s quite cool!”-moments during the show and a lot of structural and analytical thinking going on.

The director Andreas Gergen (who is – in my opinion – probably one of the most interesting directors in the German musical community….) added a group of dancers to the ‘normal’ scenery: a woman dressed as a variation of Salome appearing with the head of Jochanaan. From time to time she is joined by a number of male dancers. Beforehand I’ve read about this fact online and most people thought this addition was a little bit too much – since we all get this Salome connotation anyways. I have quite a different view on this, I liked the idea of another ‘layer’ added to the action since it really created a layering effect – there was a scene going on and on another part of the stage Salome would come and ‘join’ them, acting with her acting-partner, the bloody head of Jochanaan. Although it mostly did some foreshadowing or stressing of situations, it at least did this and basically this Salome-branch of what happened was the presentation of the ending all the time. When the show starts off with Joe telling us about the muder, the ending is pretty clear already and when Salome keeps dancing with dead Jochanaan in her arms it stays present throughout the show.

While I could identify the dancing Salome as added into it, being a non-expert-viewer made it hard for me to judge the directing in general – but maybe me not being able to judge it (those who know me: Can you imagine it? Me not being able to judge something?! … Me neither!) is a sign that it was in its way coherent with the material. And sadly that’s all I can say about the directing itself.

For the leads I can say: Boy, that Joe Gillies was a nice one! Julian Looman was very Joe-Gillies-handsome, has a very nice, fitting voice and – last but not least – enough charisma and energy to take the audience with him on the journey thought his story. I wasn’t all too fond of our Norma Maya Hakvoort which was because I knew her voice from an older recording and didn’t like it back then and I didn’t like it in real life as well as I learned and she reminded me of an actress I so absolutely dislike…BUT (and that’s a huge but!) from time to time I felt sorry for her Norma and this (at least to me) seems to be crutial for getting her character: only when we feel sorry for her we see what drives her into her action and we get an idea of the alternative world she has created for herself.

Overall my trip to Tecklenburg this year was a pleasant thing in my summer and I did not regret it. I got to know Sunset Boulevard as a musical itself and this production made me interested enough to keep on listening to the score and finding out things and thinking about the plot and the way it might or might not work…

Have you seen it? What did you think?

And for those who missed it – they published a trailer….

Music Monday … Did Spring Come to Texas

Lately I’ve been looking into songs that have some kind of colour to them. And no, I’m not talking any kind of sould or rap that are considered to be ‘black’ (or at least more ‘black’ than Beethoven…) For a while the Off-Broadway-recording of Giant (produced by the Public Theatre) has been chilling out in my iTunes library without getting too much love from me…Anyway, from time to time I put it on and fall in love with the song Did spring come to Texas all over again.

And: Do you hear the red and the yellow-ish gold in that song? Or is it just me?

(let me know….) :)

My Week #45, Sept 8th – 14th

what I saw
nothing, I was lazy. But, wait: I spend my Sunday watching a couple of old Tatorts…

what I read
I started reading the second installment of Thomas Mann’s Joseph-books and I just really don’t get into it….

what I listened to
still loads of Sunset, a little bit Anything Goes and Giant (the Off Broadway recording with Brian D’Arcy James and Kate Baldwin)

what I did
dropped into the final week of rehearsal of our new criminal dinner entertainment production twice, spend one afternoon/evening at the office to help prepare the opening which was on Saturday and then I got sick and had to stay in bed with a fever on said Saturday – which sounds totally like me, oh boy! And I got through a dentist appointment.

Plus something very exciting: I kind of finished my first ever translation of a song from a musical!! (Yay!)


What did you do?

The Theaterkind facebook page is only 6 away from 100 likes! Can we make it? That’d be AWESOME. :)

Have a great new week starting tomorrow!

My Week(s) #44, Aug 25th – Sept 7th

what I saw
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard in Tecklenburg directed by Andreas Gergen
a sneak preview at the cinema which made us watch Hercules
and a musical theatre project by Christoph Marthaler at Staatsoper Berlin called Letzte Tage. Ein Vorabend

what I read
Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated
the first of Thomas Mann’s four novels focusing on Joseph from the bible: Joseph und seine Brüder
and a book I bought when I was in Frankfurt, Arnon Grünberg’s novel with the (German) title Der Mann, der nie krank war

what I listened to
loads of Sunset Boulevard while walking the streets from Frankfurt, a little Rocky riding my bike across Berlin and I finally made time to give a proper listen to the Nice Fighting With You-album from the concert series of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.

what I did
I saw friends which I enjoyed and made me think of how grateful I have to be to have so amazing friends! And I did some travelling of course, a lot of changing trains was going on, but I reached everyone of them and everything worked out just fine.

What did you do?

The Theaterkind facebook page is only 6 away from 100 likes! Can we make it? That’d be AWESOME. :)

Have a great new week starting tomorrow!

Music Monday … Boy with Dreams

This Music Monday is brought to you by the inspiration of a friend of mine. He brought my attention to the Pasek and Paul song cycle Edges which I’ve heard about but never really listened to it. A terrible mistake.

As you probably could have figured by now I love me a (rocky) uptempo song for a tenor voice. I was sent a link. I clicked on it. And I was sold.

In addition to the more formal things that immediately sold me to that song, it’s a very playful, original song which takes us through a growing-up/coming-of-age process – so it’s definitely worth a listen!

Check out this duett-version with some staging…

or a solo, slightly rockier and very playful version:

And: Have a great new week!

What are you listening to today?

Moses – Die 10 Gebote

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Moses was the last show I saw during my stay in St. Gallen and as I my articles about the other to nights (Anything Goes and Artus Excalibur) already suggested – for my the quality of the shows went downwards from Anything Goes on.
(funny how I don’t even try to be polite on this topic)

Years ago Michael Kunze, to book writer and lyricist of German (hit) musicals like Elisabeth, Mozart and Marie Antoinette had paired up with Dieter Falk, a pop music producer and song-writer, to write a pop oratory about the 10 commandments, which premiere in a huge soccer stadium with a choir consisting of thousands of people and a big orchestra and all that jazz. The music and the lyrics were quite ‘heavy’ taking into account that so many voices singing make the words hard to understand, so the words had to be streched and sung very slowly. Anyway, this oratory was okay to watch, it told the story of Moses and the 10 commandments and up to today it is produced/shown primarily by churches and religious organizations having choirs.

Apparently a couple of years later they were asked (or wanted) to write a musical of this oratory – and this was how Moses – Die 10 Gebote was written. Do you remember when I wrote about Artus and said that the material didn’t appear to be all that bad, but the directing just didn’t give a whole lot of f*cks? Well with Moses it was the other way ’round! The directing actually was quite neat, sweet, sometimes a little too ‘funny’ (in a “Look! I can do funny!”-kind of way). The performers were good, they sung well and danced well for the most parts.

But outside of the pure watching-experiences (me, sitting there and watching what happens on stage, directing-wise, acting-wise…) I had some serious WTF?!-moments with the material. The songs mostly were like someone made the singers sing bible verses in pop music (like Britney Spears 90ies…), sometimes then suddenly bursting out into Gospel-inspired songs, dancing and singing and clapping – while a mere three minutes ago they’d told us that Moses’ people were slaves and had to work even harder than before because of Moses’ magic. There were scenes in front of the curtain, with two characters talking about a matter on of them wasn’t really concerned with (from a character-in-the-story-point of view) and which just had nothing to do with what happened before, it came out of the blue and obviously it had to be there because the set needed to be changed.

Right now I feel I don’t even want to write anything more about that experiences because I could go on and on about how weird I felt watching this as ‘musical theatre’ or how I think that these kinds of shows/productions are the reason why people in Germany think musicals are superficial, everyone looks great in them and from time to time someone randomly bursts into a song.

Usually I try not to write such short and negative things about theatre, but this needed to be done. Simply.

Music Monday … Man in the Mirror

This isn’t a typical Music Monday this week. No show tunes, not at all. But: a video filmed at 54below and Matt Doyle whom I’ve seen in Jasper in Deadland this past spring. And I’ve simply been obsessed with his version of Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror, as I’ve already expressed on my twitter account.

So, to start off this new week – the last week of August – let’s all just take a minute and apprechiate this one, okay?

What are you listening to today?And: Have a great week!

 

My Week #43, Aug 18th – 24th

what I saw
as far as theatre is concerned I saw three performances during the Tanz im August festival:
Michael Clark Company: animal/vegetable/mineral which was quite nice to watch but wasn’t a very ‘occupying’ thing if you know what I mean
La Veronal: Siena which left me with quite a few questions because so many things just came along as “Why? THAT’S WHY!” sort of elements.
and lastly Rosas & Ictus: Vortex Temporum which I enjoyed the most of those three. Actually, I liked it quite a bit.

And then I binge-watched the first season of The Paradise which a friend wanted me to watch. It took a bit until I was hooked, but I liked it – although it’s not as shiny and the people are not as pretty as in Mr. Selfridge – which is a horribly superficial thing to say. ;)

what I read

I read two essays in a journal/magazine called Studies in Musical Theatre, as well as another essay by Hannah Arendt about politics and Saša Stanišić’s Wie der Soldat das Grammofon repariert, which another friend recommended.

what I listened to
pretty much the same things as I did last week. Summer-listens.

what I did
nothing all too exciting. Sadly. But there are quite some exciting things to come up soon.

What did you do?

The Theaterkind facebook page is only 5 away from 100 likes! Can we make it? That’d be AWESOME. :)

Have a great new week starting tomorrow!

Thoughts on ‘Artus Excalibur’

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“Artus Excalibur” – a musical by Frank Wildhorn, Ivan Menchell and Robin Lerner, directed by Francesca Zambello

I have to say – I was rather excited to see Artus – Excalibur in St. Gallen and being honest with you guys this probably was the show which made me want to go to St. Gallen in the first place (and I’m still glad about it, because of the first night we spend at Theater St. Gallen!)

Anyway, you don’t always get to see a brand new show in German speakign countries (they keep coming nowadays, but it’s still unusual to have a bigger scale production of a brand new musical). And you don’t always get to see a brand new show written by Frank Wildhorn. I am not the biggest fan of his work, actually I think quite some of his work is a little dull (while I LOVE the score of Bonnie & Clyde I remeber being bored to death by his Count of Monte Christo), I was never drawn to his work because of how great the music is – with the exception of Bonnie & Clyde. When the thought of having to see it found its way into my mind it was more a ‘Gotta catch’em all’-moment than a “Wow…I’m interested in THAT”-thing. In addition to that St. Gallen’s theatre had an amazing moment of star-casting. They cast pretty much the most popular musical theatre actors in Germany/the German speaking countries as the principles – which not only garanteed them an exessive amount of press, but also kept the fans coming (and who doesn’t like that?).

A kind of concept album was released shortly after the premiere, with a number of songs (by far not all, but a decent number…) which gave me the opportunity to have a listen before I went to see it. From the recording alone I wasn’t stunned by any means, but it wasn’t too bad either. It was – once a again – decent music, a little folk-y, a little middle-age-y, a little ‘over the hills of Britannia’-y. As one would expect (from a post of mine over at newmusicaltheatre.com…) I had my issues with the German words which made me wonder what the English original lyrics were like (and I haven’t found out yet, and I think it’ll be a while before I will…) – but over all it kept me excited to see it.

I then saw it on May 30th and to get it out of the way: I wasn’t very fond of it. To be honest it was a moment of “I’m so angry I stayed awake until 2am and woke up at 7am”. By the time intermission came around I knew what was wrong with this show and after a night of thinking-sleeping I’m pretty sure that really was the problem. It wasn’t the music or the way the show was written – while it wasn’t the most mind-blowing thing ever, it wasn’t all too bad. It wasn’t the cast, although each and every one of them played a part in why it just wasn’t good from my point of view. It was the directing.

I usually try to stay away from all too harsh judgements (because: it’s the internet!), but even with all the time since I saw Artus I can’t make it more pleasing.

When I wrote that the problem was the directing I more of less ment: the absence of directing. It was not like “Ooh….what is this supposed to mean?”, it was more like “Eh…did somebody tell the actors what to do?”. Most of the leads I had seen before a number of times, like some of them, then was a little disappointed by them on the next occasion, just as the theatre-wheel goes round and round. One of them, Sabrina Weckerlin, I have been seeing numerous times since she was 19 years old and on stage as Constance in 3 Musketiere in Berlin, I saw her maturing and delivering a superb performance as Natalie Godman in Next to Normal last fall. Because I saw her perform so many times I think I know what she can do acting-wise (once more: Next to Normal) and I think I am able to tell when a director just was doing it wrong. She played evil Morgana (who was given a potencially heart-breaking backstory here) and she was doing just fine during her songs, but when she wasn’t singing it was like she was posing and saying her lines and gesticulating exessively – just as if someone (a director?) had told her: Just do whatever you fancy doing! It was the same with Patrick Stanke, who played Artus and seems to be a kind of go-to-tenor when it comes to heroic young men in German musical theatre. Just doing what he fancied…I could go on and on but I think you get the point, right?

While I wasn’t bored (it was too short to be bored with so much story told, 2.5 hours including intermission), I felt a little insulted soon after intermission when I was able to tell that what happened in the first act just wasn’t a matter of ‘getting started’. It felt so ‘American’ in a way we Europeans tend to say it when something is just scratching the surface of a problem and in a way musical as a genre is seen by so many people in Germany (a fact I’m complaining about in almost each and every post of mine on the newmusicaltheatre.com-blog) and it is just not doing the genre any justice, while people will go and see Artus and those who like ‘musicals’ are gonna keep on liking it while those who have massive prejudices keep having these. But I am so sure that this show (read: this production) would flop on Broadway big times and it so assures me in my thought that ‘American’ and ‘American’ are two different things: While we, and I of course include myself here, sometimes use this adjective to describe a superficial production of a musical (usually like “Oh, this is SO American!” and we mean “Oh, this is so not good!”), real American musical theatre often is SO MUCH BETTER!

Anyway, do these thoughts even make sense?

Have you seen it?

What do YOU think about it?

I’d love to hear!