St Gallen

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.

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Anything Goes – Literally

IMG_2174After I have posted all my Broadway-thoughts and my thoughts on Sarg Niemals Nie I can (finally) move on to the three musicals I have seen in St. Gallen, Switzerland, in the end of May when the theatre of St. Gallen showed all three of their currently running musicals in a row. I went there by train with my mother and we had a great time (her first time in Switzerland), after three nights in St. Gallen we went to Zurich and stayed another two nights (which is so expensive the two nights there did cost roughly the same as the three nights in St. Gallen – and the hotel wasn’t that good, actually). Anyways…right now we’re here to talk productions.

I used to be not that much into old musicals, I’m all for innovation and new stuff (hence my contributing to the Greenroom-blog over on newmusicaltheatre.com) – so I was the least excited about the first show of the three which was Anything Goes. When we were sitting in the theatre’s lobby (which is lovely and quite special architectural) after our over-night-travel and my mom was flipping through the pages of the programme she was like: “Oh…it’s one of these comedies in which someone is mistaken for someone and it’s supposed to be funny. I’m not really up to this right now!”

A couple of minutes later a woman joined us where we sat (apparently she is reviewing shows for German musical news-page thatsmusical.de) and she was all like: “I don’t know what this is about and frankly I don’t care. I am tired and I only bought it because it was cheap, more by accident. I really only wanted to see actor X this afternoon! And look, I’ve seen show Y in Stuttgart 40 times!” Sorry if I’m offending some people know, but this attitude pisses me off. Like really! Then my mother repeated her statement before I said: “Well – let’s try to see it this way. If you really don’t want to see something because you don’t feel in the mood and in the end you happen to have enjoyed yourself and it finds its way to your heart, that’d make the production amazing, right?”

Later, when the lights went on for intermission, my mom turned to me, beaming and said: “It was exactly like you said before! It totally found its way to my heart!” And for myself I can definetely say that this evening was not only when I fell in love with Cole Porter’s music (am I late to the party?), but also with this kind of old-ish musical where the narrated story is kind of draped around hit-songs, not in the hideous compilation-musical-Mamma-Mia-kind-of-way (or for more German reference: Hinterm Horizont and its brothers and sisters…), but in a slightly better working one. And eventually: Bettina Mönch.

Let’s start in reverse order. I have the feeling that in almost every post with thoughts on a German production of anything which I remotly liked I state that one of the performers has given a great performance, the “best performance on a German stage I’ve seen in a long while when it comes to musicals”. But after Pia Douwes’ performance as Diana in Next to Normal last fall Bettina Mönch gives a very different (of course, because they are playing different characters) but equally amazing performance as Reno Sweeney. She is tall which stresses her being different from the others just because she is so much taller than all the other (female and even most of the male) actors on that stage and has a very captivating appearance on stage. And boy, she is a dancer! And she can sing. And act. Basically she is this tripple threat we always are talking about, but as I feel not getting to see that much on German (speaking) stages. She owns the stage as Reno’s got to own it.

The thing with Anything Goes seems to be: anything goes. The title already gives a hit of what I think was quite ‘ahead of its time back then’, throughout the story the women – especially Reno, but eventually all the other female characters, too – are winners. They own the (their) men and in the end everyone of them gets what she wants. For me worshipping the female narrative that’s quite a nice thing to have. I remember talking about it when I went to my admission interview in Leipzig only a couple of days after we’d returned from our trip – I just didn’t really expect a female narrative to happen in a musical from the 1930ies. Written by men.

The directing by Josef E. Köpplinger is sometimes very, very silly (the opening of the show, is almost embarrassingly silly), but then it somewhat ‘returns’ to the narrative and gives it a fitting vibe – full of doors opening and closing at the right time. Most of the times it comes to terms very charmingly with the good ol’ Staatstheater-situation: having people that can’t (and don’t have to) dance in big scenes, because they are members of the opera choir – I have seen a lot more embarrassing situations on this department.

In my latest post over on newmusicaltheatre.com I adressed the translating-issue we are faced in German speaking countries when producing shows originally written in another language, mostly English. In this production of Anything Goes they decided to have the dialogue in German and the songs sung in English – which is a weird feeling. Directing-wise you don’t only have to justify your characters breaking into a song, but also breaking into a song in a language different from the one they just spoke – and I can’t deny that it cracks up the narrative. And it causes more than one awkward moment – with only very few songs you can really tell when it starts, there are mixutres of talking and singing, changing from phrase to phrase. Where do you draw the line? But then, I was really glad they didn’t force awkward German translations of these very English (down to their DNA if lyrics had one) lyrics on us – although I’m pretty sure not everybody in the audience was able to understand these (beautiful and if nor beautiful at least funny) lyrics, which is sad.

What I have been trying to tell you in more than 1000 words by now: If you have the opportunity to go or just really want to get to know Anything Goes as a musical or have been thinking about it, but never quite made the decision – I encourage you to do so. You (probably) won’t regret it.

(for more information you can either visit musicalzentrale.de or the theatre’s website)

The World’s Most Fancy Tickets

Last week I posted on the Theaterkind facebook page that I didn’t feel like blogging but I was planning a trip for the end of May/beginning of June.
Now the trip is all set and since it will be a theatrical trip, I thought I’d share with you!

We will be going to St. Gallen, Switzerland, for Musicaltage of the Theater St. Gallen, where they will show a three musicals in their repertoire in three days accompanied by concerts and stuff.

So we will be seeing a production of Anyhing Goes (spoken texts in German, songs in English, sadly – because the other day I almost fell off my bike from laughter when I thought about the German translation of “Blow, Gabriel, Blow!”), the brand new Wildhorn musical Artus – Excalibur (although I’m not a HUGE Wildhorn fan, I am interested in the cast and the idea of seeing a new Wildhorn piece come to live. For the first time. In Europe.) and Moses. Die 10 Gebote (Moses. The 10 commandments) – which I suppose will be weird. Since I know the pop oratory that was kind of the model for that – but still, let’s have some fun.

My mother, who will come along with me just because we enjoy travelling together, never has been to Switzerland and that’s why we will leave St. Gallen after three nights and spend two additional nights in Zurich. I visited Zurich more than two years ago and I’m pretty excited to go back for private purposes. And if I find a way to get reasonable priced tickets for the opera I’d LOVE to see Willy Decker’s production of Monteverdi’s Ulysse which will open in March.

Anyways…..since this post is entitled the way it is: Two days ago our tickets for the shows in St. Gallen arrived and they literally are the fanciest tickets over. We only got one ticket each for three shows all together and it looks like a credit card. I can’t get over it. Look at them! Arent’s they pretty?

(the blurry thing is to protect our privacy because it says my mom’s full name and our address.)

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