Sunday, April 9, 2017

Fuck Yeah, Finnish Musical Theatre!

It's someone's 5th birthday today!

Namely, my other musical theatre related blog's – Fuck Yeah, Finnish Musical Theatre!'s.

I don't think I've ever much discussed this side project of mine, so in honour of the five-year anniversary today, I thought to share the blog's story with you.

Back in 2012, I followed plenty of Tumblr blogs dedicated to one single thing, from Fuck Yeah Springfield for The Simpsons to Hell Yeah! Les Misérables for Les Mis. I really liked the idea. Since Finnish musical theatre was already back then my great passion, I thought it would be nice sharing photos from Finnish musicals with theatre fans all over the world. Maybe I could have my own Fuck/Hell/Heck Yeah blog?

Thus, Fuck Yeah, Finnish Musical Theatre! was born.

Because I'm an extremely meticulous person, in less than a week, the thought of posting some photos for the amusement of other musical fans ballooned into a plan for a full-blown online archive. I would post something new daily and have an extensive tagging system to help people find material about their favourite musicals, actors and theatres.

Fuck Yeah, Finnish Musical Theatre! turns five years old today, and during these five years, there has not been a single day without a new post that's never been posted on the blog before. That's 1 826 days, and oftentimes, I post more than once per day. So far, it's 3 000 posts and counting.

I've posted all sorts of things: promotional photos, videos, music, fanworks, behind-the-scenes snapshots, news... I've scoured the internet and hunted for old souvenir programmes to keep the blog updated with interesting stuff. I take pride in always citing the source and crediting the photographer, and I sincerely hope keeping the blog updated might encourage people to find out more about the shows, the theatres and the artists.

I try to showcase all sorts of things, old and new, shows I love and shows I loathe – but obviously, since it's a personal project, it's easy to see which shows are my favourites by looking at the amount of photos posted. Case in point: over ten pages of Jekyll & Hyde related posts (two Finnish productions and a third one premiering next autumn) compared to Fiddler on the Roof's three (60+ professional productions so far).

Is it working, then, you might ask. Are people finding out about Finnish musical theatre via this blog?

To be honest, I don't really know.

Fuck Yeah, Finnish Musical Theatre! has its slowly but steadily growing audience of Tumblr users. Every now and then, some photo I post catches the attention of international musical theatre fandom and circulates Tumblr for a bit. But, as a whole, I have no idea if people are looking at the blog or not. I have tried tracking stats, but free apps are never quite reliable and it feels a bit intrusive to do that, anyway. So I just leave my musical archive out there, wishing it's of some use or interest to somebody.

I indeed don't know if the blog is of much use to anyone else, but to me – as a blogger, a fan artist, a professional working in theatre PR and marketing – it's oftentimes invaluable. Even if I say it myself. It's like a handy portable version of the folder with gazillion musical photos I have saved on my hard drive.

I guess you've guessed this much already, but I'm proud of what I have achieved here.

To finish off this blog post, here's a little Q&A with the admin, i.e. myself:

Do you regret the title of the blog?

Daily. It's a product of its time – 2012 – but somehow I feel it would be even more embarrassing to change it now anymore. I try to own up to it.

What is the most difficult part of keeping the blog updated?

Queuing the daily posts: resizing and uploading photos and writing captions, again and again and again. I often queue months' worth of posts during a single day, so it's a lot of repetitive, boring work. I really want to share the photos with other musical fans and I want to take utmost care to caption and credit each one properly, but even so, it's just so very dull.

What's the best thing to come out of the blog so far?

The Advent Calendars of 2012–2016, where musical fans and later theatres came together to post holiday related photos, drawings and graphics.

The calendars were always a lot of work – there were never quite enough of submissions, so I always ended up drawing/baking/photoshopping a fair amount of them myself – but it was always fun too, since many of the submissions were wonderfully funny and creative. My personal favourite is this photo with the cast of Helsingin kaupunginteatteri's 2014–15 production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. (Sidenote: I didn't have the time to organize an advent calendar in December 2016, but maybe I'll bring it back or come up with another project like this one day.)

How long are you going to continue this thing?

Until I completely run out of material.

If you wish to celebrate Fuck Yeah, Finnish Musical Theatre!'s fifth birthday, go check out the tags, find your favourite musical and have fun browsing.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Greifswald (reprise)

So. Friends and long-time followers will remember the previous chapters of The Greifswald Story. Me and my friends Rami and Ida traveling from Finland to Greifswald, Germany, to see Chris Murray perform the titular roles of Jekyll & Hyde the musical, only to find out the show had been cancelled. The disappointment. The disbelief. The invitation from the theatre to come back.

First, we scoffed. Then, we considered.

Two weeks ago, we traveled to Greifswald to try again.

The journey

Theater Vorpommern

If our last journey was Murphy's Law the Musical all the way through, with melting asphalt and locks that wouldn't open, this was the complete opposite of that. Everything that could go right, did. Planes, buses and trains were on time, the weather was beautiful and good time was had by everybody involved.

Theater Vorpommern took great care of us. They had reserved a single room and a two-room suite in a nice hotel in the middle of town for the three of us, complete with fortune cookies on our pillows waiting for us. In the evening, we were escorted to the theatre by a lovely member of Theater Vorpommern's personnel and greeted by some of the staff, and got to choose our seats, with good seats reserved for us both in the stalls and in the dress circle (we chose the stalls).

Before the show, we were told there had been some trouble: both female leads had fallen ill, and finding a replacement for Lucy had proven a bit difficult – but after spending hours making calls all over the German-speaking part of Europe, they found an emergency cover. So we dodged that bullet! After the summer adventure, it feels almost unbelievable we were so lucky this time.

And before we knew it, lights went down and the show began.


The performance


This is not going to be a traditional review, since I don't remember (nor, to be honest, feel like analysing) too many details from the performance.

After being awake for almost 20 hours and traveling a thousand kilometers, it all just felt like a happy, welcoming, familiar-yet-unknown blur to me. I haven't felt as involved in a fictional world in ages. At times, it felt like I was watching the show for the first time (and, when it came to certain scenes, namely Lucy's death, it really was the first time I've ever seen such an interpretation).

The ensemble. Photo by Vincent Leifer.

A few highlights that left the strongest impression on me, though:

  • Chris Murray's This Is the Moment. I don't much like the song and tend to find it both overdone and overblown. But when you have the right person singing it... I don't think I've ever enjoyed hearing this song this much.
  • Ulrike Barz as Lucy. You would never ever have guessed she's an emergency cover, she's a diamond. From the get-go, this Lucy knew what she was getting into and who Jekyll and Hyde truely are. She enjoyed Hyde's company more clearly than any Lucy I've seen before, giving the relationship a fresh spin.
  • Thomas Rettensteiner as Utterson. I've been blessed: every Utterson (my number one favourite character in this musical) I've seen live so far has been truely precious, and Rettensteiner's is no exception. A proper mix of Jekyll's anger management coach, a good friend, a true Victorian gentleman with all his hypocrisies, and an operatic baritone. I'm a fan.
  • The Quentin Blake-esque hand-drawn illustrations of Christopher Melching's sets, featuring a laboratory and London streets. It's a fun look that made me long for an edition of Stevenson's original novel illustrated by Blake!

Utterson and Jekyll in The Red Rat. Photo by Vincent Leifer.

Overall, I'd describe the production as energetic, gleeful, eccentric and, between the lines, surprisingly thought-provoking. You'd think after over three years as a passionate Jekyll & Hyde fan, I would know these characters. But no! It's so much fun when a production makes you see a familiar story from a new point of view.

It was also a weird performance in many ways, with odd characterisations and production decisions and a mood way more cheerful, silly and over-the-top than I expected. I didn't agree with every decision they made, but I'm not complaining. Quite the contrary: after an adventure such as ours, if the production had been any less out-of-the-ordinary, it would have been a disappointment.

I'm glad.

The aftermath

The fun didn't end when the performance did. The theatre offered us wine, canapés and the chance to chat with Chris Murray about the show. From a fan's perspective, there's nothing better than seeing a show and then hearing the star's thoughts about their character right afterwards. Good times, really good times.

The next day, our way home was blissfully uneventful. Gazing out of train windows, looking at birds and deer and graffiti on old station buildings, discussing last night's show. Chill and relaxing.

This whole adventure begun with a half-joking promise that if Chris Murray ever plays the role of Jekyll/Hyde again, we'll be there to witness it. In the airport on our way home, I and Rami already agreed upon the conditions of our next trip to Germany. When X happens, we'll pack our bags again.

To be on the safe side, we won't reveal what X stands for, not just yet. But maybe we will, in due time, in a form of another travel journal.

Greifswald, Theater Vorpommern, Thalia herself: THANK YOU.

Jekyll & Hyde photos by Vincent Leifer / Theater Vorpommern. Selfie gif by Rami!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Tom of Finlands

Please note: I was invited to see the premiere of Tom of Finland the movie. I worked in Turun kaupunginteatteri during the production and the premiere of Tom of Finland the musical.

This Monday, I was invited to a very special event: the grand premiere of Tom of Finland the movie in Helsinki!

Coincidentally, as of late, I've been living a rather Tom of Finland infused life. My contract in Turun kaupunginteatteri (a Finnish theatre, Turku City Theatre in English) has just finished, but while working there, I did PR for Tom of Finland the musical – a brand-new Finnish musical based on the iconic artist and his homoerotic drawings.

Personally, I'm not into Tom of Finland, but because of my work involving the musical, I've become somewhat familiar with the artist and his work. So, after having seen the show three times, I was feeling rather curious about the movie. Based on the same person's life, how would the adaptations compare?

Touko Laaksonen. Photo by Philip Stuart,
courtesy of Tom of Finland Foundation Inc.

In case you're as unfamiliar with Tom of Finland as I was a few years ago, here's him in a nutshell: Touko Laaksonen, 1920–1991, was a Finnish war veteran, musician, advertising artist, and – first and foremost – a homoerotic artist known for his depictions of masculine, muscular and mustachioed gay men.

Here in Finland, we have really started celebrating Tom of Finland's drawings during the past few years. During his life, Tom of Finland was not known in his home country – but now, there are exhibitions and bags and shirts and curtains and sheets and postcards and even stamps featuring Tom's muscular men.

And now, just in time for the 100th birthday of independent Finland, we have the two fictional retellings of the artist's life. The movie is directed by Dome Karukoski and written by Aleksi Bardy, while the musical has book and lyrics by Tuomas Parkkinen, is composed by Jussi Vahvaselkä and Jori Sjöroos and directed by Reija Wäre.

Pekka Strang plays Touko Laaksonen in the movie.
Photo by Josef Persson
Olli Rahkonen plays Touko Laaksonen in the musical.
Photo by Otto-Ville Väätäinen

It's interesting to look at the similarities in between these two works of fiction.

Both feature decades of Touko Laaksonen's life. The musical tells his story from childhood all the way to heaven, while the movie begins with Touko as a young man fighting in World War II and stops a little before his death.

Both adaptations present life partner Veli and sister Kaija as the most important people of Touko's life. Both suggest that Kaija, who works as an advertising artist, is jealous of her brother's artistic success. While the theme is explored further in the musical, both also hint at Kaija having romantic feelings for Veli. To my knowledge, neither of these things can be substantiated, so it's intriguing that both adaptations have arrived to similar conclusions.

Touko's 28-year-long relationship with Veli, then, is shown as rather romantic and sweet in the film. I suppose the musical captures the real-life couple's sometimes stormy story a little more accurately. Both versions choose to move on from Veli's death rather quickly, not showing us the pain one assumes Touko must have gone through.

Both versions also feature Kake, Tom of Finland's most iconic character, coming to life. In the musical, he's featured throughout the second act and has his own song, while in the movie he makes a couple of brief appearances as a manifestation of Touko's imagination.

What's more, both adaptations highlight the way society has treated members of the LGBTA+ community throughout the years. Both offer some chilling insights into the not-too-distant past where being gay was a crime. The musical has a stronger focus on survival, letting us in on a secret code gay men used to communicate with each other in wartime Helsinki, while the movie has multiple scenes showing violence towards gay men.

One of the sweeter scenes from the movie: Touko and Veli (Lauri Tilkanen).
A still from the movie

To me, the key difference in between these two adaptations is that overall, the musical focuses more on Tom of Finland's art and his sources of inspiration, while the movie is about Touko Laaksonen's life and his private struggles. Despite telling the story of an erotic artist, the film hardly touches upon why Touko started drawing or how his art evolved throughout his career.

I knew it's first and foremost a biopic, but even so, I was suprised by how the movie never really stops and takes a long look at Tom of Finland's drawings. In the musical, they're continuously present, projected on walls and brought alive by choreography. There's even a scene centered around a piece of art featuring an orgy. But in the movie... With quick pans and blurry focus, it almost feels like the camera is a little ashamed of the pictures!

In the recent years, Tom of Finland's drawings have become mainstream in Finland, but that only applies to a part of them – namely, the part where the men have their pants on. Not all of Tom's pictures are palatable to general audiences, but just for that reason, I appreciate the musical for bringing some of the X-rated art front and center. No matter if you're a fan of the art or only there to experience the story of a famous Finn, you have to take a look and form your own opinion.

The musical cast admiring Tom's art, with Ville Erola as Kake in the middle.
Photo by Otto-Ville Väätäinen

In the musical, it feels like our hero gets ahead in life rather easily, and the show is an optimistic celebration of his life and his drawings. It makes you cry (to be honest, it makes me cry as hard as that awful letter scene from Billy Elliot – in other words, really hard and repeatedly), but the audience also gets to laugh out loud together, and leave the theatre humming catchy showtunes.

The movie, then, left me feeling melancholy. To me, it's a story of a man who struggled a lot and had few moments of happiness. It ends on a positive note about Tom of Finland living on even when Touko Laaksonen has passed away, but to me, the film is no celebration. It's a remembrance.

Which way is the right one, or closer to the truth? I don't know, and I don't know if you can know.

Personally, I prefer the musical's optimistic touch, but I can see where the movie is coming from. It cannot have been easy being gay and drawing homoerotic art in a time when society doesn't only frown upon that but beats you up for it. It must have been hard never introducing the love of your life to your family as your partner, only as your roommate. The world of Tom's drawings is full of smiles and pride. The movie argues that for Touko, life was something quite different.

Trying to squeeze a real person's whole life into two hours, I guess it's as valid to focus on the sadness as it is to highlight the good stuff.

But remembering the out-and-proud, unabashed and smiling men of the drawings... Sad is just not the way I expected Tom of Finland the movie would make me feel.

Trailer for the movie (Finnish only)

The song "Glad to Be Gay" from the musical

Lue myös: Tämän kylän homopoika -blogin näkemys elokuvasta, One Night in Theatre -blogin näkemys musikaalista

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Niin mieleni pahoitin

Onko huolestuttava piirre 23-vuotiaassa tunnustaa olevansa Mielensäpahoittaja-fani?

Fanius alkoi salavihkaa jossain Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova -museon liepeillä, jossa Linnateatteri kesällä 2014 esitti Miniä-näytelmää. Nauroin ja nautin. Luin kirjat, katsoin leffan, nauroin lisää ja vähän liikutuinkin. Pikkuhiljaa aloin suorastaan hakeutua Mielensäpahoittajan pariin.

Viimeisten parin kuukauden sisään olen käynyt katsomassa Mielensäpahoittajan edesottamuksia Kansallisteatterin näytelmässä Ilosia aikoja, Mielensäpahoittaja ja Tampereen Työväen Teatterin Suomi 100 -juhlasatsauksessa Mielensäpahoittajan Suomi.

Näytelmät panivat minut miettimään Mielensäpahoittaja-faniuttani uudemman kerran.

Mielensäpahoittaja kolmessa iässä Tampereen Työväen Teatterissa.
Kuva: Kari Sunnari

Mielensäpahoittaja on kirjailija Tuomas Kyrön hengentuote, vanha mies, joka pahoittaa mielensä herkästi kaikesta sitten vuoden 1953 tapahtuneesta kehityksestä – eikä epäile ilmaista mielipahaansa omintakeisin sanankääntein paikallislehden yleisönosastossa. Mielensäpahoittajan rinnassa sykkii kuitenkin lämmin sydän: mies jaksaa pitää huolta vuodeosastolle joutuneesta emännästä ja leipoo lapsenlapsille räiskäleitä. Kirjana Mielensäpahoittaja ilmestyi ensimmäistä kertaa vuonna 2010.

Alkuaikojen Mielensäpahoittaja on karikatyyri, liioiteltu ja koominen hahmo, johon on hämmennetty juuri tarpeeksi iso loraus surumielisyyttä ja todellisuutta. Näen hahmossa pienenpienen pilkahduksen edesmennyttä isoisääni, hahmon huolehtivaisessa cityhippipojassa tunnistan omien vanhempieni huolen vanhenevista läheisistä. Hahmon jyrkille mielipiteille on tarkoitus nauraa, tunnistettavat muruset ja rivien väleihin kirjoitettu melankolia riittävät maustamaan fiktion todelliseksi ja samaistuttavaksi.

Nyttemmin Mielensäpahoittaja on muuttunut. Tragikoominen hahmo tuntuu teos teokselta yhä traagillisemmalta. Vai olisiko kyse jo ylitsevuotavasta siirappisuudesta?

Mika Myllyahon Kansallisteatteriin ohjaama Ilosia aikoja, Mielensäpahoittaja liikkuu jo melko syvissä ja vakavissa vesissä nimihenkilön (Vesa Vierikko) kirjoittaessa testamenttiaan ja rakentaessa arkkuaan. Onneksi tunnelmaa tasapainotetaan hauskoilla heitoilla ja sukupolvien välisellä kuilulla leikittelyllä. Lopputuloksena on melko vakava mutta ei synkkä näytelmä, joka jättää mieleen rauhallisen olon. Yhteentörmäyksiltä ei aina voida välttyä, mutta elämä jatkuu.

Tiina Puumalaisen ohjaama Tampereen Työväen Teatterin Mielensäpahoittajan Suomi sen sijaan ei naurata enää yhtään. Poissa on änkyrämäinen mielipaha, tilalla yhden miehen (nimiroolin jakavat Raimo Grönberg, Jyrki Mänttäri ja Niila Nousiainen / Sisu-Petteri Haraholma) elämän kipukohtien kautta kulkeva matka 1930-luvulta nykypäivään. Mieli pahoitetaan pari kolme kertaa, katsomossa en nauranut kolmituntisen aikana ollenkaan. Näytelmässä on vaikuttavia sotakohtauksia ja turvapaikanhakija Alin (Chike Ohanwe) kokemukset todella pysäyttävät – mutta onko Mielensäpahoittaja kuitenkaan aivan oikea väylä näiden asioiden käsittelemiseen?

Mielensäpahoittaja ja poika autoretkellä Kansallisteatterissa.
Kuva: Tuomo Manninen

Ymmärrettävää on, että pinnalla pysyäkseen Mielensäpahoittajan on täytynyt aikuistua. Sama vitsi ei kanna loputtomiin, ja lisäksi hahmo on hyvin aikaan sidottu. 80-vuotias mies kymmenisen vuotta sitten oli erilainen kuin 80-vuotias mies tänään. Kun aika hiljalleen jättää tosielämän mielensäpahoittajista, on fiktiivisen hahmon joko uudistuttava tai väistyttävä itsekin valokeilasta.

Jossain vaiheessa hahmosta on vain päässyt katoamaan se, jonka vuoksi itse siihen alun perin tykästyin. Mielensäpahoittaja 2.0 on varmasti monien mieleen, mutta itse en pysty samaistumaan vanhan miehen maailmantuskaan samalla tavalla kuin pystyin eläytymään hänen mielipahaansa. Minun makuuni on liikaa, että ensimmäisissä teoksissa salaviisas mutta monessa asiassa umpivanhanaikainen mies on muuttunut likipitäen liberaalia elämänviisautta pulppuavaksi mietiskelijäksi.

Nii-in. Kyllä minä niin mieleni pahoitin, kun Mielensäpahoittaja ei enää ollutkaan kuin vanhoina, hyvinä aikoina.

Aika aikaa kutakin, toteaisi tähän varmasti Mielensäpahoittaja itsekin. Minun faniuteni taitaa nyt olla aikansa elänyt. Vanhempieni mökin kirjahyllyssä odottaa kirjasarjan ensimmäinen teos, jonka pariin varmasti palaan vielä tulevilla mökkireissuilla, mutta mahdollisen jatkon osalta luulen hyppääväni nyt pois kelkasta.

Ilosia aikoja!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Upcoming in 2017

Happy 2017!

Yesterday, the last day of 2016, I listed my top four musical performances of the previous year. Today, it's time to take a look at the future with another top four list – the musicals I'm most looking forward to in 2017.

Jekyll & Hyde, Teater Vorpommern, Germany

Photo by Vincent Leifer

Longtime readers know this story already. I and my two friends went to Greifswald, Germany to see Jekyll & Hyde and everything went wrong. This March, we'll travel to Greifswald again, in the hopes that the show will not be cancelled this time.

To quote my friend Rami: "We didn’t go to Greifswald and back for nothing, except we totally did". We've seen video of Chris Murray as Jekyll and Hyde, we know how amazing he can be in the roles. And soon, we'll attempt to see him live again.

I'm excited but mostly nervous. I think I shall relax only after the lights have dimmed and the show has begun. It's a long way to Greifswald and a long day there before we'll see if the show is on. Fingers crossed.

Nahkatakkinen tyttö, Lappeenrannan kaupunginteatteri


This is a bit of an outlier on this list. A high school and a professional theatre combining their forces for a new production of a jukebox musical based on the songs of the Finnish 80s band Dingo.

The thing is, Nahkatakkinen tyttö is such a great jukebox musical it really makes me forget it's jukebox at all. It feels like the songs have been written for the plot, centered around a group of high school kids spending a weekend in a cabin where something dark has happened, instead of the other way around.

So far, I've seen this performed by two high schools (it was originally written for one of them) – and no matter how talented the performers, it's always a bit awkward when teens play adults. So I'm glad to see a coproduction with adults in the adult roles and teens playing teens. I've been hoping for such a cooperation to happen for a while, and this spring, my wish comes true.

Les Misérableses


In autumn 2017, Les Mis is popping up everywhere around Northern Europe: Smålands Musik & Teater, Jönköping, Sweden; Teater Vanemuine, Tarto, Estonia; Folketeateret, Oslo, Norway; MCH Musicals, Herning, Denmark...

I doubt I'm going to be able to see all of these in 2017, though they're all interesting in their own ways. So far, I've booked my tickets to one of them: I'll be seeing the premiere of the new Swedish production. It'll be a replica of the Karlstad production I last praised in my best of 2016 text, but with at least partially new casting. Not much is known about the production yet, but with the right cast, it might be quite wonderful – the direction is certainly good enough to bear replicating. We'll see!

I also find the new Estonian production very interesting since it'll be directed by Samuel Harjanne, who has acted in three different Finnish productions of the musical, first as Gavroche and then as Enjolras and other barricade boys. I'll be curious to see how his direction will be like and really hope I can fit it in my 2017 schedule, too.

Cats, Tampereen Teatteri 

Photo by Henri Mattila

Cats is one of the first musicals I fell in love with, so I'm happy that it's coming back to my home country. This new production, directed by Georg Malvius, will give the material a brand-new spin: the show will be narrated by a rat. It's interesting to see how that'll work out – glad to hear that Andrew Lloyd Webber approves of such bold reimagining of the classic megamusical.

Remembering Malvius's version of Hair, with some rearranging of the songs and scenes to make the whole musical more story-driven... I doubt the rat is going to be the only alteration here. It's interesting to see how Malvius's Cats, another musical that traditionally has hardly any plot, is going to play out.

Everything we've heard of the production so far sounds good, so I'm eagerly looking forward to this one. I bet it's going to be a lot of fun.

So, onwards to 2017! May the new year be filled with happy moments and fun experiences, theatrical and otherwise, for all of us.

Related posts: Best of 2016, Nahkatakkinen tyttö (Finnish only)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Best of 2016

So, 2016. Worst year ever? Or maybe not so terrible after all? I don't know – but this way or that, thank goodness for live theatre.

For me personally, 2016 has been busy and exciting. I graduated and started working as a full-time communications coordinator in a theatre. The work's been both hard and challenging, fun and rewarding. I've still a lot to learn, but there have been moments when everything's felt just right. So whatever the future will bring, I hope I'll get to keep on learning and working in the field that's so close to my heart.

I've also seen plenty of shows this year, both good and otherwise. I like to focus on the good stuff, so to celebrate the end of 2016, here's a short list of the most memorable musical performances of the year. In no particular order, but saving the best for the last.

Jekyll & Hyde, Det Ny Teater, Denmark


Photo by Miklos Szabo

This was no perfect production, but it was an intriguing one that has haunted me for the better part of the year.

Implying Emma struggles with mental illness and giving Spider more time onstage were interesting decisions on their own, but the dark and disturbing tone of the whole production is even better. Instead of stumbling on the awkward parts of the musical's script, the Danish creative team managed to create a wonderful, creepy atmosphere with a strong focus on the duality and responsibility of man.

Deep stuff for Frank Wildhorn's Jekyll & Hyde the Musical, that's what I'm saying.

Last performance of Jekyll & Hyde in Jyväskylän kaupunginteatteri, Finland


Photo by Jiri Halttunen

This one's sort of cheating, since the production premiered in 2015 already. But the last performance in May 2016 was truely something special.

I don't know if it's a thing in other countries, but in Finland, it's something of a tradition that during the last performance of a theatrical production, actors play little pranks on each other. And let me tell you, I've never seen as thorough and as entertaining pranking as during this performance! Highlights included Jekyll impromptu singing and dancing his way into the Red Rat and all the Red Rat dancers taking turns in harassing Utterson during the scene that followed.

I don't know what the audience in general thought of the mayhem, but for us J&H fans gathered in the first rows of the auditorium, it was a hilarious treat. A perfect ending for a fun production.

Les Misérables, Wermland Opera, Sweden


Photo by Mats Bäcker

I travelled to Sweden twice for this (the link above is to my first review, read about the second time here).

I've seen Les Mis 30 times soon, but watching this production for the first time, I was so immersed in the story it really felt like I didn't know what's going to happen next. The production is not without its problems, but the way it treats Jean Valjean – as the main character of the story instead of a person around whom dramatic things keep happening... It sounds so simple, it's almost shocking how refreshing seeing that felt!

Klokkeren fra Notre Dame, Fredericia Teater, Denmark


Photo by Søren Malmose

I think I've said it all in my review. I waited for five years to see Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame the Musical live. I could have waited for fifteen and been completely satisfied. I'm grateful for the opportunity to watch this musical as a part of the premiere audience. Nothing can compare, and I doubt I'll ever experience anything else quite like this.

I know extreme enthusiasm, like mine, can be a bit scary. Maybe you think that if you saw the show, your experience could never live up to what I've described in my review. And maybe it won't! But even so, I cannot but encourage everyone who can make it to Copenhagen next summer to purchase a ticket now, while they're still available, to see it for yourself. Whether you're a fan or a professional, an artist or an enthusiast, it'll be a performance to remember.

Book your ticket, I'll book mine, and we'll see each other in Copenhagen next summer.

Related posts: Best of 2015, Upcoming in 2017
Bubbling under: Rock of Ages (it's currently playing in the theatre I work at. I doubt I would have seen the 80s rock jukebox show six times if I had had to pay full price, but as it is... It's all empty calories, nice sights and sounds with no substance whatsoever, but I have to be honest and admit I've enjoyed it immensely), Vampyyrien tanssi (I'm afraid I grew tired of the new Finnish production of Tanz der Vampire faster than I thought I might – but it was very entertaining, with the most enthusiastic Finnish musical fandom I've seen in years. It introduced me to new friends and let me have fun with old ones, and for that reason alone, it has a place in my heart)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Greifswald II: The Beginning

Remember the blog entry I posted last summer, about the worst musical trip ever?

You know, that time I and my friends Ida and Rami and left for Greifswald, Germany to see Chris Murray in Jekyll & Hyde, and were met with an endless onslaught of awful? The bus was late with its septic tank overflowing, the traffic jammed due to an accident and the asphalt melting due to hot weather – and finally, the outdoor performance of Jekyll & Hyde we had travelled 1300 kilometers to see was cancelled due to a thunderstorm.

We swore our feet would never touch the ground of Greifswald again.

Guess who are going back.

The place of our nightmares.

Last summer, after our unfortunate trip and after us leaving them some rather sour feedback, the personnel of Theater Vorpommern contacted us. To make up for our disastrous journey, they offered us tickets to any upcoming performance of Jekyll & Hyde, and a hotel room for the night on top of that.

We howled with laughter but didn't delete the message.

At first, we sneered. As if! But as the fall approached and started turning into winter, we started thinking. Thinking and talking. What if... We travelled just so we could see Chris Murray play Jekyll and Hyde, and our curiosity about his performance is of course not yet satisfied. What's more, we've grown curious about the whole production, about everything we missed. What if it's great? What if it's terrible? We don't know, but we might, if we just... But most importantly, it's started to feel like The Greifswald Story is not yet quite complete. We're still on intermission and have to decide whether to walk out or to go back and watch the second act.

Last week, we sent a message to Theater Vorpommern and let them know that yes, we would like to come back. March 11th 2017.

It absolutely does not feel real.

It's either going to be perfectly magnificent or the theatre is going to burst into flames and collapse on us mid-performance.

In either case, someone's going to die. Photo: Vincent Leifer

I feel this is like a real-life sequel to a weird movie. A sequel where the plot is similar but the stakes are higher. A sequel with the same actors and the same settings but, I'm wishing with all my might, a completely different outcome.

Greifswald II: The Experience, The Adventure. The Revenge.

I will keep you posted.