Thursday, March 8, 2012

It's Gonna Be Good?

A couple of days ago, I found out something that was released a month ago but that my stalker senses failed to reveal until this week.

Next to Normal
Premiere in Wasa Teater, 22.9.2012, performed in Swedish.
Anna-Maria Hallgarn: Diana
Sören Lillkung: Dan
Mikaela Tidermark: Natalie
Johan Aspelin: Doctor Fine/Doctor Madden
Markus Lytts: Gabe
Samuel Harjanne: Henry
The last three with a little caution - I haven't found any confirmation about their roles. These seem like the best matches, right?

Well, I knew Next to Normal was going to premiere in Wasa Teater. I knew, even, that Mikaela Tidermark was going to play Natalie. But, for some reason, me or my equally musical-obsessed friends never managed to find any info about the rest of the cast until just now...
Seeing this cast is 50% composed of ÅST Les Misérables alumni, I'm so there in the premiere. But let's take a closer look. I won't comment on Hallgarn, Aspelin or Lytts here; I haven't seen them in anything, so I can't really make any assumptions. But I will talk a little about my feelings considering the ex-ÅST cast members...

Sören Lillkung as Dan
I'm going to be honest with you. My first thought was "what the hell."
It's probably no surprise to anyone that after Les Mis, I'm for Sören Lillkung in pretty much everything. He was an amazing Javert, vocally the most amazing I could ever wish for. Such a deep, operatic, beautiful voice. Just like every Javert should have, in an ideal world... Of course I'm glad I'll get to see him in some other show!
But then, let's think about J. Robert Spencer from Next to Normal's original Broadway cast album. This is where my initial thought comes from: Spencer's voice is pretty much as far from Lillkung's as you can get. Much lighter, gentler, very very different. Also, if I think about Helsingin kaupunginteatteri's Next with Juha Junttu in the role - pretty close to Spencer's style.
So, I've no idea how Lillkung will handle this, vocally. He'll be very different from what I've used to. Note that when I say different I don't necessarily mean worse, not at all. How could I know! It's just that I'm finding it impossible, trying to imagine what he'll be like. Especially considering Dan's are some of my favourite songs of the whole show, I know every single note from the Broadway version by heart... Wonder what comes of this.
Actually, Dan is my favourite character in the show, too. I know, it seems easy to jump into the conclusion that because my favourite Javert is going to play him he's of course my new favourite - but no. He's been my favourite ever since I saw the show for the first time. You can't help feeling for him. He does the best he can, supporting his family, but the situation keeps getting out of hand, leaving him powerless. He's just a human, one that makes mistakes, as we do. You can't always agree with the things he does, but you understand where his decisions are coming from. I love how his character develops. I'm excited to see what Lillkung does with the role!

Mikaela Tidermark as Natalie
This I've known for quite some time, and I've been happy about it ever since. Even if rest of the production would've been cast with complete unknowns, I'd still gone to see it, for this bit of casting alone.
That's of course because Tidermark was, hands down, the best Cosette I have ever seen. It's a short role that very easy to make very boring. Luckily Tidermark did the best job possible, showing as much character as you can during those few moments. No wonder Marius was in love with the girl, she was so adorable! Also, I really like her voice, I'm sure she'll make Natalie's songs sound good too.
Character-wise, I find Natalie way less interesting than her parents. She's the goodie-two-shoes daughter who starts to rebel, not a very uncommon or an especially intriguing story. My uninterest, though, might be largely about the version I've seen and how Natalie was portrayed there, not the character herself. I'm sure a lot can be done with her, that she can actually be made more interesting. Remembering what I said about Tidermark's Cosette... I have high hopes.

Samuel Harjanne as Henry
Harjanne is my favourite Enjolras in one respect: I think his voice suited the character perfectly, he's one of the best Enjolrati I've ever heard. Acting-wise, well, there were a couple of things... But maybe ranting about Enjolras's character is better left for another time. Especially considering I've seen Harjanne more than the other ÅST alumni here: I also saw him in Striking 12, Spring Awakening and even in that bit part in Legally Blonde. I guess I have to admit I'm a bit of a fan. As one of my friends keeps saying - he's a talented fellow!
So, as if this casting wasn't good enough already, this just makes it a little more perfect! Henry is of course not a very developed character, but he can be quite fun and cute, as Petrus Kähkönen proved in Helsingin kaupunginteatteri. I'm sure Harjanne will be just as good. He'll sound amazing at the very least!

When it comes to the piece in general, Next to Normal is actually one of the best musicals I have ever seen. It's simple - Next has got everything a good musical should have. A really strong story with strong characters, accompanied by strong, original music. Especially remembering the countless jukebox musicals being made everywhere these days... It's really refreshing to see something like Next, a brilliant original musical just a couple of years old.
I liked the 2010-2011 Helsingin kaupunginteatteri version okay, but seeing the show three times was maybe more about loving the source material, not the production itself. Well, most of the actors varied from good to great, anything with my long-time fangirl crush Tuukka Leppänen can't exactly fail in my eyes... But something about the direction distanced me from the events. Maybe it was the staging, which I found simply ugly.
So, I can't wait to see what this production, with Victoria Brattström directing, will be like.

Maybe it'll be an interesting fall, musical-wise, even if a couple of old favourites happen to close this spring!

And hey! If you feel that this is not the version for you to see (if you don't know the story and aren't skilled at Swedish, it might be hard to follow along)... Tampereen Työväen Teatteri will also do Next to Normal next fall, with Eriikka Väliahde, Puntti Valtonen and others in the roles. 
With this, and two productions of Hair popping up in Finland at the same time, greetings to theatres: try to spy each other a little more carefully!


  1. ... Damn, you took my title idea ::D Oh well.

    Anyway. My first reaction of Sören was, also, "what the hell?" and then "isn't Dan a tenor role..?" (I'm not sure if it is, but nevermind) It will be interesting to see what he will do with the role, but as it's SÖREN we're talking about, he just can't fail! :D

    I feel like Mikaela will be perfect as Natalie. She has the most beautiful voice ♥ I actually really like Natalie, I was almost shaken up at how much of myself I can find in the character..

    And then there's Samuel, who indeed is a talented fellow! (And he was my favourite Enjy too, yay! :D But you knew that already..) He will be brilliant, I'm sure of it.

    I really hope we can get tickets to the premiere. Can't wait! ♥

    1. Ha-ha! You have to be faster next time! ;)

      I wondered about that too. But my knowledge about music theory is very weak, so I'm not going to go around claiming some role is tenor here, seeing it's about 62% chance I'm wrong... But I'd guess so? Oh well.

      Yes! Stalking the theatre website like crazy!

  2. Now you're actually making me quite curious about the musical. "Strong story with strong characters" tends to do it. ;) Tampere would be closer, but who knows, perhaps I'll somehow find myself in Vaasa...

    1. If you can make it to either - or to Stockholm or Copenhagen, since it seems this is being made everywhere nowadays - go for it! I'm pretty sure you won't regret! :)
      Just try to stay unspoiled about the plot before you go. With this musical especially, the experience is certainly the best that way!