Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I got a newsletter from Helsingin kaupunginteatteri in my e-mail today.

For those of you who are not so aware of how the Finnish theatre scene works: HKT is one of the biggest theatres in this country and famous for their musicals. They've produced the Finnish premieres of many huge Broadway and West End hits. Cats, Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins, Wicked... Some argue these shows are not exactly high art, but people usually agree that they're good entertainment.
Last fall, after the popular production of Wicked, HKT premiered a musical about Katri Helena, a famous Finnish singer whose music is popular among a bit older people. I shrugged that off as the theatre's attempt of attracting more mature audiences after the kid and teenager oriented Mary Poppins and Wicked. Surely they would return to the hit Broadway musical path next season? What would they give us this time? Another Disney musical, maybe The Little Mermaid? Or would it be wishing too much we would finally get a Finnish version of The Phantom of the Opera?
Then I heard some rumours. I couldn't believe my ears. Today, the newsletter confirmed the vague whisperings.

HKT's next musical on their big stage will be Fiddler on the Roof.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying Fiddler on the Roof is a bad musical. To be honest, I have never seen it, and while I'm not into the music I've heard from it, I haven't heard all the songs either.

Still, I don't think it's too hard to understand why I was shocked to learn the country's biggest musical stage is set to do Fiddler.

Here's a short list of theatres who have done Fiddler during the past few years: 
Latoteatteri Kulissi 2012, Ähtärin musiikkiteatteri 2012, Oulun kaupunginteatteri 2011, Porvoon kesäteatteri 2011, Merunlahden kesäteatteri 2011, Mikkelin teatteri 2010, Lopen teatteri 2009, Hauhon kesäteatteri 2008, Kesäteatteri Tammenranta 2007, Jyväskylän kaupunginteatteri 2007, Ruoveden teatteri 2006, Samppalinnan kesäteatteri 2006, Rovaniemen kaupunginteatteri 2004...
As you can see, Fiddler is a huge favourite of professional and amateur theatres alike all over the country. Ever since it's Finnish premiere in 1966 - in Helsingin kaupunginteatteri, no less! -, there's hardly been a year without the piece playing somewhere in Finland. I've no idea how I've avoided the show this long, Fiddler's been performed so much I'd guess at least 80% of the Finnish population has seen it.
After its Finnish premiere in 1966, Fiddler on the Roof was played for years in Helsingin kaupunginteatteri. With 450 performances and 319 327 watchers, it remains the most popular theatre production in Finland to this day.

In other words, HKT's reviving the most popular, the most overdone, the most everybody-and-their-mother-has-seen-and-also-acted-in-this-one piece of musical theatre in the history of Finnish theatre.

What happened to the theatre that used to produce popular, current musical theatre from Broadway and West End? Huge successes never seen in Finland before? Back in 1966, that used to be the case: Fiddler premiered here just two years after Broadway... HKT can boast about hosting the Finnish premieres of countless hit musicals. Was Wicked the last one of that sort? Are we to enjoy jukebox musicals about Finnish singers and revivals from times gone by from now on? And if they absolutely had to revive something that's already been seen in Finland... How about something every single amateur theatre hasn't done already?
A couple of weeks ago there was discussion in the newspapers how HKT is handling their money oddly: keeping millions' worth of funding from the city of Helsinki sitting in their bank account. With that money, I'm sure they could afford something a little more interesting, a little more courageous than the safest choice available.

Luckily some other theatres in Finland will have a bit more exciting 2012-2013 season. I don't think I'll be bringing my money to HKT to enjoy this trip down the nostalgia lane.

Picture by Charlotte Estman-Wennström.


  1. This confused me, too. I've seen the musical in Porin teatteri and liked it, but I think it's not something for bigger theatre's like HKT. I also wonder how it will work on the (too) huge stage of HKT when even with the big musicals like Wicked they have sometimes had troubles with filling all the space they have. Fiddler is quite an intimate show and I think it suits smaller stages better, so HKT will have to be quite creative with their sets.

    1. True that, too! It's odd they chose the biggest stage for this - I remember thinking the same about Wicked, how empty the stage looked during some scenes...

  2. Thanks for the information, I nearly dropped my phone when I was (cough) browsing (cough) tumblr (cough) in my class..

    Fiddler is a classic, for sure, and I guess it's one of the musicals everyone should see. But it's done to death. It sold well when HKT did it back in 60's but I can't help feeling that they just ran out of ideas and decided to make this one again. And there's the issue of the huge stage. If Phantom of the Opera can't fill a stage of about the same size on Broadway, there's no way Fiddler could do it in here. D:

    Aaargh. I really hope they prove me wrong. Now I'm just disappointed.

    1. Browsing Tumblr in class can be shocking... :D

      Yeah, I think too that this is a classic everyone probably should know of, I feel a little bad that I've never seen it. But I think I'll just rent the movie this time... Or maybe a little trip Ähtärin kesäteatteri? ;)

  3. I have actually never seen 'Fiddler' so I can't say much in that sector.
    However, since Helsinki City Theatre has recently done two new and creative shows ('Wicked' and 'Katri Helena'), I can kind of see why they might want to put on a classic next.
    I can imagine it always being a a little bit of a gamble producing new musicals but 'Fiddler' will most certainly attract the elderly people, i.e. the main theatre-goer generation.
    On another note, I think HKT should consider getting the rights to 'The Little Mermaid' at some point. After 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Mary Poppins' being such hits I think 'Mermaid' has a lot of potential.

    1. You must be the first person ever to call Katri Helena creative - I've heard things like safe choice, unexciting jukebox show, boring... Creative is a new one. ;) Though I see the point, it at least was a new show!

      Ditto to that, I'd love to see a Finnish version of The Little Mermaid...

  4. Moi Siiri! Hyvä teksi ja analyysi. Itse teatterina työskentelevänä ymmärrän HKT:n halun pelata varmanpäälle ja saada massat liikkeelle. Ja koska omasta mielestäni Viulunsoittaja on ihana teos, niin odotan esitystä kyllä paljon. Mutta minustakin on sääli, että teatteri, jolla olisi mahdollisuudet tehdä käytännössä mitä vaan, ottaa vanhan hitin ohjelmistoonsa. Eipä silti, myös Phantomin ottaminen olisi musta varmanpäälle pelaamista, mutta sitä tuskin tapahtuu vielä lähivuosina, koska HKT:n ohjelmistossa oli "se toinen" Phantom (Yeston/Kopit) "vasta" 1990-luvun alussa. Eli mietin vaan, mikä on teosten kierrätysväli, eli kuinka usein voi tuoda (varsinkaan musikaaleissa) samoja teoksia samaan taloon? Viulunsoittajassa näyttää olevan ainakin 50 vuotta. :)

    1. Kiitos! :)

      Täytyyhän se kai ymmärtää, että joskus on pelattava varman päälle - mutta kun resursseissa riittäisi vaikka mihin... Tottahan tuo, Phantomkin olisi aika varma veto, mutta ainakin Suomessa ennennäkemätön sellainen! Äh, toivottavasti ei sentään kolmeakymmentä vuotta tarvitse odottaa sitä... :P