Thursday, August 15, 2013

Helsinki Season Starters

I attended two theatrical season opening events this week: Helsingin kaupunginteatteri and Svenska Teatern. They're two of the biggest theatres in the Finnish capital, one Finnish and the other Swedish-speaking.

Let's start with a video clip from the season opening:

The feeling persists that Tuukka Leppänen will be quite something as the title character of Helsingin kaupunginteatteri's upcoming production of Doctor Zhivago the musical.

Doctor Zhivago, a musical by Lucy Simon, Michael Korie, Amy Powers and Michael Weller, has only been produced three times before: a test run in a Californian theatre in 2006, then a revised production premiering in Australia in 2011 and a run in Korea in 2012. So, Helsingin kaupunginteatteri's production will not only be the Nordic premiere, it'll be the first production of the musical in the whole Europe!

After last year's Fiddler on the Roof, the king of all overdone classics, I'm glad Helsingin kaupunginteatteri is taking a chance with an unknown musical. Though, from what I saw and heard in the season opening, I feel a strange familiarity... The musical is based on Boris Pasternak's classic novel where the events are tied to a revolutionary movement. The director Hans Berndtsson told that the piece's central themes are love and pain. It was mentioned the musical is sung-through.

"Doctor Zhivago is a story is about love in all of its most difficult forms, but it's also describes the suffering of the Russian people in the beginning of the 20th century", Berndtsson described the musical's plot. "The original novel is one of the darkest in history, but the theme of love draws people to it."

Sounds rather familiar, right? The original Les Misérables premieres in Tampere this fall, so Finnish audiences can compare the two themselves. Or maybe Zhivago is Helsingin kaupunginteatteri's late answer to Svenska Teatern's Kristina från Duvemåla – yet another spectacle that strongly resembles Les Mis?

In any case, dramatic and pain-filled musicals are my favourites, so I'm excited! I like the songs already. And, as mentioned earlier, I don't think you can go wrong with Tuukka Leppänen... No complaints about the other leads, such as Anna-Maija Tuokko, Marika Westerling, Esko Roine and Antti Timonen, either.

The theatre also presented their other 13 premieres for the fall. Sadly, I don't think anyone over ten but under 40 years old would find the selection too interesting. Children's plays, parenting troubles, the struggles of the elderly... It was briefly mentioned how the theatre wants to work with young people and help them find an interest in theatre. More productions with themes people under forty can relate to could be one way to go.

More from the season opening

I visited Svenska Teatern's season opening event this week too, and just like with HKT, I was mainly interested in the new musical of the season. HKT is not the only theatre in Helsinki premiering an unknown musical this fall.

Svenska Teatern, Finland's biggest Swedish-speaking theatre, is premiering Djungelboken. Originally called A dzsungel könyve, it's a Hungarian family musical by László Dés, Péter Geszti and Pál Békés that's never been seen in Finland before. The Svenska Teatern production will be directed by Hungarian director György Böhm. Patrick Henriksen, Birthe Wingren (who stole my heart as Kristina från Duvemåla's Ulrika) and Arne Nylander, among others, will be playing the leads.

Maybe the theatre felt that after last year's no doubt expensive Kristina från Duvemåla (and possibly before next year's Mamma Mia!..?), something a little smaller on scale and for a different audience was needed for this season. This seems like quite a nice choice to fill that void. From the little previews we saw in the season opening, it seems Djungelboken is going to be a colourful and energetic musical.

Djungelboken is called a family show, so I might not be a part of its intended audience, exactly. Still, I'm thinking of taking a trip to Svenskan – if for nothing else, at least to see Simon Häger as the snake Kaa. Or what do you say about the following sneak peek from their season opening:

Still want to see more? Bonus videos: Doctor Zhivago, Djungelboken.
I'd love to write about other Finnish theatre season opening events too, but sadly,  I can't make it this year... For the next two weeks, I'll be visiting Washington, USA, you see! Talk to you when I'm back in Finland again!

1 comment:

  1. Multa oli mennyt toi Mamma Mia -juttu täysin ohi, kiitos siitä tiedosta! Ja nää videot on kyllä kiinnostavat kanssa, Zivago kuulostaa yllättävän hyvältä!