Saturday, November 2, 2013

104th Musical Retrospective

I was supposed to write a retrospective post before seeing the 100th musical performance of my life. Being lazy and busy, I've now seen 104 musicals (yes, I count them) and have just gotten around to writing this. At least this is the 100th post in my blog!

In honour of all that, I thought to write a little about being a musical fan. I can't really explain why I love musicals so, even if I try, but at least I can tell how that love has affected my life – so far.

Musical theatre is the biggest passion of my life.

It brings me so much joy. I spend the most of my free time doing something musical-related. I of course don't see shows every night, but not a day goes by without me speculating about upcoming shows and discussing and thinking about the current and past ones.

Online, apart from this blog here, I have this little side-project I call Fuck Yeah, Finnish Musical Theatre! It's a sort of an archive of pictures, videos, news articles and so on related to Finnish musical theatre. It's updated at least once every day, has over 1,100 posts at the moment, and probably has a tag full of material about your favourite Finnish musical performer or show too. Whenever I'm not busy with that, I like drawing musical fanart. I believe my deviantART gallery has over a hundred musicals related pictures already.

As you probably have figured out already, my true love is Finnish musical theatre. I like all musicals, but the ones here in Finland are the closest to my heart. They're of course not always perfect, but I see red every time I hear someone implying Finnish shows can't ever be as good as the musicals in London and New York. Bah! I think it's such an ugly attitude that Finnish shows can't possible ever be the best, just because they're guilty of being Finnish. But, to be honest, I used to think so too. When I was just getting into musicals, I was convinced Finland would never be on par with the musical capitals of the world and lamented that we'll never get the best shows here. Then we got a production of Wicked I honestly liked better than the West End version, and I started to realise I had been wrong. Great productions can happen anywhere.

With my blog here, written in English, my side blog, and even my drawings, I admit I try to showcase Finnish musicals to international theatre fans. Maybe there won't ever be a surge of theatre tourists in Finland. Personally, I don't pay much attention to lyrics and enjoy shows in languages I don't understand, but I know the language issue is a problem for many fans. But maybe international attention is not the most important thing. Sure, I'd like to see the worldwide musical fandom appreciating all international productions, Finnish ones included, even more than it does nowadays. But more than anything, I would like no Finn ever again uttering the that-was-almost-as-good-as-on-Broadway mantra.

It would be silly to think my blogs and posts would make a big difference in the opinions of either Finnish or international musical fans. But once, for example, my posts were one of the starting points in a chain of events that culminated into an American theatre fan (and nowadays, one of my best friends) flying to Finland to see Les Mis. So maybe that alone was worth all the time I put into this!

Speaking of that Les Mis, though... I've said it previously and I still claim the Åbo Svenska Teater Les Misérables changed my life, so I guess it'd be fitting to dedicate a couple of paragraphs to it in this post too. Of course, it's not the sole thing that's made me the person I am today, but it was a turning point for me nevertheless. I've repeated this all to ad nauseam, but it means so much to me, so hear me out.

I still feel amazed about the things that happened during the run of ÅST's Les Mis and because of it. Those experiences, in a way, might also explain why I love musical theatre so much. The magic is not just about seeing shows and appreciating the talent onstage. It's also about making friends and having adventures, like I did during the run of ÅST's Les Mis. (And, to a lesser extent, during the run of Seinäjoen kaupunginteatteri's Tanz der Vampire too. The two overlapped, so I usually just think about it all as one big happy blur of events!) A single musical production can bring so many new friends and good things into one's life, a seemingly small thing can start the adventure of a lifetime. Little things can make you smile even almost two years later.

Though, of course, I also appreciate this production because it's the best one I've ever seen. If I was asked to single out the best of those 104 musical performances I've seen so far, Les Mis in Åbo Svenska Teater on 30.4.2011 would be my choice, and I wouldn't even hesitate. That was one perfect night at the theatre.

Before ÅST's Les Mis, which premiered in 2010, I believe I was what you'd call a regular musical fan. My parents actually knew about the production before I did and didn't tell me – I was going to get a ticket for Christmas present and they wanted it to be a surprise! Hah! I did find out about the show in November, so their plan failed even then. But these days, I doubt anyone who knows me would imagine that if a Finnish theatre announces during the fall that they will do a musical, I wouldn't find out before Christmas...

My obsession has seeped into my school work, even. My high school final exam essay in Finnish was mostly about Tanz der Vampire, which I had just seen in Seinäjoen kaupunginteatteri the previous week (and I got the best grade). I've been studying journalism for the past year and a half soon, and whenever possible, I do my school assignments about theatre. (Stay tuned, there is an interview with someone who plays Jean Valjean coming up later this month!)

It's funny my biggest passion in life is musical theatre, seeing how my own talents lie elsewhere. I have no musical skills whatsoever. I like singing along when I listen to music alone, but I'm not good at it, and I've never been interested in playing any instruments. I'm no more interested in acting or dancing, apart from a spectator's point of view.

As said, I study journalism, but being a journalist isn't my dream. Though I don't want to be onstage, it's my dream being a part of bringing the theatre experience to others one day, in some way. I worked in an outdoor theatre last summer, as a part-time PR assistant and as a part-time box office and café saleslady, and can't but hope that wasn't my last time working in a theatre. Even selling tickets and pouring coffee last summer was strangely satisfying – to know that I did something to help others to experience the thing I myself love so much.

So, there you have it, my big goal. I don't know yet how, when, or even if I'll reach it, but I will try. And on the meanwhile, I guess I'll see a hundred and four musical performances more and write some more posts.

Drawings by me.


  1. Congrats on 100+ musicals!

    To comment on some of the things you were talking about, I think you are a wonderful ambassador for Finnish musical theater! Your enthusiasm and obvious passion are inspiring and contagious. You certainly did help to reawaken in me a love of musical theater that had been laying dormant for a few years. Your willingness to travel so widely to see shows that you want to see has made me realize that there's no reason why I couldn't do it, too, if I have the means. So I have started to! You actually do make me wish I could hop a flight to Finland to see Les Mis in Tampere, all because of hearing about it and the Åbo Svenska Teater production that you love so much! You've helped me to see that 'Broadway' is just a mythical standard; the best productions and performers are not always on Broadway, and good theater can indeed happen anywhere.

    Thanks so much, and here's to 100 more!

  2. Aww, you, reading this made me smile and flail! Thank you – I'm so glad to hear all that that I'm at a loss for words!!

    But hey, the day you decide to come to Finland to see some musicals, just let me know. I'll help you to book the tickets and arrange a sighseeing tour in between the performances... ;D