Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year

I've said this every year for the past five, but I'm going to say it once more: it's been the wildest theatrical year ever.

~50 times as an audience member. Six different countries. Premieres, travels, a summer theatre marathon. So many interesting shows, meeting new people and having fun with old friends, finding new favourite shows and productions and actors... It's been an amazing year, so much fun I can hardly believe it. I'm so, so grateful to have been able to experience this all.

Including three of my favourite musicals closing on the same night.

Next year is going to be very theatrical too, but in a different way. I'm going to intern in Turun kaupunginteatteri. That Finnish production of Jekyll & Hyde I've referred to in every second post I've written this year (and also in that drawing there)? That was theirs. I won't be working with the arts though, but in the office website, social media, public relations... I'm very very excited about this and can't wait to begin!

An internship might however mean I won't have so much time to blog. But no panic. No matter how busy I may be, this blog will still be updated: I've scheduled a four-part series of articles about the past and present of Finnish musical theatre to be published during January and February.

I originally wrote the articles for school, and in Finnish. I don't know if they interest many people outside Finland. But in case there is even one person interested in Finnish theatre who doesn't speak the language but would still like to know more... Just like I write this blog in English for that person, I've also translated the articles for them. I hope you enjoy.

So, onwards to the new year we go. Very happy and theatre-filled 2015 to all of you!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mini Holiday in Chicago

Funny how small things can sometimes lead to bigger journeys. And when it comes to this hobby, or passion, or way of life, or whatever watching theatre is for me – in the world of theatrical adventures, that's even more true than usually.

If Åbo Svenska Teater (to my great dismay) hadn't recast Enjolras in early 2012, Elina probably wouldn't have seen their Les Misérables at all. If she hadn't, I wouldn't have met her, let alone making friends with her. And if I we hadn't made friends, who would have travelled to Stockholm with me last weekend to see our favourite actor Chris Killik play Mary Sunshine in Stockholms stadsteater's production of Chicago? No one, that's who!

Also, no matter how short-lived ÅST's recent production of Jesus Christ Superstar was, I guess we need to thank the theatre for introducing us to a new favourite in the role of Judas. So, a hat tip to Åbo Svenska Teater. And now we're off to Stockholm, and to Chicago!

There, on the right side of the picture!

In short, Stockholm's Chicago is the production I've been wanting to see ever since first seeing the show on Broadway.

In Stockholms stadsteater's version of this story about rivalrous murderesses, everything's included. From tap dancing to Mary Sunshine being played by a man... All those details I like but the two most recent Finnish productions have chosen to ignore. Yet it's not a replica but has its own spin. (I especially liked how the whole orchestra, gentlemen included, is dressed as 20s flapper girls.) Overall, very good!

Negatives first, though: Dan Ekborg as the leading man Billy Flynn is the weakest link of the cast. Ekborg doesn't carry himself like the most successful lawyer in town. The super charismatic outer layer Billy Flynn should have is missing, the whole character feels too slimy. Actually, I was somehow reminded of Miss Saigon's Engineer – a role Ekborg has also played, so who knows, maybe that suited him better.

But then the positives: I really liked all the leading ladies. Lisa Nilsson as Roxie, Sharon Dyall as Velma, and especially Kajsa Reingardt as Mama Morton – what a brilliant trio. Nilsson's Roxie is rather cold and calculating, a fascinating opposite to the current Finnish production's ditzy bimbo. Dyall and Reignardt are both so charismatic in their roles, they suit the parts perfectly.

Other highlights: Fredrik Lycke (he's Alexander Lycke's brother, and Alex in turn is my favourite Valjean and Jesus – I'm glad to have seen both brothers live now) makes a really sympathetic Amos. And, well, I don't know if I even need to mention Chris Killik as Mary Sunshine... I'm sure everyone has already guessed that both me and Elina thought he was fantastic. Talk about a killer falsetto!

Naturally, I tried to compare this with the current Finnish production. Both productions look and sound good in their different ways, I really can't say which one I like better.

The Finnish take is a bit more original, and Finland gets a bonus point or two for having an actually charismatic actor play Billy Flynn. On the other hand, Stockholm gets a point for including Hot Honey Rag, my favourite bit of the show, as a full-blown dance number. Not to mention Mary Sunshine – we of course wouldn't have seen the show at all had they cast someone else in the role. So five bonus points!

Even the orchestra is beautiful.

All in all, my second time visiting Stockholms stadsteater this year was a success. It wasn't as huge an experience as their Sweeney Todd... But seeing how that was huge for me mostly for the wrong reasons, I'm sort of glad it wasn't. A good way to finish this very fun and very busy theatrical year!

Photos by Petra Hellberg.
Related reading: Elina and I have even seen Shakespeare for Chris.