Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Recap 2015

2015 has been a very theatrical year for me, more so than any previous one. I've worked (and continue to work) part-time in a theatre, with PR and marketing. I've of course also seen plenty of shows. I've gone further outside my comfort zone than ever before, and seen performances ranging from fantastic to less than impressive. It's been a very busy year with plenty of experiences to remember, so I thought to make a little list out of my personal highlights.

Listed, my top 5 theatrical experiences of 2015. In no particular order – but saving the best for the last.


Every year, we grow and change. Me and Rocky are a visible proof of that.

Had you told me in early 2015 that before the year is out, I would be counting Rocky as one of my favourite musicals and walking around in a Rocky hoodie... Beforehand, I thought there's no way on earth a boxing musical would be to my tastes. But what do you know. Seeing the show in Hamburg, it was love from the first note, and obsession by Eye of the Tiger. Fight from the heart!

Related reading: review, The Hoodie Story


I'm not especially big on Sondheim, but A Little Night Music has been a favourite of mine for years now. I'm very glad Tampereen Työväen Teatteri introduced this brilliant, clever musical to their repertoire. The production flows like a dream, it both touches me and makes me laugh every time – and by now, I've seen it four times. It's a joy to watch.

Related reading: review

The Curious Incident

This one was also Tampereen Työväen Teatteri's production. The reason it left such an impression is simple: as you often believe with favourite books, I thought I liked Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night-Time so much no adaptation could ever compare. TTT's production proved me wrong. This fantastic play left me speechless both times I saw it.

Related reading: short review

Jekyll & Hyde

Reading this blog, you've probably noticed I've been thinking about Jekyll & Hyde the musical a lot this year. That's partially because I'm still excited about the first Finnish production that closed in 2014, but I've also the new Finnish production to be grateful for.

At first, I was wary of Jyväskylän kaupunginteatteri's Jekyll & Hyde, but I've grown to enjoy the production with all my heart. It's clear the cast loves performing the show. With such love and such three-dimensional portrayals of the characters, the flawed musical turns into something special.

Related reading: review, interviews with Jekyll and Jekyll and Emma and Lucy

A Christmas Concert

So. All these brilliant shows, and it's Åbo Svenska Teater's Christmas concert that made the biggest impression of them all? But Siiri, you don't even like Christmas songs, you point out – and right you are, I borderline detest them. But let me explain.

If you're a friend or a long-time reader, you probably have an idea of what Åbo Svenska Teater's Les Misérables (2010–2012) means to me. In short, no other theatrical production has ever had such an impact on me. It was a near-perfect version of my all-time favourite musical, but that's not the only reason I have such fond memories of it. It also changed my life for the better. For example, ÅST's Les Mis is where I met two of my current best friends for the first time.

So, imagine this: you're sitting in Åbo Svenska Teater's auditorium with aforementioned friends, watching your favourite performers sing a Les Misérables medley that's – yes – dedicated to you... For a big fan of something, I don't think it gets any better than that. Four years after the last performance, me and my friends got one magical ÅST Les Mis moment more.

The Christmas concert of course also featured those dreaded Christmas songs. But Anna-Maria Hallgarn, Emma Klingenberg, Sören Lillkung and Alexander Lycke (last two of the ÅST Les Mis fame) are such fantastic performers that to me, whatever they sing is worth hearing.

A perfect finish to a busy year.

With this, I wish happy holidays and a fantastic new year to all of you. May 2016 be full of magical, theatrical moments for all of us!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Jekyll & Jekyll – Interview with Doctors Jekyll and Misters Hyde

Huomio, suomalaiset lukijat: lue sama haastattelu suomeksi täällä!

In the current Finnish production of Jekyll & Hyde, two actors alternate in the titular roles. Henri Halkola and Joni Leponiemi treat audiences with two different interpretations of the musical’s main characters.

Where lies the difference in between Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde? In this interview, the duo shares their thoughts on their roles.

Henri Halkola and Joni Leponiemi say that, even though they knew the basics of the classic story coming in, they weren’t familiar with the musical before Jyväskylän kaupunginteatteri’s production. Both fell in love with Frank Wildhorn’s music the first time they listened to it.

“The music enchanted me right away, and I think it’s the force that drives musical’s story forward. If you try to read Jekyll & Hyde the musical like you would read a straight play… Well, maybe musicals aren’t supposed to be read that way”, Halkola recalls his first impressions.

“The fans of this musical have a great taste in music, though”, he adds.

Leponiemi agrees.

“It was love from the first note. It’s also the first thing I considered when I thought about being cast in the role. Would I be able to sing these songs?”

The actors alternate in the leading roles, but in the rehearsals they worked together. Even so, their interpretations of Jekyll and Hyde are rather different.

“From the get-go, we decided that we’ll put our own spins to the characters. When rehearsing a role like this, you’ll have to keep an open mind and support each other – and that’s what we did”, Leponiemi tells about sharing the role.

“Even though Joni’s interpretation of the role doesn’t affect mine directly, it’s got to have some effect. The rehearsal period was short. We didn’t have time to develop our characters without taking some influence from each other”, Halkola continues.

“I think it’s good that the director and the choreographer didn’t have a very strong vision of the character –for example, they didn’t make Hyde move in a certain way. We got to try out different solutions and to develop them with the ensemble. But even so, the rehearsal period was too short”, Leponiemi adds.

Not a fairytale anymore

The musical’s Dr. Jekyll is very different from his counterpart in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella. In the book, Jekyll develops his soul-destroying formula for selfish reasons. In the musical, Dr. Jekyll wants to cure his mentally ill father. Jekyll comes up with a drug that he thinks will remove evil from the human nature.

Halkola and Leponiemi make a point that even with the addition of a mentally ill father, the musical’s Jekyll is hardly a selfless idealist.

“Jekyll is certainly not an unselfish character. His father’s condition is a driving force for him, but he also dreams of being remembered as one of the greatest scientist of all time”, Halkola says.

“Jekyll is afraid that he’ll inherit his father’s illness. And as a scientist, he is concerned about his own career. Trying to convince the hospital board to support his experiment, he comes up with grander and nobler reasons for it”, Leponiemi continues.

Dr. Jekyll’s experiment fails spectacularly and gives birth to his cruel alter ego, Edward Hyde.

“The formula affects Jekyll’s morale somehow. It shuts down whatever it is that stops us from acting upon all our whims. Jekyll starts to enjoy this feeling – he doesn’t have to be responsible for his actions or feel any pangs of conscience anymore”, Halkola describes his interpretation.

“All of us have a dark side. In different people, different things bring that darkness to the surface. When it comes to Jekyll, it’s formula HJ7 that does the trick”, Leponiemi adds.

In Stevenson’s novella, the formula even affects Jekyll’s looks. Many adaptations also alter the leading actor’s appearance – many musical productions for example give Jekyll and Hyde different hairstyles. In the Finnish production, the two characters are a lot closer to each other, both physically and mentally.

“We approach the story from a different angle than many other adaptations. Our starting point was that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person. His behavior and his way of thinking change, but his personality is the same all the way through”, Halkola explains.

“In the very beginning, we decided that our version of the musical is not a fairytale. There is no respectable doctor and a monster in this story. Instead, good guys have their bad habits and bad guys have something good and compassionate in them”, he continues.

“Hyde is Jekyll’s left-hand man”, Leponiemi summarises the two characters.

Sympathy, tenderness

Jekyll & Hyde the musical introduces to women to Jekyll and Hyde’s story. Jekyll’s bride-to-be Emma and working girl Lucy bring out different sides of the main character.

“It’s an old cliché that behind every successful man there is a strong woman. I think that would be true in Jekyll and Emma’s case… But they don’t get the chance to make it so far”, Halkola says about Jekyll’s relationship to Emma.

“To Emma, it’s clear that Jekyll’s experiment is going to fail. But even so, she loves and respects him, so she also supports his project”, Leponiemi adds.

Jekyll’s engagement to Emma doesn’t stop Hyde from visiting Lucy’s bedroom.

“As Hyde, Jekyll gets to do what he wants, be with whoever he wants and however he likes. Lucy is a victim of his abuse. It’s a fascinating contrast how she falls in love with Jekyll at the same time”, Halkola says.

“Even though our Jekyll and Hyde are the same person, in Lucy’s eyes they are different”, Leponiemi continues.

Near the end of the show, Hyde murders Lucy. The musical’s script leaves the plot twist unexplained, offering no motivation for the crime. Halkola and Leponiemi have interpreted the scene in two different ways.

“Hyde has a feeling, humane side. He wants to love and to feel accepted. He thinks that maybe Lucy is a bold, daring woman who doesn’t care about good manners or the society’s expectations. Then he finds out that it’s actually the mild-mannered Jekyll Lucy has fallen in love with. In a way, Hyde starts feeling jealous”, Halkola explains his interpretation.

“Hyde wants Lucy to look at him with loving eyes, but there’s only fear in her eyes. That’s what pushes him over the edge.”

Leponiemi sees the scene in a different light.

“Hyde feels something positive towards Lucy. He however believes that love makes him weaker. Starting to feel compassion towards others would put an end to Hyde’s mission of killing the hypocrites who run the hospital. Hyde believes positive feelings cannot have a place in his heart, so he decides it’s better to put a stop to them.”

Terrified, but in a good way

Jekyll & Hyde the musical consists of 30 songs and lasts for almost three hours. Both leading men say that each performance is a new kind of journey.

“Every show is a new adventure. Beforehand, I often wonder what’s going to happen tonight and how the performance will be like. Each time, I’m terrified, but in a good way. How can I survive this?” Leponiemi shares his pre-show thoughts.

“Exactly. When am I going to make a mistake tonight? There are plenty of opportunities!” Halkola laughs.

“Feeling nervous like this keeps you awake. And in the end, it’s a good thing. I feel incredible after every performance”, Leponiemi says.

There are only 16 performances of Jekyll & Hyde left for Jyväskylän kaupunginteatteri’s cast and crew. Both leads say that it’s easy for them to welcome new audiences to see the musical.

“We love performing this show. We believe we have an outstanding production of Jekyll & Hyde”, Leponiemi summarises the whole cast’s feelings.

Photos by Jiri Halttunen.
Read more: Standing by Dr. Jekyll’s Side – interview with Emma and Lucy

Monday, December 7, 2015

Standing by Dr. Jekyll’s Side – Interview with Emma and Lucy

Huomio, suomalaiset lukijat: lue sama haastattelu suomeksi täällä!

I like the new Finnish production of Jekyll & Hyde the musical better every time I see it. Each time watching the show, I also fall deeper in love with the leading ladies of Jyväskylän kaupunginteatteri’s production. I have never encountered such a well-balanced, three-dimensional Emma/Lucy duo!

So, I had a little chat with Saara Jokiaho, who plays Emma, and Maria Lund, who plays Lucy. How do they breathe life into their characters?

Jekyll & Hyde the musical, book by Leslie Bricusse, introduces to two new female characters to a story originally told from male perspective. Emma Carew is Dr. Jekyll’s bride-to-be, an upper-class woman raised by her overprotective father. Lucy Harris is a songstress at The Red Rat, a working girl Mr. Hyde visits at night.

“Emma is a self-opinionated, modern young woman”, Saara Jokiaho summarizes her character.

Modern indeed encapsulates Emma’s thoughts and actions. She is also a brave, a little bit cynical realist”, co-star Maria Lund adds.

“Lucy is a fearless, romantic fool”, Lund characterizes her role.

“Lucy is strong and realistic, but her dreams of love show that there’s also a soft, vulnerable side to her. She has been hurt, and for a moment she gets to believe that love will heal her wounds”, Jokiaho says.

Lund wasn’t familiar with Jekyll & Hyde the musical before Jyväskylän kaupunginteatteri’s production. For Jokiaho, the musical is an old favourite.

“I first listened to the musical in 2006 and I’ve been a fan ever since. In theatre school, I often sang Lucy’s songs. I even played the role in a shortened version of the show.”

In auditions for the Finnish production, Jokiaho and Lund auditioned for both Emma and Lucy. Jokiaho says that being cast as Emma gave her a lot to think about.

“When director Anssi Valtonen told me that I had been chosen as Emma, my first reaction was ‘oh no’. Will they give me a blonde wig and a Princess Diana style wedding dress to wear? What can I do with this part? Soon, I understood the role was more than just a girl in love with a boy. Emma’s first line is an insult towards Lady Beaconsfield! The role quickly became dear to me.”

Lund, in turn, was glad to notice how daring her role is.

“I have never had such a bold part. Lucy is a lot of fun to play! It’s also refreshing to act in a musical that doesn’t have a happy ending.”

Classic tale with a new point of view

Long-time Jekyll & Hyde fan Jokiaho says she feels annoyed by the way many productions of the musical treat Emma and Lucy.

“In all the productions I’ve seen, the ladies seem quite one-dimensional. Especially Emma. I sometimes feel irritated by the way she just sings and smiles, even though the story handles really heavy subjects”, Jokiaho explains.

When developing the first concept version of Jekyll & Hyde the musical, the creative team considered casting one actress to play both Emma and Lucy, just like one actor portrays both Jekyll and Hyde. Traces of this consideration remain in the musical today. Jekyll and Hyde represent two sides of man – and therefore two sides of the whole humankind. The duality of woman, then, is presented as two stereotypical extremes: the virtuous bride and the hooker with a heart of gold.

“I think that both I and Maria have made our characters more three-dimensional. Emma and Lucy no longer represent the two extremes of womanhood, there is also a lot of the other side in both characters”, Jokiaho muses on the stereotypic dichotomy.

“As a young actress, I’ve decided that each of my characters has to have a reason for being what they are. I refuse to be a damsel in distress”, she adds.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde doesn’t feature women. By adding two leading ladies, the musical gets to explore themes the original novel doesn’t mention. Both Emma and Lucy are strongly characterized by their love for Henry Jekyll.

“Emma is attracted to Jekyll’s passion for his work. It’s a characteristic that also enchants me in real life. Emma, in turn, brings joy to Jekyll’s life – and that brings them together”, Jokiaho describes her character.

“Lucy falls in love with Jekyll’s unexpected kindness. Jekyll is also a man who lets Lucy to lead the situation. With him, she doesn’t have to worry about the man making demands. But when it comes to Lucy’s relationship with Hyde, it’s Hyde who’s in charge”, Lund says.

When it comes to Lucy’s relationships with Jekyll and Hyde, the musical’s script leaves room for interpretation. When does Lucy realize the two men are actually one and the same? Lund reveals that her Lucy understands the truth when it’s literally too late.

“When Hyde comes to Lucy’s room and sings Sympathy, Tenderness, the song Lucy sang when visiting Dr. Jekyll earlier, she realizes what’s going on. She dies at the moment of that realization.”

Dr. Jekyll’s betrothed Emma finds out about her groom’s secret on the couple’s wedding day. The way Jokiaho interprets it, Emma is having suspicions well before the fatal wedding ceremony.

“After committing murders, a disoriented Jekyll encounters Emma in his laboratory. That’s when her suspicions are awakened. I think Emma doesn’t want to believe what she sees, but in the final scene, she is not surprised. Her worst fears turn out to be true.”

Even though Emma and Lucy sing In His Eyes together, the characters aren’t aware of each other. Lund and Jokiaho say that though their characters don’t meet, their performances have to strike a balance.

“If one of us approached her role with a lot subtler style than the other, the whole show would feel out of balance. In that sense, our interpretations of our characters affect each other”, Jokiaho says.


Pretend violence

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s tale is a classic horror story, complete with murders and bloodshed. Emma and Lucy are handed their fair share of Mr. Hyde’s cruelty, but that’s no problem for the actresses. Lund says that Lucy’s murder is her favourite scene.

“I have once committed suicide onstage, but this is my first murder. Of course you have to enjoy it, it’s a new experience”, Lund laughs.

“We thought over the murder for a long time. Would it be a knife in Lucy’s back, or would Hyde strangle her? I wished for a really brutal way to go, blood splatters and all, but what we ended up with is good too. I think being strangled and having my neck broken is a fine solution”, she adds.

In Jyväskylä, actors Henri Halkola and Joni Leponiemi alternate in the show’s leading roles. Some details in Jokiaho’s and Lund’s performances change along the leading man. One of these changes can be seen in the musical’s last scene.

“I especially enjoy Henri strangling me”, Jokiaho laughs.

“Joni is a lot gentler. He doesn’t dare to drag me around like Henri does, though his way is fine too. But Henri is such a big guy and has such a firm hold, you don’t really need to act there… There is of course no danger, it’s all pretend. That’s a lot fun, somehow!”

Both Lund and Jokiaho say that it’s always nice returning to Jekyll and Hyde’s London.

“I wouldn’t mind if we had more performances”, Lund says.

Jokiaho agrees.

“No matter how tired I am, I always have energy for this show. I can feel weary when I come to work, but when I put Emma’s jacket on, I’m transformed into a strong high society lady.”

Photos by Jiri Halttunen.
Read more: Jekyll & Jekyll – interview with doctors Jekyll and misters Hyde

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Jyväskylä Jekyll & Hyde, Take Two

I've already reviewed the new Finnish production of Jekyll & Hyde, but having now seen the production's alternate lead Joni Leponiemi and also another performance featuring Henri Halkola, I thought to write a short addendum to my critique.

I saw Joni Leponiemi as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde last weekend, and let me tell you – that was one of the most enjoyable performances of said roles I've ever seen! His take of the characters is very energetic and slightly over-the-top, especially as Hyde. I mean that in a good way: it's mostly a fun sort of over-the-topness, a style that suits this over-the-top musical.

I was especially impressed by Leponiemi's This Is the Moment. Usually, I lump the song in with every other overblown, overdone, overappreciated musical showstopper – Music of the Night, Bring Him Home, Don't Cry for Me, Argentina... A song where the plot comes to a halt so the lead can show off their vocals. But this time, This Is the Moment made me feel excited for the character and actually helped me to understand why Jekyll makes his disastrous decision. It's surprising how seldom that happens!

I also saw another performance with alternate lead Henri Halkola a while ago. His Jekyll is subtler and calmer than Leponiemi's, and though his performance is still not quite to my personal tastes, I enjoyed him better the second time around.

In my initial review, I mentioned not liking the second act very much. The second half of the show still drags, but I think it's mostly due to the script. In His Eyes and Dangerous Game are some of my least favourite Frank Wildhorn songs, and to hear them back to back... I can't help zoning out.

But it's gotten better. Halkola's Confrontation has become a lot easier to follow and more enjoyable, and Leponiemi's take of the song is powerful and impressive. The wedding scene, while still a bit too melodramatic even for a silly show such as this, is also more interesting to watch each time.

At first, I thought Jyväskylän kaupunginteatteri's Jekyll & Hyde was nothing special, only a good production of a flawed musical. Now, I am starting to reconsider. I'm falling in love with the production more and more each time I see it.

I cannot wait to go back.

Photo by Jiri Halttunen
Muiden bloggareiden fiiliksiä: Paljon melua teatterista, Teatterikärpäsen puraisuja

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Jekyll, Adapted

It's time for some Jekyll and Hyde history again!

Theatrical history featuring Jekyll and Hyde is a familiar topic to my long-time followers. Previously, I've discussed the Wildhorn musical's weird past and the very first plays based on R. L. Stevenson's novel.

Today, I thought I'd introduce you to three other theatrical adaptations of Jekyll and Hyde's story I find interesting.

1 & 2: The Other Musicals

I cannot believe I live in a world where three of these exist.

Frank Wildhorn's Jekyll & Hyde the musical is far from perfect. I've discussed this before. It took the creative team years to complete it, and the script still keeps changing in the newest productions. The show is riddled with plotholes and melodrama.

Now it turns out the flawed musical has two identical twins.

Jekyll and Hyde is composed by Norman Sachs, with Mel Mandel's lyrics and Lee Thuna's book. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, then, is composed by Philip Hall, with book and lyrics by David Levy and Leslie Eberhard.

Stevenson's book does not feature women. Both musicals however create two new female characters: an angelic bride and a hooker with a heart of gold. Sounds familiar? It's of course a common theme in all Jekyll and Hyde adaptations, but even so...

Sachs's musical actually predates the Wildhorn show. It premiered in 1968, titled After You, Mr. Hyde, and was revived in 1990 under the title Jekyll and Hyde. The musical was even televised. Wonder if Wildhorn was aware of this version, or if the similarities are a coincidence?

The New York Times reviewer Alvin Klein describes Jekyll and Hyde as "a completely conventional, thoroughly uninteresting musical rooted in the romantic traditions of operetta (minus the essential melodiousness) with a desultory bow in the direction of spooky melodrama (without the chills, thrills and tingles)."

Fun fact: Jekyll and Hyde features a prostitute called Lucy. At least Jekyll's virtuous bride is known as Margaret instead of Lisa or Emma!

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, then, premiered in 1998. It makes a surprising decision: it casts two different actors as Jekyll and Hyde. A refreshing take on a classic... Or maybe just completely missing the point.

Otherwise, the show is clearly inspired by the Wildhorn musical, or maybe trying so hard to be different it ends up being exactly the same. Klein, though, actually calls it better than its better-known counterpart – asking "why, then, is Dr. and Mr. less bad than Jekyll & Hyde?"

You can read reviews of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde here and here. Or maybe check out the photo gallery. Could be from any production of the Wildhorn show, couldn't it?

The story of Jekyll and Hyde is timeless and layered. It asks big questions about the nature of man and leaves them unanswered, up for the reader to ponder upon. So, how on earth does it always turn into a cheesy musical featuring the madonna–whore complex and a black-and-white understanding of good and evil?

Luckily, there are also other sorts of adaptations. Such as...

3: Jekyll and Hyde for Three

Last winter, a rather unique version of Jekyll and Hyde toured the United Kingdom. Jo Clifford's Jekyll & Hyde, performed by a cast of only three actors, gives the classic plenty of new spins.

Clifford's play moves the events from Victorian London to a dystopian London of the future. In this version, Jekyll is a cancer researcher, trying to find a cure for the deadly disease. Looking for fame and glory via experiments, the scientist creates Mr. Hyde, and London turns a little bit more dystopic still.

The original novel characters of Dr. Lanyon and Mr. Utterson are also featured in this play, the former as a woman and the latter as Jekyll's ex-lover. A subplot revolves around a movement re-criminalising homosexuality, while another highlights the way modern society treats women. Read more about the plot in this thorough review.

This play sounds very, very interesting to me. Based on the reviews I've read, the text is far from perfect and sounds a bit over-the-top in all its horror – but even so, based on the very same reviews, it sounds very intriguing and thought-provoking.

The themes featured in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde's story will never go out of date. I believe this play, with the correct cast and the right director, could prove to be a grown-up, actually unsettling and disturbing interpretation of the classic. In other words, it sounds like everything the musicals are not.

I would be thrilled to see this adaptation live.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Please note: Tampereen Teatteri invited me to see Sugar for free.

Sugar the musical is based on the brilliant comedy film Some Like It Hot. The new Finnish production of the show delivers laugh-out-loud moments in the style of the movie, but as a musical, it's not of an especially memorable sort.

Let's see.

Some Like It Hot, and by extension Sugar, is a story about two unemployed musicians who witness a massacre in 1920s Chicago and have to hide from the mafia. To escape the gangsters, Joe and Jerry turn into Josephine and Daphne and take up jobs in an all-female orchestra. Disguised in dresses and high heels, the guys head to Florida – meeting the beautiful ukulele player Sugar and an amorous, elderly millionaire on the way...

I really enjoy the movie, and the musical made me smile, too. But there is one major problem. To understand that, let's compare Sugar with another movie-turned-musical, Rocky.

I fell in love with Rocky the musical because of the spectacle, but the more I listen to it, the more I appreciate the music. The songs give the movie's short-spoken characters a change to reveal their inner thoughts, so the audience gets to know Rocky and Adrian better. I'm sure people who know the film by heart will still find something new in the musical.

In Sugar, then, the songs are unnecessary. The tunes by Bob Merrill and Jule Styne halt the action without offering any new insights into the well-known story, or being especially catchy either. You could remove the music from the musical without it making much of a difference. You're left wondering if the musical would've worked better as a straight play.

Shame about that... But luckily, Tampereen Teatteri's production of Sugar, directed by Georg Malvius (familiar to long-time readers of this blog as the mastermind behind several amazing productions of Les Misérables), does many other things well.

First of all, two thumbs up for the leading duo, Lari Halme as Joe/Josephine and Risto Korhonen as Jerry/Daphne. Both have their fair share of brilliant moments... but as other reviewers have already pointed out, Korhonen's Daphne steals the show.

In her Finnish review, Laura speculates that Daphne is to Jerry what Hyde is to Jekyll: a part of the man's personality that he's kept hidden thus far, but once he sets it free, cannot control or suppress anymore. Indeed! Korhonen's Jerry truely – in an over-the-top manner, but oftentimes rather hilariously – gets in touch with his inner feminity. Go Daphne!

Helena Rängman is lovely in the titular role, but the role itself is rather two-dimensional. Rängman sings well and looks appropriately Marilyn-esque, but since Sugar's only ambition is to marry rich, the character does not leave much of an impression.

The ensemble is full of talent. I especially enjoyed the step-dancing gangster gang, choreographed by Adrienne Åbjörn and lead by suave mafioso Teemu Korjuslommi. I think Spats Palazzo and his team of dancing gangsters could have a couple of scenes more just for the heck of it, they are so much fun to watch.

Though actually, apart from the dragging songs, the show is fun to watch from beginning to end.

Based on a 1959 movie, Sugar's comedy stems from gender stereotypes. Some of the thoughts featured in the musical are starting to get old-fashioned. The characters for example claim boys cannot marry boys, but luckily, that attitude is losing ground in today's world. Overall, however, the comedy holds up surprisingly well. It's not just laughing at men wearing dresses, it's also about the guys finding out first-hand how men and women are treated differently and are expected to behave.

Sugar is a rather popular musical in Finland. It's been produced professionally 15 times. Tampereen Teatteri first did it in the 80s, and back then it became the theatre's most popular production ever. Wonder what becomes of this new production... In the performance I saw at least, the audience a great time. I think all of us held our breaths during the final scene, in anticipation of the legendary final line.

By the way, if some international theatre fan reading this happens to be planning a trip to Finland, Sugar is subtitled into English. You can follow the subtitles if you pick a seat on the last five rows of the stalls.

So, Sugar in short: thumbs down for the superfluous songs, but recommended for the comedy. Not something I'd see again, but an entertaining performance nevertheless.

Photos by Harri Hinkka.
Suomeksi samasta aiheesta Katrin, Lauran ja Tallen blogeissa.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Phantom of the National Opera

I enjoy musicals on many, many levels.

Two of these levels are enjoying a show for the spectacle, and for the content. For me, the original direction of The Phantom of the Opera is all about the spectacle. I've written about this before: I don't see Phantom to get any food for thought. It's fun for the 80s megamusical visuals, but it doesn't engage me on any deeper level.

That changed last year. The Estonian non-replica production proved that this musical can tell a story that interests me. The Estonian version didn't focus on the love triangle in between the young ingenue, the rich aristocrat and the mysterious Phantom. Instead, it told an fascinating coming-of-age tale about a brave, talented woman.

The new Finnish non-replica production of The Phantom of the Opera goes back to the roots. Finnish National Opera's take on the Phantom's story is enjoyable for the sights and sounds, but it remains quite empty inside.

The Phantom of the Opera is a huge show, literally.

Finnish National Opera's big stage is really wide and deep, and the auditorium seats 1350 people. For the most part, set designer Teppo Järvinen does great job turning the vast stage into an opera house. Järvinen creates many beautiful scenes, such as Phantom and Christine's descent to the Phantom's lair via a series of stairways, the Phantom's underground lair itself with its chandelabras and vines, and the rooftop of the opera house with its huge angel statue. Combined with Timo Alhanen's lights, the sets leave some strikingly gorgeous impressions.

Marjaana Mutanen's costumes have their ups and downs. I like the Phantom's unique rock star meets goth meets hippie look, with his golden mask and leather gloves. Christine, then, could pop out a little more – now, with her plain white and black costumes, the leading lady feels a bit lost into the crowd. The ensemble costumes are nice but not especially memorable.

I really like the way the show portrays the opera house. Many scenes take place backstage, with ensemble members wandering around and sets being built as the managers read the Phantom's latest notes. The hustle and bustle brings life to the scenes. Not to mention it's rare to see an ensemble of this size onstage, so the crowd scenes are worth seeing for the spectacle alone.

But maybe the dancing scenes, with Osku Heiskanen's choreography, could be more impressive? The musical has plenty of ballet dancers in the ensemble. I think they should get more time in the spotlight.

Finnish National Opera has a large orchestra and a big choir. Andrew Lloyd Webber's music sounds really lush and really beautiful, grander than I've ever heard it. The musical is lovely to listen to.

But... In musicals, music and lyrics go hand in hand. So, the Opera's decisions to perform the musical in English bothers me.

Of course, Finnish National Opera usually performs operas in their original language, and it seems their initial plan was to hire an international cast for their new musical production. The Phantom cast, however, is mainly from Finland – save for the Christines, who are from Estonia and Sweden. The audience is also mainly Finnish. With all 70 000 tickets for the show sold out in advance, the production certainly doesn't have to advertise to foreign musical fans now.

So it's a mainly Finnish cast with a Finnish accent performing in English for a mostly Finnish audience (sort of like this blog, actually. Ha!).

I think it's a shame. Unlike classic operas, Phantom is usually translated into the local language when a new international production opens. I would have preferred to hear the world's favourite musical in my native language. I'm sure international audience members could've kept up with the plot by reading the excellent subtitles the Opera offers for all of their productions.

Looking past the smoke and the mirrors, the sights and the sounds, Tiina Puumalainen's direction isn't to my tastes. Director Puumalainen doesn't give the Phantom's story any truely unique twists. The show is nice to watch, but it doesn't really make me think or feel for the characters.

I have mixed feelings about the flow of the show. The first act moves forward rather smoothly, but during the last scenes of the second act, the focus is lost. Suddenly, I have a hard time following the characters' motivations.

The final scene feels especially confusing. You need to believe Christine really loves Raoul for the scene to work, but here, I felt none of that. Partially, that is because the Christine/Phantom/Raoul trio is not particularily well balanced.

Olli Tuovinen's Raoul was presented as an angry, overly confident young man who fails his fiancée in her moment of despair. Ilkka Hämäläinen's Phantom, though he sings beautifully, is no more attractive. His Phantom is as a repugnant recluse who feels childish joy in Christine's presence. Valid interpretations of the characters in their own right, but together and in the context of this production, they don't work out. Why would Christine bother despairing over these two? Just ditch the creepy guys and start a new life as some other opera house's star soprano!

Hanna-Liina Võsa's Christine is by far my favourite performance of the main trio. Võsa has a beautiful voice. Her Christine seems rather fragile and afraid, maybe a bit too much of a damsel in distress to my liking – but overall, she is lovely and sweet. She however doesn't make me feel Christine's character growth as strongly as some others. Christine's ultimate decision in the final scene feels unfounded. (Võsa by the way also plays Christine in the Estonian production, but I haven't seen her there. Wonder how different she is in that direction?)

I hear the alternate cast offers completely different takes of the main characters (read more in Finnish in Laura's review). Maybe I would have enjoyed them better.

On the positive side, Kaisa Ranta's Carlotta charmed me. A perfect prima donna, she delivers a hilarious performance with a fantastic voice. I adore her. The way she literally rolls up her sleeves during Il Muto to show the Phantom who's the boss is maybe my favourite detail!

Direction-wise, the show does have some clever little moments.

I especially like the bit with the Phantom composing his big opera after The Music of the Night. It's made clear the loud music plays in his head – so no one needs to wonder why his organ playing doesn't wake Christine up but the music box does. Another favourite moment is the Il Muto ballet, with the dancers stumbling onstage one by one, throwing their socks and dressing gowns into the wings as they rush to take their places.

I also enjoy the three operas-within-musical included in the show. They're especially fun to watch when you remember you're watching a musical production by Finnish National Opera. The Opera pokes a little fun at itself during the opera parodies.

Don Juan Triumphant, the Phantom's big work that's performed near the end of the show, amused me the most. The scene's deliberately modern visuals brought back childhood memories of the times my mom took me to see dance and opera at the National Opera. Little Siiri felt as confused by the productions we saw back then as the characters in the musical feel about Phantom's radical new piece.

Watching Finnish National Opera's production of The Phantom of the Opera, I felt happy and entertained. The show is nice and easy to watch, with some strikingly gorgeous visuals and beautiful music. But thinking the production over, there is not too much below the surface to really interest me.

It's a fine show to see once or twice, but I doubt it's anything to remember. I've another ticket in my pocket, but honestly, I'm already looking forward to seeing the Estonian production again instead.

Photos by Stefan Bremer.
Another review in English: I Must Give You My Thoughts

Monday, September 21, 2015

Haastattelu: Musikaalikääntäjä Marika Hakola

Parin viikon takainen kirjoitukseni musikaalisuomennoksista keräsi paljon näyttökertoja. Avasin tekstissä ajatuksiani hyvistä ja huonoista suomennoksista – mutta kirjoituksen julkaistuani tajusin, etten tiedä juuri mitään musikaalin kääntämisen käytännöstä. Miten musikaali muuttuu suomenkieliseksi?

Pyysin ammattikääntäjän kertomaan.

Kääntäjä Marika Hakola valmistui Tampereen yliopistosta vuonna 2007 pääaineenaan saksan kääntäminen. Hänen gradunsa käsitteli intertekstuaalisuuden kääntämistä Tanz der Vampire -musikaalin libretossa. Kun Tanz der Vampire sai Pohjoismaiden ensi-iltansa Seinäjoen kaupunginteatterissa vuonna 2011, vastasi Hakola musikaalin suomennoksesta.

Hakola on työskennellyt projektipäällikkönä käännöstoimistossa ja toimii tällä hetkellä yliopisto-opettajana Helsingin yliopiston nykykielten laitoksella, jossa hän suorittaa jatko-opintojaan. Hän on myös suomentanut Eclipsis ry:n järjestämiin musikaalikonsertteihin kappaleita useista eri musikaaleista.

Musiikkiteatteri on ollut Hakolan rakas harrastus lapsuudesta asti.

”Olin kahdeksanvuotias, kun näin ensimmäisen musiikkiteatteriesitykseni, Mustalaisruhtinatar-operetin Porin Teatterissa. Laulujen kääntämiseen kiinnitin ensimmäisen kerran huomiota teininä Disneyn elokuvia katsellessani”, hän kertoo.

Hakola tutustui Jim Steinmanin säveltämään, Michael Kunzen käsikirjoittamaan ja sanoittamaan Tanz der Vampire -musikaaliin ensimmäistä kertaa Itävallan Salzburgissa vietetyn vaihto-opiskeluvuoden aikana. Tekstin sisältämät viittaukset toisiin teksteihin kiinnittivät Hakolan mielenkiinnon, ja musikaalista muotoutui gradun aihe.

”Mitä jos tällainen musikaali tulisi esitettäväksi Suomessa? Miten sen kääntäminen olisi edes mahdollista?” Hakola muistaa pohtineensa.

Vampyyreita kääntämässä

Kun Vampyyrien tanssia puuhattiin Seinäjoen kaupunginteatteriin, törmäsi ohjaaja Olli-Matti Oinosen työryhmä Hakolan graduun. Hakola oli graduaan varten kääntänyt musikaalin ilman loppusointuja, mutta Seinäjoelle häneltä pyydettiin uutta, alkuperäistekstin riimikaavaa noudatellutta käännöstä.

Hakola kertoo, että vampyyrimusikaalin kääntäminen oli hurja seitsemän viikon urakka. Musikaalin kääntämiseen olisi Hakolan mukaan hyvä varata vähintään kolmesta neljään kuukautta, mutta aikataulusyistä hän pääsi tarttumaan käännöstyöhön vasta harjoitusten alun jo lähestyessä.

Käännöksestä tuli kääntäjälleen ympärivuorokautinen seuralainen.

”Työstin suomennosta kaiken valveillaoloaikani. Kuuntelin musikaalia silloinkin, kun tein jotain muuta. Pidin jopa sänkyni vieressä muistiinpanovälineitä niin, että jos heräsin keskellä yötä ja ratkaisin jonkin riimiongelman, saatoin heti kirjoittaa sen ylös. Keskellä yötä, kun itsekriittisyys on matalimmillaan, saa joskus ihan käyttökelpoisia ideoita!”

Teos oli Hakolalle ennestään tuttu, joten rankka seitsemän viikon rutistus riitti laulutekstien kääntämiseen. Seuraavina vuorossa olivat puherepliikit, näyttämöohjeet ja pianopartituurin kirjoittaminen.

Käännöstyön aikana Hakola luetutti tekstiään ystävillään. Valmistuttuaan suomennos käännettiin osittain takaisin saksaksi ja lähetettiin musikaalin tuottajien tarkastettavaksi.

Tuottajien hyväksynnän jälkeen oli aika tehdä tekstistä musiikkiteatteria.

”Ensimmäisen kerran kuulin käännökseni jonkun toisen laulamana, kun kapellimestari Timo Ristilä ja korrepetiittori Jari Pylväinen lauloivat musikaalin läpi digipianon säestyksellä. Kahden baritonin tulkinnoissa Sarah’n ja Alfredin duetoista oli herkkyyttä kerrakseen”, Hakola nauraa.

”Tällaisessa testauksessa huomaa hyvin, jos tekstiin on jäänyt laulettavuuteen vaikuttavia virheitä.”

Käännöksen valmistuttua Hakola osallistui vielä musikaalin harjoituksiin. Hän toimi tekstiasiantuntijana, auttoi tarvittaessa työryhmää tekstin tulkinnassa ja korjasi suomennoksessa harjoitusten aikana ilmenneitä ongelmia.

”Muutoksia ei enää tullut paljoa, mutta esimerkiksi laulettavuutta parannettiin vaihtamalla muutamia äänteitä toisiin.”

Tavujen ehdoilla

Musikaalin kääntämisessä on tiukat reunaehdot. Jotta teksti pysyisi laulettavana, tavujen määrän täytyy vastata alkuperäistä, niiden pituuteen on kiinnitettävä huomiota ja painollisten sekä painottomien tavujen on osuttava oikeille paikoille. Jopa yksittäisiä äänteitä täytyy harkita, sillä toiset vokaalit ovat helpompia laulaa kuin toiset.

Lisäksi kääntäjän työtä ohjaa alkuperäisen tekstin riimikaava.

”Musikaalin kääntäminen riimittelemättä on toki mahdollista, mutta suomalaisissa teattereissa arvostetaan riimejä. Riimit tuovat tekstiin huumoria, yllätyksellisyyttä ja rytmiä. Lisäksi ne tekevät tekstin muistamisen näyttelijöille helpommaksi”, Hakola sanoo.

Loppusointujen lisäksi ongelmia voivat aiheuttaa lauluteksteissä käytetyt yksitavuiset sanat. Monet kielet vilisevät lyhyitä sanoja, joille on vaikea löytää vastinetta suomen kielen sanastosta.

”Törmäsin kerran listaan, johon oli kerätty kaikki suomen yksitavuiset sanat. Niitä oli vain pari kymmentä. Lisäksi osa lyhyistä sanoista ei ole musikaaleissa kovin käyttökelpoisia. Esimerkiksi sanalle luu tulee lyriikassa melko harvoin tarvetta!”

Teknisten vaatimusten täyttämisen lisäksi kääntäjä tulkitsee teosta. Mitkä ovat hahmojen motiivit, miksi he sanovat sanottavansa? Viittaako teksti itseensä tai muihin teksteihin?

”Taidetta saa kukin tulkita miten itse haluaa, mutta kääntäjän tulkinta on siinä mielessä erikoisessa asemassa, että hän jakaa oman näkemyksensä yleisön kanssa.”

Hyvän käännöksen merkit

Omiksi suosikeikseen musikaalikääntäjistä Hakola nostaa monia musikaaleja englannista saksaan kääntäneen Michael Kunzen ja Stephen Sondheimin musikaalit Sweeney Todd ja A Little Night Music suomentaneen Juice Leskisen.

Hakolan mukaan hyvän suomennoksen tunnusmerkistö on yksinkertainen: hyvä käännös on hyvää suomen kieltä ja kunnioittaa alkuperäisen tekstin sisältöä ja tyyliä. Jos suomennos on tehty riimikaavan mukaan, Hakola arvostaa täydellisten loppusointujen käyttöä. Täydellinen loppusointu alkaa aina painollisesta tavusta, puolisointu puolestaan rimmaa vain osittain.

”Moniin muihin kieliin verrattuna suomi riimittyy huonosti. Riimittely on paljon helpompaa esimerkiksi englannin ja saksan kielillä. Taitavimmat riimittelijät, kuten Juice, käyttävät kuitenkin aina täydellisiä loppusointuja”, Hakola kehaisee.

Hakola toteaa hyvän käännöksen olevan hyvä lähtökohta kaikille musikaalin työryhmän jäsenille.

”Käännös on pieni osa esitystä, mutta se on kaiken muun pohjalla”, hän toteaa.

”Mielestäni on tärkeää, että musikaalit nimenomaan käännetään eikä niitä esimerkiksi tekstitetä. Äidinkielisyys tuo sekä näyttelijöiden tulkintoihin että katsojien kokemukseen ihan eri tavalla tunnetta mukaan.”

Käännös ei Hakolan mukaan synny säe kerrallaan vaan kokonaisuutta ajatellen. Suomennettaessa alkutekstistä katoaa aina jotain, mutta mukaan voi myös tulla jotakin lisää.

"Alkuperäisen tekstin sanavalinnoista ei kannata pitää kynsin hampain kiinni, vaan on uskallettava mennä syvemmälle merkityksiin. Jos kirjailija olisi kirjoittanut tekstinsä suomeksi, mitä hän olisi sanonut?"

Kuva: Ari Ijäs.
Lue lisää: Marika Hakolan gradu Tekstien tanssi – Intertekstuaalisuuden kääntäminen Michael Kunzen musikaalilibretossa Tanz der Vampire. Kaikki, mitä haluat tietää Tanz der Vampire -musikaalista.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Stormskärs Maja

Please note: Åbo Svenska Teater invited me to see a preview performance of Stormskärs Maja for free.

Let's put it this way: Kristina från Duvemåla is Stormskärs Maja on steroids.

Or does the following sound familiar (warning: spoilers)? A woman marries a man in rural 19th century Northern Europe. The couple moves away from their community and starts a new life together, turning the wilderness into their home and welcoming new children into their family. Their life is filled with hardships: there's a fire on their homestead and one of their children dies in a tragic accident. Even so, the couple stays deeply in love with each other for years and years... until one of them, at a too early age, passes away.

Believe it or not, but I am not describing Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus's epic musical Kristina. Myrskyluodon Maija (Finnish title) or Stormskärs Maja (Swedish title) is a popular Finnish musical. First premiered in 1991, it's composed by Matti Puurtinen and written by Jussi Helminen, based on Anni Blomqvist's series of novels. The musical tells a story of an Ålandish woman's life in time gone by.

What is wrong with us Nordics? Why do we enjoy tear-drenched musicals like this so much? Kristina draws big crowds in Stockholm right now, while in Finland Stormskärs Maja or Myrskyluodon Maija currently plays in two different theatres.

Though, to be fair, I have no right to criticise anyone about enjoying aforementioned pieces. I'm a huge Kristina fan, and I also had a lovely time watching Åbo Svenska Teater's new production of the beloved Finnish musical, now performed in Finland's second official language Swedish for the first time.

Thanks to Andersson's massive showtunes, Kristina's tragedies feel larger than life. Maja is more down-to-earth. Puurtinen's music is beautiful and light (listen to a sample: Maija and Janne's Wedding Waltz – not from the ÅST production). Though the story is in parts tragic, the musical is not heavy to watch.

Maja doesn't only share themes with Kristina. The two musicals also share the same problem. Both try to fit a thousand pages of narrative, a person's whole life, into two acts. Maja's arranged marriage turns into a love match before the leading couple's first duet is over. In ÅST, the musical's end feels especially rushed, packing decades of life into few short sentences. Yet during some earlier scenes, the tension is so slow the show feels quite boring.

What lifts ÅST's Maja above the source material's uneven pace is the unique way director Jakob Höglund brings the musical onstage. There are virtually no sets. The nature that surrounds Maja and her husband Janne's home on a remote island is brought to live via traditional theatre tricks – but all the magic that is usually hidden behind the scenes happens onstage, before the audience's eyes.

The ensemble portray both people and nature. They shake thin pieces of sheet metal for thunderstorm sounds and carries smoke machines around the stage for autumn mist. Real elements also enter the stage, fire and water are both used to an impressive effect. With adults playing newborn babies and the band moving around onstage, it's impossible to forget you're sitting in a theatre, watching a fictional story.

At the same time, the style is both distancing and enchanting. It leaves a lot of room for the imagination. A production like this could never work in a big theatre that seats a thousand, but it suits Finland's oldest theatre's intimate and beautiful 19th century stage perfectly.

Emma Klingenberg delivers a strong performance as Maja. She portrays a woman who doesn't let the misfortunes of life crush her spirit, and sings beautifully, too. Elmer Bäck as Maja's husband Janne feels more distant. His performance is nice to watch, but there's a bit too much rustic Prince Charming in the character for him to feel like a real, three-dimensional person.

Out of the ensemble, I want to give a shoutout to one of my all-time favourite actors, Anna Victoria Eriksson. She shines in her roles, whether playing Maja's older sister or one of her children. And what a voice. Listening to her, whether she's singing solos or a part of an ensemble, I'm always amazed.

In time for Finland's 100th birthday in 2017, Helsingin kaupunginteatteri will premiere a brand-new musical adaptation of Blomqvist's Maja novels. So Sweden, top that! You have one Kristina, but soon, we'll have two Majas.

Looking forward to that, I think this one is also worth seeing. The source material is far from perfect, but ÅST's deliberately stripped-down production is a fascinating theatrical experience.

Photos by Pette Rissanen.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Dr. Jekyll Returns

Please note: Jyväskylän kaupunginteatteri invited me to see the premiere of Jekyll & Hyde for free. The invitation was a thank-you for writing an article about the musical's history for the programme. When you go see the show, don't forget to buy one or three.

Before I delve into Jyväskylän kaupunginteatteri's new production of Jekyll & Hyde, I need to make a disclaimer. I've made it before, but it bears repeating.

I do not think Jekyll & Hyde, composed by Frank Wildhorn with a book by Leslie Bricusse and Steve Cuden, is a good musical. And yet, if you've read my blog for a while, you know I also call Jekyll & Hyde one of my top three favourite musicals of all times.

That is solely because of Turun kaupunginteatteri's 2013–14 production, directed by Tuomas Parkkinen. That production did the impossible: it turned a terrible script into a magical experience that has haunted and inspired me ever since. It wasn't by any means perfect, but somehow, the elements clicked together so well that the whole was ten times more than the sum of its parts. With tweaks and additions to the script, with unique directional choices and top-notch casting, and with help from gorgeous visuals, Parkkinen was able to lift the production way, way above the mediocre source material.

After seeing the Turku production, I've been watching bootlegs to find another Jekyll & Hyde I'd really enjoy. So far, no such luck. The productions I've watched are laden with directional clichés and tacky performances – and yet, I keep watching. I know there is potential. I want to see the show saved again. It's a true love-hate relationship with a strong obsessive streak.

This autumn in Finland, the miracle almost happens again. Jyväskylän kaupunginteatteri's Jekyll & Hyde avoids many of the clichés and does many things right. And yet, it is no more than a good production of a lacking musical.

Let's again start with the bad things.

Jyväskylän kaupunginteatteri's Jekyll & Hyde is imbalanced. The first act is moves at a good pace, it's filled with interesting details and fun to watch. The second act falls quite flat. After the intermission, the show suddenly feels slow, boring and laughably melodramatic, even for the gothic horror genre.

I was especially disappointed with the scene that culminates the second act, Jekyll and Hyde's duet Confrontation.

A duet in between two sides of the same man, it's a hard scene to get exactly right – but it's as if this production didn't even try. Common tricks for distinguishing whether it's Jekyll or Hyde singing include changing the lights or the actor varying his posture or even flipping his hair back and forth... Here, none of that. I suppose leading man Henri Halkola did his best, but even so, I really had a hard time telling which one was supposed to be singing.

Actually, Confrontation was not the only time I had difficulties telling the titular characters apart. Maybe director Anssi Valtonen was trying to make a point, underlining the two-sides-of-the-same-coin aspect of the characters – but I believe a more clear distinction would work better onstage.

Then the good things.

Saara Jokiaho and Maria Lund as Jekyll and Hyde's respective girlfriends, the upper-class Emma and prostitute Lucy, add as much personality and thought into their underwritten characters as humanly possible. The female leads are in a perfect balance, both shining but neither overshadowing the other. One of the finest Emma and Lucy duos I've had the fortune of watching.

I also really enjoyed Hannu Lintukoski's Utterson. In international productions, Jekyll's friend and lawyer is too often portrayed as a living, breathing piece of scenery Jekyll can open his heart to. Luckily not here! Lintukoski's performance is a good mix of comic relief and old-fashioned gentleman, calm manners and heartrending worry for his friend. Loyal to the very end, everyone would be lucky to have a friend like him.

The show looks lovely. Marjatta Kuivasto's sets and Merja Levo's costumes create a pretty, steampunk-inspired world for the characters to explore. I especially like Emma's bright turquoise costume and pilot glasses perched on top of her hat. The often overshadowed character makes a visual impression from the first moment. Just by looking at her, you can tell she spends her free nights cruising the streets of London in her state-of-the-art steam-powered car!

The direction emphasises some aspects that usually get overshadowed. I especially liked Hyde and Lucy's relationship... though I wonder if like is the right word to use. I mean to say I was both terrified and fascinated. Hyde's calm abuse is scary to watch. I also applaud Halkola's efforts at painting Jekyll as a three-dimensional character, with both good and bad qualities, though his hands are somewhat tied by the script's Henry Jekyll is a perfect saint point of view.

The first act has a perfect light tongue-in-the-cheek tone. The show doesn't take itself too seriously and is peppered with dashes of humor. For me, that's the best way of making a heavy melodrama like this enjoyable.

I'm glad I saw Jyväskylän kaupunginteatteri's production of Jekyll & Hyde. I will go see it again.

I can tell the creative team has thought about the story a lot, the production is clearly made with love. It's a fine take on the source material – but in the end, my problems with said source material hinder my enjoyment. The show is well worth seeing for all its good aspects and very entertaining, more entertaining than any of the international bootlegs I've watched. But it's still Jekyll & Hyde the musical.

For better and for worse.

Edited to add 2/12/2015: I'm having second thoughts. Read my addendum to this review.

Photos by Jiri Halttunen.
Keskisuomalaisen kriitikko Aino Martiskainen tylyttää tiukasti – mutta aiheesta. Mielipiteeni käsikirjoituksesta tiivistyvät täydelleen Martiskaisen arvostelussa.
Suomeksi muissa blogeissa: Melodrama and Sweet Champagne, One Night in Theatre, Varje dag är en dag för musikaler

Sunday, September 6, 2015


Dear international readers: this post is about Finnish musical translations. It's inspired by a new Finnish production of A Little Night Music. Read more about that in English.

Miten ihana, miten harvinainen tunne oli istua Tampereen Työväen Teatterin Desirée – Pieni yösoitto (A Little Night Music) -ensi-illassa Juice Leskisen kääntämiä Stephen Sondheimin lyriikoita kuuntelemassa.

Musikaalihahmoilla oli toisilleen ja yleisölle paljon kerrottavaa. Laulunsanat vilisivät sisältöä, asiaa, huumoria, kaksoismerkityksiä. Katsoja sai oikein odottaa, mitä laulussa seuraavaksi sanotaan. Penkissä ei tarvinnut kärvistellä myötähäpeän kourissa eikä naureskella tahattoman kaksimielisiä sanavalintoja. Sen sijaan sanottua täytyi ajatella ja pureskella.

Fiilis oli outo. Keskimääräisen suomalaisen musikaalikäännöksen voi nimittäin päästää toisesta korvasta suoraan toisen kautta ulos juuri mitään menettämättä. Kovin usein suomennos tarjoaa oivallusten sijaan itsestäänselvyyksiä.

Esimerkki. Monet fanit riemuitsivat Kansallisoopperan erikoisesta päätöksestä jättää Oopperan kummitus -musikaali kääntämättä. Mielestäni reaktio kertoo paljon siitä, millaiseksi suomalaisten musikaalikäännösten laatu koetaan.

Toki musikaalien alkuteksteissäkin on hurjia eroja. Esimerkiksi Sondheim tai Tim Rice tarjoilevat kuuntelijalle lyyrisiä koukkuja, kun taas vaikkapa säveltäjä Frank Wildhornin Jekyll & Hyde -työpari Leslie Bricusse luottaa musiikin voimaan ja täyttää laulut latteuksilla. Mielestäni jälkimmäisen kaltaisessa tapauksessa on hyväksyttävää, jos taitava kääntäjä jopa lisää tekstiin hieman sisältöä.

Käänteinen ilmiö on kuitenkin yleisempi. Jo alkujaan löysähköt tekstit löystyvät usein suomennettaessa entisestään, ja vähäisetkin syvällisyydet muuttavat muotoa ja katoavat. Ammattikääntäjiä käytetään ikävän harvoin tehtävässä, joka kuuluisi antaa heidän käsiinsä joka kerta.

Otetaan esimerkiksi vanha inhokkini, Jukka Virtasen Les Misérables -käännös. Kääntäjä Kristiina Drewsin kanssa useita musikaaleja suomentanut Virtanen on monen mielestä lahjakas sanoittaja ja minunkin mielestäni koomisten musikaalisanoitusten konkari – esimerkiksi Virtasen Chicagossa on monta hykerryttävän hauskaa heittoa. Mutta kun samalla hupityylillä ei millään voi painaa kolme- ja puolituntisen kurjuuden ylistyslaulun lävitse. En vieläkään ymmärrä, miten kyseinen räpellys on kehdattu esittää ammattilavoilla jo kahteen kertaan.

Virtasen Kurjissa barrikadilla koetaan yllättäviä eroottisia hetkiä.

Tämä ei ole yksittäistapaus. Tuntuu, että tyylitaju on suomalaisella musikaalikäännöskentällä keskimäärin kadoksissa.

Ja kun tällaista puuroa syötetään yleisölle tarpeeksi paljon, ei enää osata vaatia parempaa. Aamulehden kriitikko Anne Välinoro ampuu täyslaidallisen Juicen Desirée-käännöstä suomiessaan:
Joku tässä kuitenkin nyt tyylillisesti mättää. Väitän, että vika on pitkälti Juicen käännöksen ja sanoituksen. Välillä repliikit on lastattu umpitäyteen, välillä asiat sanotaan töksäyttäen ja alapäävireisiä mauttomuuksiakaan kaihtamatta. (Aamulehti)
Uskomatonta puhetta.

Desirée-käännöksessään englannin kielen kääntämistä opiskellut Juice yrittää esittää suomeksi Stephen Sondheimin polveilevat, monimielisyyksiä pursuavat alkuperäislyriikat. Tietenkään joka säe ei ole täydellinen. Paljon jää suomeksi sanomatta ja moni ajatus muuttuu matkan varrella – mutta Juice tekee silti todella hienoa työtä taidokkaista sanoituksistaan tunnetun Sondheimin tekstiä suomeksi tulkitessaan.

Väittääkö Välinoro siis tosissaan, että Juicen olisi pitänyt meitä yksinkertaisia suomalaisia varten yksinkertaistaa ja sensuroida alkutekstin sisältöä?

Ei puhenäytelmäänkään mennä tuijottamaan näyttelijöitä lasittunein silmin vuorosanoista välittämättä ja toivota sitten lopuksi, että hahmoilla olisi ollut vähemmän sanottavaa. Ihmeellistä, että tällaista tyhmistämistä suorastaan kaivataan musikaaleilta.

Minä väitän, että tässä maassa ollaan yksinkertaisesti kriitikosta rivikatsojaan niin tottuneita kelvottomiin ja kädenlämpöisiin käännöksiin, että hyvän käännöksen kuunteleminen tuntuu työltä. Kas kun sitä pitää todella kuunnella. Keskittyä ja ajatella. Hyvin käännetty musikaali ei ole pelkkää musiikki-ilottelua, vaan kappaleiden sanoista voi – hyvänen aika sentään – paljastua syvällisiä ajatuksia! Tämä on niin harvinaista, että se hämmentää jopa ammattiarvostelijan.

Haluaisin siis esittää kaikille suomalaisille teattereille pyynnön: panostakaa musikaalikäännöksiin.

Osaavien tekijöiden puutteesta ei ole kyse. Juice on poistunut keskuudestamme, mutta taitavia kääntäjiä löytyy maastamme kyllä. Itse haluaisin nostaa hattuani Seinäjoen kaupunginteatterissa esitetyn Vampyyrien tanssi -musikaalin kääntäneelle Marika Hakolalle. Hakolan upeaa käännöstä kuunnellessani unohdin täysin, ettei musikaalia ollut alun alkujaan kirjoitettu suomeksi.

Hyvä käännös ei ole ylimääräinen menoerä vaan tärkeä tapa tehdä alkuperäisteokselle oikeutta suomalaisen yleisön korvissa.

Panostakaa siihen.

Loppukaneetti: myönnän, että aina en välitä tekstistä. Juuri viime kuussa Rocky-musikaali tärähti suoraan sydämeen ilman yhtäkään ymmärrettyä lyriikkaa. Olkoon tämä säännön vahvistava poikkeus – ja jos Rocky joskus tuodaan Suomeen, se on paras kääntää tavattoman huolellisesti, jotta minäkin viimein ymmärrän!

Night Music

Please note: Tampereen Työväen Teatteri invited me to see the premiere of this production for free.

A Little Night Music – or, in Finnish, Desirée – Pieni yösoitto – is a hard musical to summarise. I think the best way to go is a chart. I already used this in my preview post of Tampereen Työväen Teatteri's new production of the show, but I shall recap here.

Take this combination of characters, enclose them in a country manor for a weekend, and see what happens.

A Stephen Sondheim musical based on Ingmar Bergman's movie Smiles of a Summer Night, A Little Night Music is sort of a romantic musical farce with a cutting edge – whipped cream mixed with razorblades, it has been described. The characters are all looking for love, and everyone feels trapped in their own way. Finally, the tensions unravel during a midsummer night.

I'm not a big Sondheim buff, but A Little Night Music is actually one of my all-time favourite musicals. I'm glad to see it return to Finland.

And as always with favourite things, let's discuss the bad things first.

My biggest problem with Tampereen Työväen Teatteri's production is the characterisation of Anne Egerman. Anne is middle-aged Fredrik Egerman's 19-year-old wife. The bubbly young woman charms the whole Egerman household: Henrik, Fredrik's son from a previous marriage, is also head over heels in love with her.

Anne is written as childish and immature, but sadly, Miika Muranen's direction turns her into a brat. Anna-Elisa Hannula is lovely whenever she has a somber moment, but those are few and far in between. For the most part, she is no more than an annoying kid. I really don't get what the Egerman men see in her.

In general, Muranen's direction underlines certain jokes and parts of the script too heavily. During some scenes, it felt like the director didn't quite trust the text. A shame, since Juice Leskinen's Finnish translation of Hugh Wheeler's book and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics is a fine one and could certainly get the point across without any extra action.

In the premiere, the first half of the first act still felt a little clumsy, I guess simply because of opening night nerves. The further the show progressed, the better it got. Things were underlined less, the pace got faster.

By the end of the first act, I was laughing out loud, and by the end of the second one, wiping tears. During the second act, I don't think I stopped to mentally nitpick once. I just watched and enjoyed.

The cast is a perfect fit. Sparks fly in between the leading couple, Veeti Kallio's Fredrik and Petra Karjalainen's Desirée, and the secondary couples deliver too. Not to mention the choir, commenting on the follies of the idle upper class leads with a beautiful mix of voices.

Once again, my favourite actor Severi Saarinen is fantastic in his role, this time as the timid and inhibited priest-to-be Henrik. I believe he could act whichever part and I would be completely invested – of course he turns Henrik, a character I didn't much care for before, into one I cannot tear my eyes off of. Exactly what I expected would happen, really.

Another true highlight is Tuire Salenius's Madame Armfeldt. The character doesn't have plenty of time onstage, but Salenius makes every second count, timing her jokes perfectly. Love her!

Visually, the production is stunning. I was amazed from the very first minute. Tarja Lapintie's costumes with their delicious candy colours, Eero Auvinen's beautiful lights and Hannu Lindholm's grand sets bring a bright dash of midsummer magic into the darkening autumn.

I applaud Tampereen Työväen Teatteri for choosing A Little Night Music as their big musical for the autumn of 2015. It's clever, funny, touching, brilliant, and – apart from a couple of nitpicks – beautifully executed.

I've a feeling I'm going to watch the musical several times more. And if you happen to be visiting Tampere this autumn, I recommend you'll take a look too.

Photos by Kari Sunnari.
Lisää Juicen käännöksestä suomeksi.
Lue myös Katrin, Lauran ja Tallen arvostelut.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Hoodie Story

Being a musical fan for over six years, you're bound to amass some souvenirs. That's what has happened to me, at least: slowly but surely, my apartment has turned into a musical shrine.

I have folders full of souvenir programmes and shelves stuffed with cast recordings. My walls are covered with theatre posters. Once, I even commissioned handmade little dolls of my favourite musical characters – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Utterson from the first Finnish production of Jekyll & Hyde – from a talented online friend.

Precious, are they not?

However. These are all nice things to own, fun stuff to decorate my apartment with, but no more than that (maybe apart from the dolls, I think I would save them if the house was on fire). The most important thing in theatre is of course the experience itself. The performaces, the music, the stories told onstage... Everything else is extra. If I had to choose, I'd much rather spend my money on a new theatre ticket than any trinket from a souvenir stand.

Except for the Rocky hoodie.

I went to see Rocky the musical with no high expectations, looking forward an entertaining performance and nothing more. Killing time in the theatre's foyer before the performance, I took a look at the souvenir stand. Overpriced t-shirts and silly keychains shaped like boxing gloves. Who needs any of this! Nothing here for me.

After the show, I was too excited to think about anything as mundane as purchasing merchandise. The show had blown my mind. I was bursting with joy and excitement and also happy about getting to stagedoor the stars – something a Finnish theatre fan doesn't often get to do.

But rushing happily towards the stagedoor, something displayed in the souvenir stand caught my eye. A black hoodie, with the musical's logo printed on the back in a different shade of black. Quite stylish for a souvenir... and at 40 €, worth a ticket to a Finnish musical performace. Quickly, I told myself I had been spending more than enough money during the trip already, and besides, I have a closet full of hoodies back home. Then I left the theatre for the stagedoor.

Getting to meet the show's leading actor Drew Sarich cleared the hoodie out of my mind for the night. But in the morning, I remembered it.

During the next two days, me and my travelling companion Lida walked in parks, went to The International Maritime Museum, watched the Hamburg Pride parade and visited the huge fairground Hamburger Dom. All this time, the hoodie haunted my mind. Hardly an hour passed without me thinking about it, no matter where we went or what we did.

Watching this sunset from our hotel room
window could not distract me.

In less than 24 hours, the piece of clothing turned into a burning obsession.

I tried the money approach. I told myself I would regret it. I could buy a musical ticket with that money back home. Or two perfectly fine new hoodies from some clothing chain. I reminded myself my credit card balance was in the red already.

I tried the fashion sense approach. Who wants to wear a black hoodie when all the colours of the rainbow exist! Besides, the letters on the back will fade away, probably in the first wash.

I even tried talking sense to my suddenly obsessed brain. Would I really want to walk around advertsing, of all things, Rocky the Musical? Boxing, sports movies? Totally not my things. It would just attract weird looks.

No use.

After a day, I thought about the hoodie four times more often than I thought about the musical itself.

After a day and a half, I cracked.

I told my friend Lida – using, angered at my own lack of self-control, rather more colourful language than I usually do – that I was going to take the underground to the theatre. The Sunday matinee had just started, so the souvenir stand should be open, during intermission at least. If I had to, I would sit on the steps outside the theatre until the show was over. I would not return without a Rocky hoodie.

I went to the theatre.

The following discussion in between me and the theatre's doorkeeper, an older gentleman, ensued:

Me: “I saw this show two days ago and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. So I would really want to buy something to remember it by. Does the souvenir stand open soon?”
Him: “Have you been having nightmares?”
Me: “What? No! I meant that I loved the show.”
Him: “Are you serious? This show is trash."

A moment's pause.

Him: "But the souvenir stand does open in twenty minutes."

I have never regretted a purchase less.
P.S. Listen to my favourite song from Rocky the Musical.