Sunday, August 16, 2015

Autumn Musicals

Hello in English again! Who's seen plenty of outdoor theatre this summer? I sure have. My summer theatre tour encompassed eight outdoor productions, and honestly, that's quite enough for me... Summer's all nice and good, but having had my toes frozen and my skin burned while watching outdoor shows, I think it's about time for some indoor culture again.

Tradition dictates that my summer theatre season is over when Helsingin kaupunginteatteri invites me to their autumn season opening gala. Luckily, that happened last Monday. This year, the event focused on the theatre's upcoming production of Billy Elliot.

The Stars Look Down

I have seen Billy Elliot once, in West End some six years ago. I like the story and had a nice enough time, but I'm not a fan. In general, Elton John's music is not to my liking. I'm looking forward to seeing what Helsingin kaupunginteatteri does with the material, and based on the sneak peeks we saw in the theatre's season opening gala, I might enjoy the show better here than in London. Still, I doubt I'll fall in love with the musical. But we'll see!

What am I really looking forward to seeing in the autumn of 2015, then?

Jekyll & Hyde... or Emma & Lucy!

First of all, Jyväskylän kaupunginteatteri's production of Jekyll & Hyde. Of course. After the huge impression the first Finnish production of said musical left, I am beyond curious to see what another theatre can do with it. Based on promotional photos so far, the steampunk-ish visuals look great. I have my worries about the script, but even so, I am counting days to the premiere.

Secondly, Desirée or A Little Night Music in Tampereen Työväen Teatteri. You can read more about my thoughts in my previous post from February. In short: a good musical performed by a promising cast directed by someone whose previous works I've enjoyed. In all likelihood, something to enjoy.

The Phantom of the National Opera

Thirdly, Finnish National Opera's The Phantom of the Opera. The world's favourite musical finally arrives to my country, how could I not be curious about it! Well, the production has some aspects I'm not excited about, like keeping the libretto in English though a vast majority of the cast speak Finnish. I'm also not a fan of some of director Tiina Puumalainen's previous musical productions. But on the other hand – it'll be a brand-new production of a musical whose original production and countless replicas I'm, to be honest, completely fed up with. I'm excited to see which aspects of the familiar story the Finnish production decides to focus on.

Bonus mention to Tampereen Teatteri's upcoming production of Sugar. Some Like It Hot is one of my favourite movies. I know nothing about the musical, so I'm both curious about it and certain I won't like the stage show as much as I like the film...

I will also try to fit some all-Finnish musicals into my autumn schedule. Åbo Svenska Teater and Lahden kaupunginteatteri are both staging their own versions of Myrskyluodon Maija, a Finnish musical set in mid-19th century Åland Islands. It's always interesting to compare how two theatres handle the same material. These two theatres especially – they already produced two completely different productions of Hair at the same time in 2012.

Lahden kaupunginteatteri's Myrskyluodon Maija

Finally, one more reason I both look forward and dread seeing Billy Elliot.

I don't often cry in theatre. Music especially doesn't make me cry. Sometimes I tear up if a story touches me, but only a small handful of songs have ever managed to squeeze tears out of me.

One of those is Billy Elliot's The Letter. Billy's dance teacher Mrs. Wilkinson reads a letter Billy's mother wrote to her son before her death. I don't relate to the song, I don't identify with Billy as a character, I don't even especially like the tune – but something here completely breaks me. In West End, I couldn't see the stage from my tears. The kids sitting next to me turned to look at my uncontrolled display of emotion instead of watching the actors. I have cried listening to this on online musical radio. Heaven knows how I managed to film the scene without crying, but watching it, I cannot get past the point where Billy starts singing without tearing up.

Please don't laugh at me if I turn into a human waterfall when seeing Billy Elliot live.

Photos by Jiri Halttunen / Marjo Vihavainen (Jyväskylän kaupunginteatteri), Perttu Saksa (Finnish National Opera), Johannes Wilenius (Lahden kaupunginteatteri). As always, hover over the photos for info.


  1. Well I'm literally crying right now as I'm watching the video of The Letter, so definitely no judgement from me XD Then again you already know I'm a walking waterfall when it comes to most musicals, so that might not mean much :'DD

    I have pretty mixed feelings when it comes to Billy Elliot, It's like, I don't really care for most of the songs, but the ones that get to me get to me HARD. The Letter and Once We Were Kings make me cry almost without exception and Stars Look Down and Solidarity also really work for me. It's this fascinating thing where I either quite dislike or REALLY really like every song, there is no inbetween. So I'm looking forward to seeing how seeing it live will affect me!

    1. Heh, that makes me feel a bit better... Though who knows, maybe half of the audience was actually crying with me, I just happened to be surrounded by a whole class of distracted kids!

      Solidarity works for me too – in the sense that I've only ever heard it once, the time I saw the show live, and it's been playing in my head on and off ever since. For SIX YEARS. I'm more than a little terrified of hearing it live again.

  2. Sounds like fun. I'm looking forward to reading about them here. :)