When people think of musicals, Germany isn’t usually the first country to come to mind. People tend to focus on London’s West End or New York’s Broadway. But the past decade, Germans have been bit with the musical bug.
"The Lion King" has taken Hamburg by storm since opening there nearly two years ago.
On Sunday, Elton John and Tim Rice’s modern-day retelling of the classic opera " Aida," had its premiere at the Colosseum in Essen. The opening is part of a €68 million investment plan by the Netherlands-based Stage Holding, a company that operates musicals across Germany and plans to invest an additional €63 million through mid-1994.
The company, owned by charismatic Dutch businessman Joop van den Ende, holds international licensing agreements to lucrative Disney musicals as well as those of other major Broadway producers and is responsible for a string of the biggest productions opening in Germany this fall. Ende and a handful of other musical promotors want to transform Germany into a powerhouse on the international theater scene.
In addition to the musicals it has licensed, like "Aida," (photo) Stage Holding has also staged original musicals including the hit " Elisabeth," about the life of the Austria-Hungarian empress Elisabeth, whose fairy tale princess mythology was debunked by the recent discovery of her diaries, which outlined the severe depression that dogged her until her assassination. It may sound like a downer, but it was a massive hit with German audiences. Next spring, the company will mount " Changes," a musical chronicling Berlin after the fall of the Wall.
To kick off the fall season of musical premieres, DW-WORLD has rounded up a quick guide to the season’s newest crowd pleasers as well as those that have been drawing audiences in Germany for longer. A note to visitors: most of the musicals are performed in German, but the tunes are familiar and will have anyone humming along.
Operettenhaus Stage Holding
The northern port city of Hamburg is the indisputable capital of the German musical scene. " Mamma Mia," penned by ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus and set to the band's addictive music, plays at the city’s Operettenhaus, located in the middle of the Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s original den of sin.
Plakat König der Löwen Stage Holding Disneys
Set directly on the Elbe River overlooking Hamburg’s massive harbor, the Theater im Hafen is home to Disney’s wildly successful " The Lion King," scored by Elton John and Tim Rice and staged and costumed by eccentric New York director Julie Taymor, whose almost folkloric staging of the coming of age story of a lion cub has won universal acclaim.
The Neue Flora Theater is home to the Tony Award-winning " Titanic: The Musical," an epic drama chronicling the doomed maiden voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic. In December, the musical will be replaced by " Dance of the Vampire," by Oscar-winning director Roman Polanksi. The show already enjoyed a successful three-year run in Stuttgart.
The spectacular Theater des Westens, once West Berlin’s most-glamorous theatrical address and now a crowning feather in the reunified city, is home to " Les Miserables," the crowd favorite that opened in Germany at the end of September. The Cameron Mackintosh musical is based on the Victor Hugo novel of the same title and follows the fugitive Jean Valjean on a lifelong mission to evade capture from the cruel Inspector Javert.
T.S. Elliot’s "Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats" leaps into life in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s " Cats." The longest-running musical in history is playing at the Theater am Potsdamer Platz in the capital city’s reconceived urban center, bringing feline intrigue to audiences six nights a week. But in early 2004, Staging Company plans to open up a show at the theater based on the Chicago-based " Blue Man Group" troupe of comedians.
For 15 years, the cast of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s space age version of "The Little Engine that Could," " Starlight Express," have been strapping on their roller skates and pleasing audiences in a classic tale of David vs. Goliath. Young engine Rusty, built of outdated parts, must race against the macho Diesel Greaseball, in the world’s first musical to take place entirely on roller skates.
Plakat Aida Elton John & Tim Rice Stage Holding
" Jeckyll & Hyde," the musical staging of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella "The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde," tells the story of Dr. Henry Jeckyll – a doctor and scientist who, grieving from his father’s mental illness, seeks to isolate the good and evil in human beings. His failed experiment results in the creation of his alter ego: the evil Edward Hyde. The Frank Wildhorn musical became the toast of Broadway and was nominated for four Tony Awards. Today, crowds at Cologne’s Musical Dome along the Rhine River fall for its spell.
A musical about a musical, the lead character of " 42nd Street" is the young ingenue Peggy Sawyer, a small-town girl who sets off the New York for her big break. She gets it, literally, when the star of "Pretty Lady" breaks her ankle and the lead role is given to Sawyer. The show becomes a hit and Sawyer is catapulted to the ranks of the stars. The curtain will rise on "42nd Street" at Stuttgart’s Apollo Theater on Nov. 21.
Disney’s loose musical rendition of the classic opera " Aida," by Elton John and Tim Rice kicked off at Essen’s historical landmark Colosseum the first weekend of October. The story sends a modern day couple visiting an Egyptian exhibition back to the times of the Nubian princess Aida. After her capture, the princess falls in love with the soldier Radames, but their relationship is fraught with peril.