Ramones Reincarnated as Musical Muses | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 15.05.2005
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Ramones Reincarnated as Musical Muses

Dubbed by its creators as "Grease on Acid", a new musical entitled "Gabba Gabba Hey!" tells the rock and rock story of US punk initiators, The Ramones. And it's hit the stage in Berlin.


A comeback with all the potential to become cult kitsch.

Big news back in the golden era of the seventies rock scene, The Ramones put a new spin on the old concept of anarchy as they crashed into the psyche of a generation looking for a new way to rebel.

Their self-titled debut album, released in 1976, was the first example of punk rock, making them the first of their kind, and the creators of a genre often more widely associated with the Sex Pistols.

By way of testimony to their anarchic achievements, the band has become further immortalized the form of a musical.

Super sceptical

It's not exactly an obvious way of preserving a punk legacy, but after digesting his initial disgust at such a sacrilegious suggestion, Jörg Buttgeriet, the director of the German version of "Gabba Gabba Hey" decided it might be right up his street.

Punkrock Musical Gabba Gabba Hey in Berlin

Director Jörg Buttgereit (l), Tommy Ramone (r)

Buttgeriet, who is a bit of a cult figure in the world of trash horror movies, ultimately decided that his lack of experience in the musical genre was just the thing to make the project credible. "I have no idea about musicals, but I'm just going to do it. And that's punk rock," he said.

The show, which includes 18 of the band's songs and is packaged in the form of an edgy love story, promises to be emotional, romantic, wild and rebellious -- all in keeping with the casting and rehearsals procedure.

Lead actor, Rolf Zacher, was brought in the last minute to cover for Martin Semmelrogge, who is reported to have pulled out in order to serve a prison sentence.

The ensemble also includes two musical novices who secured their roles after applying through a Berlin city magazine. Rehearsals only started a couple of days before the opening night on Tuesday.

An ambient thing

It's actually not an attitude thing. Rather, it's part of Buttgeriet's master plan on how to deliver the audience a natural and spontaneous atmosphere. "I want to portray a mood of nonchalance, of matter-of-factness which they used to take onto stage with them when they were just being musicians," he told the dpa news agency.

Being musicians in this case is the band "Forgotten Idols" who do justice to the wild, rebellious and even emotional moments in the original songs.

The Ramones

The original Ramones

Tommy Ramone is the only surviving member of the original four-man line-up, and he's working on the project as musical advisor. "Modern musicals are neither hip nor creative. We want to give them their energy back," he said.

And he is certain that his fellow band members would have had derived the same fun from the project as him. "Joey would love it, Dee Dee would think it amusing and Johnny would say: "As long as it makes some money!"

The show, which premiered in Australia last year, is playing twelve dates in Berlin before heading off on tour around Germany. Rock on.

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