There are some great shows that happened outside of the Broadway sphere over the past few years - why should we miss out?
By Joanna Syiek (Director/Producer/Blogger)
Outside of the much talked about German musical Rebecca nearly making it and soon-to-arrive Ahrens and Flaherty's Rocky (premiered in Deutschland), Broadway's hasn't opted to bring many all too many international shows into its inner circle. Let's leave UK aside for a moment since we tend to borrow and share with the West End with ease. Instead we'll take a look at those shows that premiered in another language entirely whose productions are arresting, interesting and deserve a little attention from the US.
Robert Wilson's/Rufus Wainwright's Shakespeare's Sonnets - Germany
This incredibly distinctive production from director Bob Wilson with music by Rufus Wainwright featured gender reversal, shadowplay, unforgettable makeup, and of course nods to Brecht and Weill (of Threepenny Opera fame). More please.
Mozart l'Opera Rock - France
I love a musical that throws all caution to the wind. When thinking of Mozart, the notion of early rock-star may not come to mind. A child prodigy, yes. A whiz on the ivories, no doubt. But emo-rock sex symbol? The creative team behind Mozart l’Opera Rock certainly thought so; they re-envisioned his life for the stage and took France by storm. This cheeky single became one of the show’s most popular anthems. The song follows Wolfgang as he attempts to distribute his music and find a job in Paris. The lyrics dabble with sexual wordplay (somewhat evident, though undoubtedly less subtle, in the English subtitles available on this version).
Rag - Sri Lanka
No video for this one, but the concept sounds noble and thrilling. The most recent hit out of the country is a new musical by Jehan Aloysius entitled ‘Rag’ which grapples with the divisive practice of ragging – a ritual seen by some as an equalizing activity, and by others as worse than bullying and hazing. Ragging is typically enforced by senior students on younger ones and includes forced consumption of alcohol, insects, and/or chemicals, physical exertion to the point of organ failure, and an assortment of humiliating activities meant to break the newcomers upon their arrival. The show’s creator, director, composer and lead actor, Aloysius, had been developing the show for more than ten years, sparked by his own experiences with ragging at university. When Aloysius first received his university acceptance letter he was filled with dread and hid it from his mother. Four months later she found it, and off to school he went. During his eventual ragging, he was spared some of the worst practices but he says that his classmates underwent processes worse than what he could have imagined. Some of these events have made their way into the show. While the show circles instances of rape, discrimination, shame and suicide, the writer’s efforts to reveal the darker side of university life ultimately provide for a cathartic experience.
Aloysius sought out a cast who had experienced ragging first-hand and after auditioning 250 people, he assembled his lead cast of 12. The story follows the creator’s character, Joseph, who starts a non-violent anti-ragging movement which runs into opposing forces who say it must be violently resisted. The result is an empowering musical that’s breaking boundaries abroad.
JOANNA SYIEK is a Los Angeles-based music junkie with a penchant for long road trips, original theatre work, clean graphic design, and really good Indian food. She directs around the City of Angels and writes about nourishing creativity, Broadway favorites, and talent obsessions over on her blogging home. www.thoughtsontheatre.wordpress.com
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