Sunday, August 26, 2012

Too much heaven on their minds

Jesus Christ Superstar in concert, 24.8.2012
Sibelius hall, Lahti
Hannu Lepola, Sami Hintsanen, Saara Aalto, Juha Kotilainen, Sam Huber, Anssi Valikainen and the the ensemble

I have many feelings when people say me something about Jesus andreligion as I'm an atheist. I had tried to listen to the music of Jesus Christ Superstar earlier but because I had no idea what was exactly happening, I didn't find it so amazing. So when I bought my ticket to see the concert version I just thought that maybe now it's time to try to understand this musical.
I love Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals, but after seeing some parts of JCS on YouTube I wasn't so sure I would like this. I'm glad it proved me wrong. Musical about the life of Jesus and his death doesn't sound so interesting to me, because these things have never interested me.

There was only two weak links in the cast: Saara Aalto as Mary Magdalene and Sami Hintsanen as Judas. Both of them have good voices, but Aalto is more a singer than an actress so she wasn't so good. Sami Hintsanen's voice impressed me, it was better than I thought it would be but he didn't make me feel for Judas at all. Hopefully he will show me his acting skills when I'll see him in the Blood Brothers in few weeks.
Hannu Lepola was amazing as Jesus, I loved his Gethesemane, it was only time during the show when I noticed tears on my cheeks.
But if there wa sone who really got me, it was Anssi Valikainen as Pilate. His voice was great and you could see how he struggled inside while making hard decisions. Great acting skills and his voice was amazing!

This show was great and showed me a different side of he story I've known for a long time but never been really into it. This was just a concert version, so no big sets or anything. Hopefully this musical will come back to Finland as a full staged production.

Friday, August 10, 2012

En helt ny värld

Aladdin - the bilingual version, the premiere 9.8.2012
Director: Samuel Harjanne
Jon-Jon Geitel, Anna Victoria Eriksson, Hanna Mönkäre, Antti LJ Pääkkönen, Markku Nenonen, Ville Erola, Soile Ojala, Jerry Wahlforss, Juha Pihanen, Jucci Hellström and the ensemble   

It was February when I heard that Aladdin comes to Finland as a bilingual production. I booked my tickets to the premiere as soon as I could and got seat from the first row.

Aladdin - the bilingual version is the first production of Polar Illusions and it had its premiere yesterday at Aleksanterin teatteri (Alexander's theatre) in Helsinki. It's based on the classic Disney film Aladdin which made me really interested in this production as a Disney fan.

The story is basically the same as in the movie. Aladdin is a street rat who falls in love with princess Jasmine. Jasmine must get married with a prince but she wants to make her mind by herself. She runs away from the palace, meets Aladdin and falls in love. The villain is Jafar, thegrand vizier of the Sultan. Jafar wants to get the magic lamp to become a sultan. Aladdin happens to find the lamp and he meets Genie, who makes him a prince to win Jasmine's heart.
Aladdin and Jasmine live in different worlds but the musical makes it even harder to them to get together. Jafar had wished the Genie that the people of Agrabah can't understand each other because they speak different languages. Jafar and some animals are the only ones who can speak both languages. Aladdin and other people "ordinary" people speak Finnish as people in palace speak Swedish.

The cast was absolutely great! Jon-Jon Geitel was great as Aladdin. I know many people who had crush on Aladdin thanks to the amazing Finnish dub and personally I think Geitel did wonderful job to make the character as lovable as he was in the movie. Anna Victoria Eriksson had previously convinced me as her potrayal of Éponine in Åbo Svenska Teater's Les Misérables where she did the role as the understudy. She did not dissapoint as Jasmine. Her potrayal was beautiful as a princess who wants to make her own decisions. Too bad Jasmine didn't have her own song, I would have like dto hear more of her beautiful voice.
Markku Nenonen made the role of Jafar in a different way as I wished. It's not a bad thing but it made me confused. Jafar was mysterious and evil in the movie. Nenonen's Jafar was more like a comical character which made me laugh. I don't think that's the best way to make this great villain but somehow it worked quite well.

Genie is a character which has been the favourite of mine since the very first time I saw Aladdin mostly thanks to Vesa-Matti Loiri who made the character his own in the Finnish dub. Antti LJ Pääkkönen did well with this iconic role. The character is absolutely hilarious but he has something he wants to become true someday - his own wish. Sadly some of the best jokes of Genie which I remebered from the Finnish dub had been cut in this musical. No baklava nor "ryhmäkuvaan, kimppakivaa!" Even without these jokes Genie was the best of this musical.
Jerry Wahlforss was absolutely hilarious as Jago, I really enjoyed every moment he was on stage. Juha Pihanen was great as the sultan as well as Hanna Mönkäre as Abu.

The show looked very good. Costumes worked well and they were beautiful. Because the musical was based on the Disney film, it was a good decision to make it look like it too. The set was quite simple but it worked well and looked good.

But after all the good things, there was something that wasn't so good. The script didn't use two languages very well. There were few moments when it worked well but basically it could have been possible to use both languages in a better way. The script had some bits and pieces that didn't work well at all and it was the weakest link of the musical.
I would have liked to hear more new songs. We got Jafar singing some new songs but they weren't that good. They weren't like the greatest villain songs of Disney (like Poor Unfortunate Souls from The Little Mermaid or Hellfire from The Hunchback of Notre Dame).

After all the show was great when you forget to think about the weaknesses script and how you would like to more of the evil side of Jafar. Like the director Samuel Harjanne says "This musical is made for the children and all those who have been children once."

Pictures © Matti Rajala