But what is a theatre consert?
Defying categorisation at all costs, Danish director Nikolaj Cederholm introduces his pioneering ‘theatre concert’ ahead of its arrival in our Theatre this April…
“When we worked on our latest production in Norway, Theatre Concert Beethoven, our photographer said that his first experience of a theatre concert ‘was like going to Rome for the first time, or like arriving in a city I’d never been before’. That made me smile!
When we perform to brand new audiences, who have no idea what to expect from our shows, the reaction is usually quite similar. For the first fifteen minutes, there is an uncertain silence in the auditorium, as they work hard to fathom what they are experiencing. And then, at the twenty-minute mark, there is a shift: they suddenly get it.
The relief can be felt in their reaction: laughter, gasps, spontaneous applause. They think: ‘ok, it’s strange, but it’s funny; it’s different, but it’s good!’ They allow themselves to be seduced by this new experience, and by the end give us a standing ovation, sharing their enthusiasm and approval.
So, what is a theatre concert again? The recipe is simple: you take some music (it can even be very old music), chop it up, re-configure it, spice it, stretch it, sear it, and stitch it. Add some theatrical elements, some MTV, some aerial work or a cascade of water, some haute couture, new words if you want to, and there you go – you get a theatre concert!
The theatre concert story began with a conversation about musical theatre one spring in 1993. Our issue was this: we liked to work with music in theatre, but we found musicals boring and artificial. We didn’t want to make music that might simply underscore a plot point. For example in a musical there is often a song that nobody really likes but that has to be there so that you can understand the story.
We also found traditional rock concerts full of clichés: the hackneyed litany of ’Hello Stockholm! How ya feelin’ tonight?’, ’Here’s a song from our new album‘ or ’You might know this one’ followed by cries of ’Encore, encore!’. We were tired of the same old patterns, everything felt so predictable.
From this conversation sprang the idea of making an interpretation of the work of a rock band (in our case, the Danish group Gasolin’), just as theatres do Shakespeare and classical orchestras do Beethoven. To that end, we would take all the interesting genes from theatre history and cross-breed them with the rock concert. And what we got from this process was the theatre concert.
While it’s true that music and theatre have often before bred new forms, this truly feels like untried territory, a fruitful new connection between the two. That’s because we interpret the works of others not only in music, but also visually, in the action, in the movement, in the costumes, and in the stories we tell.
And think about how odd it is, when you go to see an opera, that the most expensive part of the production is hidden away in the pit? That’s right, the orchestra is placed just out of sight of the audience, which is strange, since one of the big joys of live music is that you get the chance to witness these experts handle their instruments. I think that it’s fundamentally pleasurable to watch musicians play.
That’s why in a theatre concert the five or six-piece band is not just a part of the scenery, they are part of the action. They’re acting while playing and interacting with the singers…sometimes they’re even flying while playing!
To date, we’ve created seven critically and commercially successful theatre concerts inspired by Gasolin’, The Beach Boys, The Beatles (Come Together & Hey Jude), Bob Dylan, and most recently Mozart and Beethoven (both with newly written English lyrics).
In the show HOW we’ll hear some of popular music’s choicest evergreens – in revitalized arrangements. AND: unique this year: the show will also feature new melodies by the Hellemann Brothers, with lyrics by Furio.