The Musical Theatre (Russian: Театр Мюзикла) is Russia’s first theatre which stages only Russian musicals. Founded in 2012, it quickly became popular among theatregoers. The Musical Theatre opened its 2017/2018 season in a newly renovated venue in the city center of Moscow, located where the Rossiya Cinema used to be. The building is an architectural landmark from the 1960s, featuring a giant glass façade with a huge canopy and a grand staircase. The Rossiya Cinema was the go-to place for lovers of film, as the Moscow International Film Festival used to take place here.
The special thing about performances staged at this theatre is that their original approach to, and unexpected interpretation of, plots that are familiar to the public. For example, there have been some unusual approaches to classics such as Cinderella, F. Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment and The Circus Princess, an operetta by E. Kalman. The directorship, librettos, stage sets and acting also differ substantially from one musical to another. During the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, the Moscow Musical Theatre stages premieres of children’s musical shows.
Concept idea and repertoire
TThe theatre’s artistic director is Mikhail Shvydkoy, the Russian President’s Special Representative for International Cultural Cooperation. Celebrated theatre directors and composers participate in the theatre’s productions, such as Andrey Konchalovsky, Raymond Pauls and Aleksey Kortnev, who cooperated with the theatre during its first years. Sebastien Soldevila, one of the founders of Canada’s 7 Fingers Circus and a show director of the world-famous Cirque du Soleil, contributed to the creation of The Circus Princess. He invented original circus acts performed by the theatre’s actors in collaboration with professional circus performers.
Performances follow a pattern traditional to musicals – one production runs without interruption from three weeks to a month and a half. There are no run-of-the-mill productions here, as every performance is created to surprise the audience with unusual plot twists, voices, stage sets and costumes. For example, the legendary operetta The Circus Princess was transformed into a musical of the new generation that merged different genres – circus, operetta and musical – on one stage. Interestingly, the daughter of the great Emmerich Kalman said that her father dreamed of seeing a real circus in this operetta. All circus acts are performed without equipment such as harnesses, which is truly breathtaking to see.
Crime and Punishment, a rock opera by Andrey Konchalovsky, was awarded the Golden Mask, winning Best Actress and Best Composer in 2017. Konchalovsky saw the potential behind this classic Russian novel in the 1990s. Whilst he had come up with the idea of transforming it into a rock opera 30 years prior, it is only at the Musical Theatre that he was able realise the dream. The music composed by Artemyev for this musical is extremely varied, featuring both art rock and folk music. This is Russia’s first theatrical production that used 6D technologies.
Wonders and Kuralesy (Russian: Чудесы и куралесы), based on L. Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland is a fine sample of children’s theatrical performance. Younger spectators are transported to a strange realm that abounds with riddles and weird creatures. They learn to play an exciting game, kuralesy, together with a girl who loves dreaming, Alice. The stage production is full of bizarre tricks of the light and digital video effects, and its atmosphere effectively captures the mood of Lewis Carrol’s literary masterpiece.
Theatre’s leading actors
During the theatre’s first five years, two of its actresses – Oksana Kostetskaya and Maria Biork – were Golden Mask winners. Oksana Kostetskaya’s performance as the Godmother in All about Cinderella (Russian: Все о Золушке), a musical by Raymond Pauls, won her the Golden Mask award; she also stars in The Circus Princess. Maria Biork performs the roles of Sonechka in the rock opera Crime and Punishment (Golden Mask, 2017) and of Theodore Verdier in The Circus Princess.
Yefim Shifrin, a popular Russian actor, is another member of the troupe. He plays the roles of Porfiry, the attorney, in Crime and Punishment and of Poisson the Wicked in The Circus Princess. The latter role was written specifically for Shifrin (this character does not appear in the E. Kalman’s original operetta). The performance of Aleksey Kolgan, a Russian showman, actor and the ‘best Shrek voice actor’ according to Dreamworks Studio, in The Circus Princess, is particularly popular with audiences.
Two highly experienced and successful vocalists, Maksim Zausalin and Yevgeni Shirikov, play the role of Mister X in The Circus Princess. M. Zausalin is known for his performances in other well-known musicals, such as Mamma Mia!, Twelve Chairs and Caberert, and Y. Shirikov has become popular for his roles in The Mermaid, Pola Negri, Beauty and the Beast and Scarlet Sails. Another actress starring as Theodore Verdier is Valeria Lanskaya who is also known for her love for the musical genre.
Pavel Lyubimtsev, Honored Artist of Russia, who is mostly known for his TV program, A Naturalist’s Sketches (Russian: Записки натуралиста), stars as Pelican in The Circus Princess. Theatregoers also appreciate his work as a theatre artist and director in productions staged by the Theatre of Comedy in St. Petersburg, the Vakhtangov Theatre in Moscow, among others.
The legendary building of the Rossiya Cinema underwent total reconstruction before the opening of the Musical Theatre. Today, it boasts a modern 1,750-seat auditorium with comfortable chairs. The restrooms have also been redesigned in order to avoid queues during intermissions. Two buffets are located on the second floor of the foyer, and the third floor accommodates a cozy restaurant serving high-quality dishes. Visitors are also offered a wide variety of souvenirs, including CDs, leaflets, mugs, bags, magnets and key chains with the theatre logo.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com