It's the final episode for 2020 of the Filmed Live Musicals podcast!
This week, I chat with writer, designer, and publisher Robert Sokol. We talk about Robert’s extensive cast recording collection, cast recordings in languages other than English, how changing the language affects a musical, the pros and cons of recordings going digital, Japanese takarazuka theatre, watching theatre online, and more!
Robert Sokol is a writer, designer, publisher, and producer. Credits include leadership roles with the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, the TBA Awards program, and the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), as well as concerts, conferences, and other events from New York to Los Angeles. Robert and his husband Ron Willis own VIA MEDIA, which provides playbill publishing and other creative services as BAYSTAGES. A Munich native, he has been collecting musical cast recordings for half a century and specializes in translations of Broadway and West End musicals. You can follow Robert on Facebook.
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This week on the podcast, I chat Tony nominated composer Paul Gordon.
Topics include Jane Eyre, Daddy Long Legs, how union rules impact artists, the differences between subscription and pay-per-view models, why filming musicals is important, and making theatre more accessible, sustainable, and fair.
Paul Gordon was nominated for a 2001 Tony Award for composing the music and lyrics to the musical Jane Eyre. He won the 2015 Jeff Award for Best New Work for his book, music and lyrics for Sense and Sensibility, commissioned by Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. His critically acclaimed stage musicals, EMMA and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE are available to stream on Amazon Prime. He is the recipient of the 2009 Ovation Award for his music and lyrics to Daddy Long Legs which has had productions all over the world, including Off-Broadway, where it was nominated for 2 Drama Desk Awards, an Off-Broadway Alliance Award and 3 Outer Critic Circle awards. Daddy Long Legs was also the first off-Broadway musical to be livestreamed. No One Called Ahead was filmed and released in June of 2019. Knight’s Tale, written with John Caird, opened at the Imperial Theatre in Tokyo in 2018 while the concert version debuted in 2020 with the Tokyo Philharmonic. His other shows include: Being Earnest, Estella Scrooge: A Christmas Carol with a Twist, Analog and Vinyl, Stellar Atmospheres, The Front, Juliet and Romeo, Sleepy Hollow, The Circle and The Sportswriter. In his former life, Paul was a pop songwriter and wrote several number one hits.
Learn more about Paul Gordon at www.paul-gordon.weebly.com/ and follow him on Twitter.
My first exposure to a musical not in English was the 10th Anniversary Concert of Les Miserables where 17 Valjeans from “just some of the world-wide productions” sang “Do You Hear the People Sing” in 13 different languages. Currently holding the title as the longest running West End musical, Les Miserables is itself an English translation of a French musical (Herbert Kretzmer, who provided the libretto for the English version, recently passed away at the age of 95).
Filmed live musicals in languages other than English are currently lacking from the database, but there is certainly a plethora of them out there. Some of the titles are translations of English-language musicals, but many are original musicals, showing the popularity of the musical form worldwide.
Here’s a brief look at filmed live musicals in Dutch, Korean, Russian, and Spanish, that have been released online in 2020.
Dutch company De Graaf & Cornelissen Entertainment have released four full-length filmed live musicals for free on YouTube including Wat Zien Ik?! (What Do I See?!), Liesbeth, Volendam, and Op Hoop Van Zegen (Hoping for the Best).
Wat Zien Ik?! is based on the book by Albert Mol. The musical premiered in October 2006 and ran until May 2007. Wat Zien Ik?! is set in the 1960s and follows the trials and tribulations of two women who work in Amsterdam’s Red Light District.
Liesbeth is a biographical musical about Dutch entertainer Liesbeth List who was famous for her interpretations of the songs of Jacques Brel and Edith Piaf. The musical premiered in October 2017, and closed in January 2018.
Set in a village fair, Volendam tells the story of a woman named Mary, who returns to the town of her childhood, and must confront her past. The musical was performed from November 2010 until April 2011.
Based on the 1900 play, Op Hoop Van Zegen, tells the story of a fisherman’s widow and her fight for survival amidst social injustice. The production was filmed in 2008.
Efteling is a Dutch fantasy-themed amusement park that pre-dates Disneyland by three years. The park’s theatre, Efteling Theater have released several filmed live musicals on their YouTube channel including Sprookjessprokkelaar de musical (Fairytale Collector: The Musical), De gelaarsde Kat (Puss in Boots), Pinokkio, and three Sprookjesboom de Musical (Fairytale Tree the Musical) titles. All are freely available on the Efteling YouTube channel, and have received hundreds of thousands of views.
Commencing with Korean-language versions of RENT in 2000, The Phantom of the Opera in 2001, and Mozart Das Musikal in 2010, American and European musicals have become an immensely popular form of entertainment in Korea, growing to a $300 million business. In an effort to further boost ticket sales in a saturated market, producers have stunt cast K-pop and soap opera stars in lead roles for select performances.
Although some theatres in Korea have managed to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic, audience numbers are obviously lower than normal. Producers have turned to livestreams to boost sales and provide audiences at home with musical theatre content.
Produced by the Korean Army and Insight Entertainment, Korean musical Return: The Promise of the Day was livestreamed over four performances in late September and featured K-pop stars D.O. and Xiumin of EXO and former Wanna One member Yoon Ji-sung. The musical tells the story of a Korean War vet who goes in search of his lost comrades. Viewers were required to purchase tickets to view the stream, which was also broadcast with English subtitles.
Sonata of a Flame, starring Ryeowook of Super Junior, Hui of Pentagon, and Yoo Hwe-seung of N. Flying, was livestreamed over thirteen performances from September 18 - 26. Like Return, viewers were required to purchase tickets to watch the stream, which was available worldwide (though not in China or Indonesia).
In September K-Musical On Air hosted a free online musical theatre festival. featuring “four of the hottest Korean musicals in real time.” The musicals included The Fan Letter, The Goddess is Watching You, Red Cliff, and The Fiction. English subtitles were available for viewers watching on V Live. The festival was an initiative of the Korea Tourism Organization, which since 2017 has sponsored 14 Korean musicals to provide foreign-language subtitles.
The Fan Letter is a fictional re-telling of historical events as seen by artists and writers during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 1930s.
Set during the Korean war, The Goddess is Watching tells the story of two soldiers from North and South Korea who find themselves on uninhabited islands during the conflict. The musical premiered in 2013, and has been playing ever since.
Produced by Jeongdong Theater in Seoul, Red Cliff first opened in 2017 and has proved a popular draw. Influenced by pansori, a traditional Korean form of musical storytelling using drums and singing, Red Cliff is based on one of five pansori tales, “Jeokbyeokga”, which means “The Song of the Red Cliffs.” Red Cliff was also streamed for one night on Jeondong Theater’s YouTube channel in April.
Also set in the 1930s, though this time in New York City, The Fiction is a murder mystery musical. It was first developed through the “Prepare for Your Debut” project hosted by the Korea Creative Content Agency in 2016. The Fiction received praise at the Daegu International Musical Festival in 2017.
The Daegu International Musical Festival also has several full-length videos on their YouTube channel.
At the end of June, the American streaming service Broadway on Demand streamed the Korean language musical XCalibur. Produced by EMK, with a score by Frank Wildhorn, XCalibur is a re-telling of the King Arthur legend, and featured Exo K-pop star Kai. It was available to stream on Broadway on Demand between June 27 and July 6, 2020.
Originally a German musical, Mozart das Musical was translated into Korean and presented by EMK in 2010. The musical was very popular, and was re-staged for a 10th anniversary production in early 2020. The musical was streamed on Naver and VLive on October 3 and 4.
New Korean streaming service IM.Culture will stream Legendary Little Basketball Team, an original musical about a basketball coach and his ailing team, on November 1 and 2.
In a similar trend to Korea, American and British musicals have seen a swell in popularity in the 21st century. Since 2008, the Moscow Operetta Theatre has sought to create original Russian-language musicals that according to Russia Beyond the Headlines reporter Julia Shevelkina, appeal to audiences “who love costume dramas,” and “a minister of culture who didn’t want state-run theatres to stage radical modern plays.”
Stage Russia have released two Moscow Operetta Theatre musicals online, Count Orlov and Anna Karenina. Both are based on Russian novels, and feature sumptuous costumes, striking scenic design, and epic Euro-pop scores. Both are also streamed with English subtitles.
Although it was filmed without a live audience, the Spanish-language Mexican production Daddy Long Legs, Papi Piernas Largas, is a delight. Produced by Oak Live, the two-hander musical was performed live to an empty theatre in Mexico City in early October, and streamed on Ticketmaster Live. The production was reminiscent of the off-Broadway production (the first off-Broadway musical to be livestreamed), though it had slightly different staging which included a clever story-book set. Papi Piernas Largas will stream again via Ticketmaster on November 15 (tickets are around $10US). English subtitles are not available.
Also streaming on Ticketmaster Mexico is La Juala de Las Locas, a Spanish-language production of La Cage Aux Folles. Filmed live with an audience, the the production was streamed live on October 17. It will be available stream again on November 20 via Ticketmaster, though it is currently only available to stream in Mexico.
Mentiras El Musical (Lies the Musical) is a Spanish-language Mexican jukebox musical that incorporates pop songs from the 1980s. Mentiras will be streamed live via Multistellar on November 7.
The popular Spanish-language production of The Man of La Mancha, El Hombre de La Mancha, will stream on November 14. Tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
On November 21 and 22, Shakespeare Foro in Mexico City will stream a Spanish-language production of End of the Rainbow, Al Fin del Arcoiris, a musical drama about the final days of Judy Garland. Tickets are available via Shakespeare Foro.
And to cap off the list, you can belatedly celebrate Dia de los Muertos with Si, Nos Dejan! (If They Let Us!), a Mexican musical celebrating the history of Mexican cinema. Filmed live at the Mejor Teatro in 2011, ¡Si, Nos Dejan! was broadcast via Ticketmaster Mexico on September 16, and will be re-broadcast on November 2. Tickets available via Ticketmaster.