June 13, 2024

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Review: “Hawaiian Flower” at Magdeburg Theater

Review: “Hawaiian Flower” at Magdeburg Theater

The title, and by the way, the two old movie adaptations of the terrible movie are foreboding. But what is clear is that Ibrahim is too funny and sophisticated an operetta composer to give us the worst kind of false romanticism. Even then, in 1931, it was all ridiculously broken, a “land of smiles” seen through cabaret glasses and unforgiving theatricality – no need to fear kitsch here.

Saying things that are outdated today: a dilemma

The fact that operetta is rarely seen is certainly down to contemporary taste, whether our own or that of 90 years ago. The original version is quite full of chatty dialogue and convoluted plots that don’t get much attention today. It must be said that the work also contains a racist element. In particular, the character of black musician Johnny is drawn in a way that is too condescending and compassionate by our standards. It would be difficult to bring this to the stage today. On the other hand, you cannot delete the shape because it contains central numbers. A real dilemma in the twenty-first century.

Admittedly, when it was said before the premiere that the director wanted to replace Johnny in a new role, I almost didn’t go. There are already enough opportunists in real life, so why should we also witness the cowardice of the zeitgeist on stage. But I must apologise: the whole matter was resolved in an elegant and honest manner. Honestly, because the changes were discussed on stage and in the program.

A new setting: effective and captivating

The whole ridiculous story of the hapless Hawaiian Queen is told by a bored butcher shop clerk, an old diva – a theater within a theatre. Not new, but always effective. The saleswoman is drawn more and more into the story, and becomes an actress in the dream world, Johnny’s new androgynous persona. Carmen Steinert traces the progression from uptight butcher to extreme neglect in an almost naturalistic way. Former actress, Ms. Schroeder, plays Susie Wirth, with an amusing touch from Angela Lansbury. Both behave so captivatingly that the new frame almost overshadows the actual one. It doesn’t matter – the plot fades, but the play’s numbers stand out more.

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A colorful hustle and bustle of talented individual performances

The singing and playing was done to a very high standard. You have to find a good stylistic balance here between grand operatic gestures and exhilarating jazz audacity – and that’s a great success. The ensemble effect is compact, the huge arsenal of characters is spread out and the viewer’s head is spinning: the individual performances barely stick, and the individual performances add up to a brightly colored and interesting hustle and bustle.

Still to be distinguished are Mike Hartmann in the lead role: a relaxed operetta soprano with amusement with half-muted pathos and Stefan Šivinich as the hulking steamship captain Bovo. His voice wasn’t perfect on opening night, as previously mentioned, but that didn’t bother anyone because his acting and dancing talents made his vocal skills fade anyway.

Perfect world

I admit: I clapped enthusiastically with the audience. This is a popular success. On the outside, the whole thing looked very smooth to me, and the thing is very round: rotate it as you like, and you won’t see any corners or edges. If the whole thing goes smoothly, the audience won’t have to endure anything. A genderqueer and queer ideal world is suggested, where you end up wondering whether you’ve happily escaped an old kind of kitsch, only to fall into the clutches of an entirely new one. Maybe it was a bit of Land of Smiles 2.0? The discomfort highlighted by the production of “Gypsy Baron” a few years ago is missing here.