Who doesn’t believe in miracles?
[b]Belarusian State Academic Musical Theatre premieres Gennady Gladkov’s musical An Ordinary Miracle[/b]The libretto is based on the fairy tale by Yevgeny Shwarts, with lyrics written by poet and bard Yuly Kim. Mr. Gladkov and Mr. Kim have added new music from Mark Zakharov’s film, creating a new theatrical voyage. In 2012, young director Ivan Popovsky put An Ordinary Miracle on stage at the Dubrovka Theatre Centre, in Moscow, produced by Alexey Ivashchenko (known for Nord-Ost). The 2013 play was recently brought to life by Russia’s leading musical theatre: the Sverdlovsk State Academic Musical Comedy Theatre. It performed the piece in Minsk for a month last year, and then took the play to the Odessa Theatre (named after M. Vodyanoy). Such a time-tested, sparkling and hilarious play deserves to be on stage.
The libretto is based on the fairy tale by Yevgeny Shwarts, with lyrics written by poet and bard Yuly Kim. Mr. Gladkov and Mr. Kim have added new music from Mark Zakharov’s film, creating a new theatrical voyage. In 2012, young director Ivan Popovsky put An Ordinary Miracle on stage at the Dubrovka Theatre Centre, in Moscow, produced by Alexey Ivashchenko (known for Nord-Ost).
The 2013 play was recently brought to life by Russia’s leading musical theatre: the Sverdlovsk State Academic Musical Comedy Theatre. It performed the piece in Minsk for a month last year, and then took the play to the Odessa Theatre (named after M. Vodyanoy). Such a time-tested, sparkling and hilarious play deserves to be on stage.
Anastasia Grinenko is directing the Minsk version, having great experience of working in musical theatre. With the non-repertory theatre Alpha-Concert, Ms. Grinenko staged the blockbuster comedy Boeing, Boeing, Boeing, working with leading young actors from Minsk theatres: Vitaly Kozlov, Sergey Chekeres, Anastasia Shpakovskaya and others. It was a fascinating spectacle.
In the future, Ms. Grinenko will surely try more serious drama, having an unusual ironic postmodern style of direction. She’s unlikely to follow in the footsteps of Anatoly Efros, with his Rehearsal is My Love, being more pragmatic and commercial minded. She created modern versions of Alexey Rybnikov’s Little Red Riding Hood and Buratino (Pinocchio), made familiar through the brilliant adaptations of Leonid Nechaev. In her world, Red Riding Hood masters the Internet, while Basilio the Cat and Alice the Fox utter the plaintive refrain ‘We’re not local ourselves..’.
Ms. Grinenko is lucky in having found a team of like-minded people who she can rely upon. First of all, she has her husband, Dmitry Yakubovich — a skilful actor able to create bright and romantic heroes such as Captain Masham in The Glass of Water, by Vladimir Kondrusevich, and Tony from The West Side Story, by Leonard Bernstein. In these roles, Mr. Yakubovich demonstrates strong vocals and moves well. He has a deep understanding of his characters, giving us insight into their inner world. He also has a brilliant knowledge of the latest developments and trends in choreography. His eccentric ballet The Twelve Chairs, staged as a self-contained fantasy, has been a favourite since childhood (based on the novel by Ilf and Petrov). It could easily represent Belarusian choreography at any international theatre festival. Ms. Grinenko and Mr. Yakubovich are ready to take risks to further their art and are ably supported by conductor Nikolay Makarevich.
An Ordinary Miracle is the third work using Gladkov’s score (following The Town Musicians of Bremen and The Twelve Chairs). Set designer Andrey Merenkov breathes life into even the smallest space while costume designer Yulia Babaeva brings her own touch of magic. This talented crew ensure all round success.
Unfortunately, the premiere coincided with an epidemic of flu, claiming Gennady Gladkov. No doubt, he will see the show at the first opportunity.
Previously, the Belarusian Musical Theatre troupe performed at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory, giving a jubilee concert devoted to the release of the cartoon The Town Musicians of Bremen. Mr. Gladkov conducted and paid a wealth of compliments to our artists and orchestra, directed by Nikolay Makarevich.
Anastasia Grinenko’s main achievement with her new play is achieving a magnificent line up of actors, including those in reserve. Anton Zayanchkovsky is more sedate than Dmitry Yakubovich as the wizard, but Mr. Yakubovich adds some cunning to the role. Lesya Lyut as the wife of the Wizard is more romantic than Margarita Alexandrovich but, looking at Mr. Alexandrovich, we are left in no doubt that the Wizard performs his follies for her alone. Oleg Prokhorov’s bear is more convincing than that of Eduard Voinilovich, but Mr. Voinilovich is so defenceless and naive that he is perfect for the role. Ilona Kazakevich has played princesses before and lends the role her own unique colour. Yekaterina Moshchenko also interprets the Princess in her own way. Meanwhile, Alexander Krukovsky and Alexander Osipets both play the King vividly; it’s hard to choose between them. Of course, it’s not a competition; every actor is individual.
The play keeps its pace throughout its two acts and the script still sounds so modern. Mr. Shwarts has created an amazing world of illusion, where all the senses are exaggerated and phrases sound like pop reprises. It’s an enchanting world, believable in every detail, as created by Andrey Merenkov. We spin away on waves of energetic and magical music.
Before the premiere, Anastasia Grinenko stressed that comparisons with the film can be avoided but the Artistic Director of the theatre, Adam Murzich, had his doubts, noting, “It’s always dangerous to adapt material well-known in a film.” Without doubt, the theatre has managed to create a worthy rival, with the actors performing their roles as if they existed only for them. An Ordinary Miracle at the Musical Theatre is a performance of modern times, with a marked post-modern touch. The actors and their characters seem to say, “Yes, everything has been said, everything has been sung — but let’s try one more time.”
The musical is a tribute to the beautiful literary tradition and atmospheric childhood music of Gennady Gladkov, and the grotesque world of eccentrics and dodgers, as created by Mark Zakharov. However, the musical does not freeze in the sacred bow; it breathes and lives.
Musical theatre faces some challenges today, seeking novelty in its repertoire while upholding the traditions of operetta. Of course, it needs to draw full houses, so it’s important to choose shows with care. An Ordinary Miracle proves that a musical can be the logical continuation of theatrical traditions, enriching dramatic staging with wonderful melodies. To be successful in Minsk, Yekaterinburg or Odessa, you don’t need to copy Broadway classics. Soviet classics are just as popular and, without exaggeration, the creative work of Gennady Gladkov is capable of charming anyone. The show’s energy, humour and joy enables it to rival any Broadway production. Minsk audiences are sure to show their appreciation.
By Valentin Pepelyaev