Grand Hotel. A great musical full of bizarre figures
Vítězslav Sladký 20. September 2020 zdroj www.musical-opereta.cz
….If I have to say something about Stanislav Slovák´s direction or the artistic concept of stage designer Jaroslav Milfajt and costume designers Andrea and Adéla Kučerová, everything can be summed up with one word: ARTFULNESS. The story takes place in the uneasy atmosphere of interwar Berlin, where the nobility are on the edge of extinction, the rich are penniless and robbers are rolling in cash. Not much different from today, then. But everything still seems to be all right behind the façade of the Grand Hotel Berlin. The key word is “seems”. All this against an Art Nouveau and Art Deco backdrop, at a time when operetta is fading and the era of swing, jazz and shimmy is on the rise. Slovák´s direction is exemplarily straightforward, he brings out the best in the individual characters, and the costumes are also stylistically pure. The scene changes take place quickly, and you aren´t bored for a single second during the performance… An ideal musical? Brno is very close to it this time.
There is no leading role in Grand Hotel, and you won´t find a central loving couple. But… maybe? Anyway, there are at least seven or eight main roles. For me, the greatest of them is the character of the gravely ill Jewish accountant Otto Kringelein, played by the stunning Oldřich Smysl. His acting is humbly captivating, evoking understanding and compassion for a man who has been working to pile up money his whole life only to realize at its end that it was all for nothing. He wants to enjoy his final days in great style. Unlike most of us, he has the courage to do so. This is also why he finds friendship, understanding… and love. Oldřich Smysl doesn’t ham it up even for a second - he is authentic, just like his makeup – somewhat skinny and yellow… It is easy to believe that he has cancer, or at least tuberculosis. A contrast to this essentially everyday character is the role of the ageing dancer Jelizaveta, which was a great acting opportunity for Markéta Sedláčková. She is an extremely stylized, moody and in many ways ridiculous figure… The whole illusion for this artist who is unable to leave the stage at the right time is strengthened by the group of people around her, like the impresario (Zdeněk Junák), her manager (Karel Mišurec), and her extremely loyal companion Raffaela (Pavla Vitázková). Markéta Sedláčková is an icon of Grand Hotel, just like Liliane Montevecchi. She acts, sings and dances flawlessly. And then there is also the charming penniless baron, the charismatic crook Felix Von Gaigern. He is played by Kristian Pekar, and you will probably even find yourself liking this poor nobleman, liar and thief. It’s the same with Frieda Flamm, a good-looking secretary and typist who’s keen for a career in Hollywood, like every pretty girl. Marta Matějová is wonderfully naïve in her longing, she has a beautiful face, she dances excellently and you will believe her every word. The demanding singing part stretches her to her limits. Lukáš Janota was perfectly cynical as Doctor Otternschlag, complete with deformed face, as he comments and moves the plot forward. Ondřej Biravský, Jonáš Florián, Patrick Földeši, Milan Němec, Marek Kolář, Martina Severová and others were also successful in other roles.
Every great musical (even an operetta) has its own special ballet number: Here, Barbora Remišová and Michal excel as perfectly coordinated dance partners, with attractive choreography by Hana Kratochvilová. The acting and singing takes place to a melodious translation by Zuzana Čtveráčková, with the help of dramaturge Klára Latzková. And, of course – what would a musical be without a quality live orchestra? The one in Brno, led by conductor František Štěrbák, simply will not leave the spectators’ feet alone, whether they’re playing jive, cha-cha, shimmy or swing.
Brno City Theatre’s Grand Hotel is a grand spectacle. A musical where the acting, dancing and singing never lets up. A top musical that’s well worth watching and hearing.
Both love and death are real at the Berlin hotel
Markéta Lankašová 7. September 2020 zdroj MF Dnes
…The Czech premiere of Grand Hotel took place only now, six months later than planned due to the lockdown, at Brno City Theatre, directed by Stano Slovák. And let´s not beat about the bush – it couldn´t have taken place anywhere else in Brno, or at least definitely not with this extensive stage set. Only the local Music Theatre can manage to put on such a grand dancing, singing, scenic and acting spectacle, thanks to its excellent facilities and well-trained ensemble and orchestra. And, thanks to the quality of the original work it is based on, which is almost one hundred years old and yet still viable, the production is neither stupid nor shallow or uninteresting. Even though, understandably, Grand Hotel is not a novel of the century by any means and most of the storylines are somehow predictable, the performances of selected characters give a depth to the musical version which is unusual for such a choreographically and musically glittery spectacle.
At the premiere this was definitely true of Oldřich Smysl, who was well-cast and precise in the role of the dying Jewish clerk Otto Kringelein, who wants to “live” with the money he has saved up at least at the end of his life, and is trying to do so at the luxurious Grand Hotel, where they originally do not want to let him stay. And it was also true of Markéta Sedláčková, who used to enchant audiences and many men in particular as the famous dancer Jelizaveta Grushinskaya, but now wants to quit dancing out of utter exhaustion, though she is also afraid to do so. And so Brno City Theatre has yet another hit that’s guaranteed to attract theatregoers.
The musical version of an Oscar-winning film had its premiere in Brno
Peter Stoličný 7. September 2020 zdroj www.kultura21.cz
… Director Stanislav Slovák and playwright Klára Latzková probably didn´t have to make many changes to the libretto after its translation by Zuzana Čtveráčková. Thanks to the set designer Jaroslav Milfajt, the Brno team managed to create an authentic hotel environment in a style that was fashionable at that time, sitting somewhere on the fence between Art Nouveau and Art Deco, with elements of Cubism. Transparent stained glass, an elegant staircase and classically fashionable interior spaces imitating earlier styles. Everything for the luxury and comfort of the hotel visitors. Scene changes took place very fast thanks to the high-quality stage equipment at the Music Theatre – it was just like watching a film. And the decorations are perfect - what a pleasure to direct!
It must be admitted that it is precisely this flexibility with regard to scenery that places great demands on the direction and movement of the cast in the mise-en-scène. František Šterbák directed the music consistently, with all the melodies sounding pleasant and natural when played by the orchestra, which also mastered the singing parts sensitively, even though that isn´t always easy now in the age of micro ports (sound direction by Filip Barák). The costume designers Andrea and Adéla Kučerová played around with the expressiveness of the beautiful shimmy fashion of the 1920s. The characters were dressed exactly according to their on-stage personality. And Hana Kratochvilová´s choreography also needs to be mentioned. The dances expressed the period of their creation exactly, and new ideas were adapted to fit in with the period musical atmosphere. The dancers Barbora Remišová and Michal Matěj showed exemplary harmony and supplemented the atmosphere very well.
Space for multi-layered performances
As is customary at this theatre, everyone’s acting, singing and movement was of a high expressive and technical level. The audience was particularly impressed by the performance of Kristian Pekar as the baron who has debts everywhere and with everyone. He is an unfortunate man with a handsome appearance, a rather complicated figure who is both a cheat and simultaneously a sensitive person. After all, he is the only one who is killed in the story. Here, the authors of the musical had a bit of fun with the classic way in which dying takes place in the great operas. Just like at the end of Verdi´s Masked Ball when Renato stabs Count Richard, who, at deaths door, goes on to sing a demanding aria, our hero the Baron also gets to belt out a final number.
The ageing prima ballerina, played by Markéta Sedláčková, was charming. Whining and terribly spoilt by her surroundings, and later beautifully in love with the Baron. Marta Matějová as Frieda Flamm also impressed with her multi-layered performance. She displayed an admirable range, portraying a shy girl longing for a career in Hollywood yet managing demanding and lively dance creations. The managing director, played by Milan Němec, was also an interesting role – he’s a person that’s used to luxury and superiority, but who suddenly finds himself in a hopeless economic situation. And there are other characters that deserve to be named, of course. The whole story should also be praised thanks to the direction, singing and work with movement, and the same goes for all those who contributed to this successful musical.
The Brno musical Grand Hotel was a success, then. The Music Theatre was filled with spectators in the necessary face masks, and the standing ovations at the end were endless. So, without hesitation, the production can be given a rating of 100%.
Grand Hotel is full of singing, dance and interesting fates
(tr) 7. September 2020 zdroj www.brnozurnal.cz
The posters for the world-famous Broadway musical Grand Hotel were already up around Brno in the spring; however, due to the pandemic, Brno City Theatre had to postpone the premiere at their Music Theatre until Saturday, September 5. It was performed several times before the premiere and the responses were very positive. They started talking about this masterpiece at the theatre three years ago, but in the meantime they performed the equally famous musicals Spamalot and The Last Ship. The Czech premiere of Grand Hotel was directed by Stano Slovák using a translation by Zuzana Čtveráčková, while František Šterbák and Ema Mikešková were in charge of the music direction. The spectators cannot see the live orchestra as it plays the show’s pleasant swing melodies.
Grand Hotel is one of the best musicals. Brno City Theatre’s spectators already know the author of the music, Maury Yeston, from Titanic and Nine. This time around, Luther Davis and Robert Wright also contributed to the texts and music. After the world premiere on Broadway in November 1989, they were all nominated for Tony Awards in twelve categories, including best original music. The libretto was written by George Forest based on a novel by Vicki Baum. The audience is taken to the luxurious environment of the Grand Hotel in Berlin in 1928, where they meet an ageing Russian prima ballerina on her last tour, a poor baron threatened by a creditor, an ambitious typist, a seriously ill Jewish accountant and the managing director of a large industrial enterprise, and watch their stories unfold. There is also a sleep-deprived receptionist who is expecting the birth of his son. A doctor with a face scarred by an injury from World War I, played by Lukáš Janota (at the premiere) or Lukáš Vlček, takes the spectators through the story. There are also other characters that complete the atmosphere of a time when Nazism was emerging. And then there are the dancers and Hana Kratochvilová´s inventive choreography. Barbora Remišová and Michal Matěj danced at the Saturday premiere, during which their solo at the end of Act 1 earned a long stretch of applause. There are many dance performances in the production, as is appropriate for a show set in a first-class hotel.
The character of Frieda Flamm, the aforementioned stenographer, was a great opportunity for Marta Matějová, who depicted a temperamental girl in difficult situations via excellent singing, speech and motion. Markéta Sedláčková performed the complex character of prima ballerina Grushinskaya at the premiere extremely well, with pathos and passion. Her secretary Raffaela Ottanio was sung by the refined Pavla Vitázková (in alternation with Diana Velčická). Theorising a little, it can be said that she sings chansons rather than arias. Kristian Pekar, Oldřich Smysl and Milan Němec were also on top form as the baron, ill accountant and managing director, respectively (Aleš Slanina, Radek Novotný and Robert Jícha).
Andrea and Adéla Kučerová designed the period costumes, which suited both the ladies (Pavla Vitázková´s hat) and gentlemen. The artist Jaroslav Milfajt created the Art Nouveau interior of a large hotel hall with its distinctive floor in such a way that the dramatic scenes in the hotel rooms could also work well within the interplay of light and darkness. Director Stano Slovák and his team have put together a production that pace-wise is reminiscent of a film. The spectators don’t have a chance to get bored, and neither do they leave during the break. And they will surely recommend the production to their friends and acquaintances. The musical has an interesting history, which is described in the articles in the programme for the show. (tr)
You will love this musical hotel
Luboš Mareček 6. September 2020 zdroj www.mestohudby.cz
Brno City Theatre’s new musical will take audiences to a luxurious hotel in Berlin in 1929. The Czech premiere of Grand Hotel, which has been ready to go since the spring, took place at the Music Theatre yesterday. You can expect a pulsing, pleasant retro spectacle filled with catchy swing melodies and emotions of all kinds.
The musical is based on the 1929 book of the same name by Vicky Baum (1888–1960). The author – an Austrian writer, emancipated woman, journalist and harpist of Jewish origin – was an embodiment of Weimar modernism and was well able to assert herself in male-dominated society. Her book about “the people from the hotel” was filmed only three years after it was published, and later transformed from the film version into a musical called At the Grand in 1958. Unfortunately, this first musical adaptation (the authors of the music and lyrics Robert Wright and George Forest decided together with the librettist Luther Davis to move the plot to Rome) wasn’t a success, and it didn’t even see a Broadway premiere.
In the 1980s the trio of authors returned to their earlier work, but feared that the production would fail to be performed on Broadway again. The composer Maury Yeston revised the old work, and ended up producing eight brand new songs for the new version of the musical as well as rewriting more than half of the original lyrics. This version is the one now being performed at Brno City Theatre. It is also interesting that Grand Hotel completes Maury Yeston’s imaginary trilogy at this theatre, as the successful productions Nine and Titanic are from the author´s workshop too. It is actually also surprising that Grand Hotel has taken so long to appear on the Czech stage, as the musical was first performed in Slovakia back in 1993 with great success at the Nová Scéna Theatre in Bratislava, directed by Jozef Bednárik and with choreography by Libor Vaculík.
But let’s get back to the production by director Stanislav Slovák. The production team characterized this piece as an elegantly eccentric musical, and it is true that everything is built on the smoothness of the costumes and its striking, sometimes even bizarre plot twists. It pulsates just like the omnipresent swing and jazz motifs with which it’s filled. With Grand Hotel, one does not watch a single central, big story unfold – it’s more like three days spent with a pile of fragments of unusual lives. The hotel is a meeting place for various characters whose life stories form a spectacular yet also ordinarily human jigsaw made up of great dreams, passions and loves, but also disappointments, pain and death. There’s an ageing prima ballerina, a handsome but lonely baron, a seriously ill Jewish accountant, a good-looking secretary, and a sleep-deprived receptionist whose wife is about to give birth. Love and hopelessness, birth and death, tears and a kind of melancholy intertwine.
Slovák’s narrative production is not just a glittering period spectacle – this slice of human existence can be taken more generally as a parable on human life with all its joy and sadness, its various arrivals and departures. Grand Hotel offers a panorama on life and our brief sojourn in this world. Of course, the creators tried to make the most of the visually appealing atmosphere of extravagant Berlin in the late 1920s. Jaroslav Milfajt’s stage consists of a monstrous staircase from a luxury hotel which is decorated with a kind of almost cubist elegance. In front of this structure, moving tables are used to easily place a bar, the rooms of the individual heroes or the flying revolving door in the final scene, which underlines the abovementioned metaphor of the unpredictable bubbling of life. The sexy interwar atmosphere is emphasized by the costumes by Andrea and Adéla Kučerová, which are one of the spectacular highlights of the evening.
Another highlight is the really excellent, imaginative group choreographies by Hana Kratochvilová, which are again a pure, pulsating spectacle that is fully in harmony with the presented musical styles. The sparkly dance performances by the ensemble and by the two waiters (Patrik Földeši and Tomáš Smička) are also a great experience. They give the production a zest and rhythm which is also reflected in the several polyphonic singing performances. It is exactly that layering of voices that underlines the emphasized mosaic-like nature of the whole piece, and it is also a necessary counterpart to the individual songs or duets. Spectators can look forward to full-on swing performed by a live orchestra from behind the stage, and to many of the hits that have conquered Broadway. Thanks to its architecture and also the actors at the premiere, the musical Grand Hotel is a functioning collective experience. Markéta Sedláčková (Jelizaveta Grushinskaya), Lukáš Janota (Doctor Otternschlag), Marta Matějová (Frieda Flamm), Kristian Pekar (the Baron), Oldřich Smysl (Otto Kringelein) and Milan Němec (General Manager Preysing) all contributed to the brilliance of the evening.
The musical Grand Hotel, as presented by Brno City Theatre, is an example of a spectacular but unobtrusive, nostalgic but not emotionally blackmailing, musically powerful and well-acted performance. A whiff of old times, as well as a unique snapshot of the bubbling chaos of human existence, is presented here in attractive retro packaging.
Spend at least a few days of your life living in luxury. The musical Grand Hotel premieres in Brno.
Radmila Hrdinová 6. September 2020 zdroj Právo
…Grand Hotel, like many of the other productions at this theatre, is “a somewhat different musical”. Even though it doesn’t lack a big love story, it definitely doesn’t finish with a happy ending. It is simply a slice of life with all that goes with it.
The stories of seven main (and several minor) characters are recounted through a well-composed musical stream in which their motifs intertwine with the harsher music of the company representing the hotel staff. Spoken dialogues penetrate the melodies and blend into one another just like the stories of the characters, forming a picture of life in Berlin society 10 years after the end of World War I. This is one of the reasons why a war doctor, his body and soul wounded by his experiences on the front line, takes us through the story as a commentator.
However, Grand Hotel is not Cabaret: it is hardly affected by politics, and the world of the luxury hotel lives through the many stories that play out there – there’s the famous prima ballerina at the end of her career, a bankrupt industrialist that’s trying in vain to save face, a girl dreaming her American dream, a handsome baron that’s drowning in debts and a Jewish accountant who’s trying to sweeten the coming end of his life by indulging in anonymous hotel luxury. Some stories seem unfinished or almost banal, while others strike the spectator with their authenticity.
The same is true for the musical language of the piece: subtly constructed passages alternate with songs that impact the viewers’ feelings, and then there are also the dynamic dance numbers inspired by the energetic jazz of the period. When taken together, it doesn’t always gel into a compact whole, but it definitely is never boring. Especially not with the high-quality performance from the Brno City Theatre orchestra under the baton of František Šterbák, and the choral numbers directed by Jana Suchomelová.
Grand Hotel had its Slovak premiere staged by Jozef Bednárik at the Nová Scéna Theatre in Bratislava in 1993. However, its first appearance on the Czech stage didn’t occur until right now in Brno, directed by Stanislav Slovák, and with temperamental and romantic choreography by Hana Kratochvilová. The monumental and anciently noble Grand Hotel, with its echoes of Art Nouveau, was created by set designer Jaroslav Milfajt, and the beautiful costumes were designed by Andrea and Adéla Kučerová.
The Brno ensemble with its excellent actors has a double cast for all the characters. At the first premiere, Markéta Sedláčková starred as Jelizaveta Grushinskaya, a role which climaxed in the perfectly sung and acted song Bonjour Amour. Oldřich Smysl was clearly born for the role of Otto Kringelein, as he acted, sang and danced the character of a dying bookkeeper perfectly.
Kristina Pekar was amazing, and not only via his appearance as the attractive Felix von Geigern – in the spirit of the character, he left the spectators unsure as to whether his baron is a gentleman who is truly in love, or just a crook. The secretary Frieda Flamm, whose naivety seems somewhat hardened by previous experience, was played by Marta Matějová. She sang, moved and acted with great surety.
However, other actors also deserve praise, such as Pavla Vitázková in the role of the ballerina’s dedicated companion Raffaela Ottanio, Milan Němec as Director Preysing, Lukáš Janota as the bitter, cynical commentator Doctor Otternschlag, Jonáš Florián as the receptionist Erik who is being tested by life, as well as the duo of temperamental hotel boys Patrik Földeši and Tomáš Smička, and the great dancing partners Barbora Remišová and Michal Matěj. Of course, one should really just mention the whole ensemble, as they are as energetic, accurate, impressive and unmissable as always.