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22 January 2011 @ 12:49 pm
Budapest review, 150th show  
Last weekend, I was treated to a very eventful trip to Budapest to see "Vampirok Balja" twice - and the evening show was rather special. In case you're interested in what I thought about the Hungarian version of the show, you'll find my pretty lengthy review under the cut :)

I won't bore you with the details about the train ride - let it suffice to say that it was loooong. Thankfully, we were a group of 12 merry, overexcited  musicalo-tanzdervampire'o-maniacs and the company proved so good that the 13-hour ride was not that tiring (that's what happens if you're learning to sing The Finale in Hungarian with no clue about the language). In fact, when I saw sun rising over the beautiful landscape and realized it was only an hour left to Budapest, I did not feel tired in the slightest, even though I had next to no sleep.

The treck from the station to the flats was more challenging, what with our heavy bags and all, but as we managed it and got safely deposited in three rented apartments, took a shower, changed and prepared ourselves for an Evening with a Bite, I think it was safe to say that we were fresh as daisies.

When I saw the theatre itself, I naturally got all hyped-up - seeing the giant, plastic vampire jaw hanging from an enormous banner over your head can do that to you. Posters with Krolock and Sara - of the new, Twilightish series, but beautiful if you turn a blind eye on the intent of the designer - were plastered all over the place and the interior of the theatre was charmingly adorned in a splash of atmospheric red-and-black, with very gothic candlesticks, the trademark Jaws hanging all around the place, lush decorations and armchairs, and even candles burning on the stairs to the balcony. In short, everything screamed "We're playing Tanz der Vampire here!!" right in your face and I absolutely loved it. I would have loved it even more had it not been for the fact that, upon our entering, it turned out that we had to pay for the cloakroom - and there was no way they would allow us to take our jackets into the auditorium, so it was a tight spot. Oh well. Once I got myself a beautifully-designed souvenir brochure and the obligatory t-shirt, I followed my group to the auditorium and sat in the second row, which was very close to the stage indeed, since the orchestra pit was hardly extended beyond the stage and was only wide enough to let the conductor be seen. I was also surprised at how small the stage looked - it seemed bigger in the bootleg recording I saw, but as it was, it looked smaller than the stage in Roma Theatre. But then, the lights went off and a spooky-sounding voice said something in Hungarian about switching the cell phones off, not recording etc., in a very vampirish way indeed. And then...

I have to admit - I cried during the Overture and all the way through "Nie geseh'n". I thought I wouldn't - even when I was sitting in the audience, waiting for the show to commence, I felt excited, but not overwhelmed to the point of barely containing myself. But as soon as the music blasted - and I mean it literally, they really turn the volume up in that theatre and the entire show is LOUD - and the beautiful animation of the snow-covered Carpathians appeared, something snapped within me and my eyes started leaking like a broken sink. It dawned upon me that I was watching THAT show live, after over three years of thirsting for it, and the overload of overwhelming emotions simply took me over. The same situation happened in Act II, during "Ewigkeit," but it was also due to the awesomness of the scene itself - man was it intense! Therefore, bear in mind that my state of emotional well-being, already damaged by lack of sleep and proper food, was shaky at best.

As for the show itself, well, what can I say - it was brilliant. It almost always is with "Tanz," since it's a piece of genius in itself, but made in the Hungarian way, it was magnificent. I already knew they had wonderful sets, costumes and lighting, but seeing all the lushness, the beauty and the dark, twisted richness of it right before my eyes blew me away. I loved the over-abundance of sharp, stalactite-resembling, gothic decorations, the use of perspective to make us feel as though we were in the Graf's castle yard, the adorable carvings on Chagal's tavern, the overall impression of heightened, perhaps even slapstick, over-the-top, romanticised reality. The German version feels more like a fairy-tale, albeit a dark one, the Polish version put more emphasis on a feeling of dread and horror, highlighting the actors more than the sets, and in Hungary, everything seemed very much like taken from a dark, gothic fantasy. Nightmareish, perhaps, but the sort of nightmare that could inspire one to dance in the moonlight. It also contributed to highlighting the comical elements of the show by exaggerating certain elements and giving us a feeling that we were watching something which is by no means realistic, and that's how it was supposed to be. It worked for me - I found myself thoroughly transported to that other world of dancing vampires. The visuals were, in short, stunning. The sound, too - I already mentioned that it was extremely loud, sometimes bordering on painful, but the orchestra was great and the new orchestrations sounded magnificent. The singers, too, lived up to the task and were actually audible through the blast from the pit, and not only audible, but holding their ground. The ensemble was stunning - honestly, I don't think I ever saw the dancers being so hyper and energetic. The choir sounded powerful and appropriately scary, too.

As for the leads, we got to see two Sarahs, two Alfreds, two Professors (actually, three Professors, but that's another story) and two Herberts, since we went to the matinee and the evening performance. As for Krolock, Geza was on twice and it made me extremely happy, since I got a balcony seat to the evening show and was therefore happy that I could see him up-close in the afternoon. And after this one performance, he immediately won The Happiest Krolock Award. Seriously, I have never seen a Krolock who would be so... enthusiastic. This one was extremely happy to be a vampire and his method of seducing Sarah seemed to me as if he was trying to genuinely share the enthusiasm with her, to show what a wonderful life it is. It sounds odd, but I actually loved this interpretation - it went in a similar direction to Łukasz Dziedzic's idea of the character, but while Dziedzic reveled in manipulating, inflicting pain and inspiring fear simply because he could and because, free from the moral constraints, he did it out of defiance to spit in the face of God who allowed him to become what he is, Geza was as free as can be and genuinely happy about it. He showed his fangs whenever he could (and he actually sang "Die Unstillbare Gier" with the super-long fangs in his mouth O_o Respect, man!), the twinkle of evil satisfaction rarely left his eye and towards Herbert and the other vampires, he seemed like a good, indulgent, father-priest figure who found their wildness and hunger amusing and who did not set himself apart from them, but rather embraced them and was very much a member of the bloodthirsty crowd. I'm not sure where "Gier" fits into this picture, but somehow, Geza's rendition of it did not clash at all with the consistency of his vision and complemented it nicely in showing Krolock's rare moment of remorse and realization, which was quickly brushed away. In fact, it seemed like renewing a journey he already took in his existence as a vampire - starting with remorse, then going through a phase of defiance, only to arrive at the realization that the hunger is all there is to the world and one might as well embrace it (which was, again, in some way similar to Dziedzic's view, but by no means the same). Again, I loved this version of Krolock, because I like my Grafs predatory and dangerous instead of melancholy and brooding. As a result, Geza promptly took his place among the Big Three of my personal Krolock chart - and he totally pwned me when, during the Ballroom scene, he collided with Herbert while dancing and shot him a nasty look initially, but quickly beamed at him and started dancing merrily, as if inviting his son to join XD Ah, priceless.

As for Sarah, I didn't like the matinee one in the slightest - she had a nice singing voice, but her acting was almost non-existent and it seemed to be as if she was just following what the director told her to do, without giving the character any depth and thought. Andratti, who was on in the evening, was much, much better - flirtatious, simple, going for the humour, graceful and natural, with a great voice, she was a lovely Sarah. I liked both Alfreds equally, I suppose - each was very much the essence of the character, shy, bashful, perpetually scared and adorable. As for Herberts, I really enjoyed David's performance in the afternoon - one could tell that he was enjoying himself in the role and he succeeded in drawing attention all to himself with his grimaces and casual reactions in "Tanzsaal." In the evening, we had a debut - the new Herbert, whose name I cannot recall, did really well and has the potential to be a great one once the role grows on him a little. As for the Professors, they were both fun, but I think I liked the evening one more - he seemed to be more charismatic and comical in a natural way. And I have to say that they have a really magnificent Magda - she rocked, had a wonderful, rich voice and acted superbly. Chagall and Rebecca - both great and squee-worthy. And don't get me started about Koukol - the guy simply rocked the show! Overall, the characters were wonderfully directed, everyone knew what he was there for and it was clear as day that all of them really love the show.

Now, time to mention the evening show - which was a 150th performance. For starters, each spectator got a free postcard and a leaflet stating that it is a special show, and in the foyer, the employees were distributing red glowing sticks for us to wave during the Finale. It looked pretty neat. Now, since I don't speak a word of Hungarian, I couldn't catch the meaning of the little word-jokes the actors made (and there were a few, judging from the audience's reactions), but one thing I did catch, and it was the highlight of the evening. Namely, the appearance of none other than Gernot Kranner himself, in full Abronsius gear, in "Wahrheit." I have to admit I did not recognise him immediately - only when he started singing in German did I get a "WTF?!" moment, and then it dawned on me that Hey, it's HIM! As if that wasn't funny enough, the Hungarian Abronsius soon appeared and the two began a contest of who would get to sing the rest of the song. In the end, they settled for a duet. The whole sequence was simply hilarious and I believe you can watch it on Vampirok Balja's Facebook page :D At the end of the show, the producer gave a lengthy speech, which was interrupted frequently by outbursts of fan enthusiasm, there was a shower of glittering confetti, the international fanclubs (us!) got a special mention and it turned out that both Cornelius Baltus and Dennis Calahan were present, which made me feel like a real VIP ;) The events of the day concluded with an open after-party, during which fans could have their fill of photos and autographs from the actors in costumes - which, of course, I took full advantage of and got myself a biting photo with Geza, who charmingly announced right into my ear that I should be afraid of him right about now. It was hard to keep a straight face then, I'm telling yer XD

Not surprisingly, after the excitements of the day, I dropped on the pillow like a log.

The next day, we participated in a backstage tour of the Magyar Theatre and I got to touch Teh Cloak, which was fun. And later, in the evening of the same day - a loooong train ride back home, which was even less tiring, since we were all so hyped-up after the shows...
angely78: tanzhungarianangely78 on January 22nd, 2011 10:11 pm (UTC)
oh man, I am dying to see your biting picture :)

Awesome review, lucky you!
dracomaleficium: pic#krolockdracomaleficium on January 23rd, 2011 02:12 pm (UTC)
Here it is: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1686820183021&set=a.1686820063018.87911.1613178875
(it's from a side perspective, since the one we were actually posing for turned out to be slightly blurred)

Thank you :D
☠ Oh my! POPCORN keeps falling from the sky! ☠love_michiyuki on March 7th, 2012 10:53 pm (UTC)
Wow, that sounds like it was a lot of fun.
Would have loved to see that Prof duet!