Saturday, 10 August 2013

Palatsi Course, Day 4 + ABBA Dancing Queen Show

Heya, sorry I'm so late with completing this course diary. First my Internet was mysteriously off for a couple of days and then our family was struck by a deep personal tragedy which took all my strength away. However, right now I'm quite happy to have something like this to take my mind off things. So let's get back to the topic!

At the end of the previous day, we had been discussing our costumes for the demo and agreed what sort of stuff everyone should bring with them. Therefore, today began with trying on all the shirts and dresses and wigs and witch hats and tiaras and cat ears etc. And making sure everyone had their own suitcase for the I Wanna Be Like You dance.

Once the costumes and props were in order, we started running through the whole performance from start to finish. I hadn't been in any kind of theatre-related performances for about three years, and I had completely forgotten how incredibly annoying the first couple of run-throughs are. The atmosphere when everyone is all stressed and paranoid about costume changes and shoes and finding their props where they're supposed to be and entering the stage from the correct side... It's not a nice party, I'll tell you that.

However, the run-throughs got smoother and smoother as the day went by, and despite all the usual hassle there was also definitely the positive side of seeing the huge progress we'd made in just four days. The scenes and dance numbers which had seemed so hard to put together on the first day of the course were now looking like actual performances! Everyone had learned their lines by heart, and once again I found I have some sort of super-auditive memory because I can honestly say that I know the whole script by heart now, from just listening from backstage. I even helped a friend rehearse her lines by stepping in as her opposite!

Not surprisingly, our acting teacher raised the issue of voice and articulation on stage. As everyone probably knows, you simply can't speak with a normal voice on stage and you have to be careful not to talk too fast or your speech turns into an incoherent mess. We went through the entire script as a "voice rehearsal" where we simply sat on the stage and spoke our lines, making sure we articulated properly. For some weird reason the whole situation got so funny that people kept cracking up in most inappropriate places, such as when Elphaba tells Galinda that her father hates her. It only got worse when one of the people playing Galinda suddenly couldn't get the word "project" out of her mouth (in the line "Elphie, now that we're friends I've decided to make you my new project.")

All the hard work paid off in the end, as all of our teachers were really pleased with the final run-through. We even had some audience from outside the production team as our acting teacher's sister – if I remember correctly it was her sister – snuck in to watch. I say "snuck in" because we had no idea she was there till the end of the run-through! We even got some feed-back from her, translated from Russian by our acting teacher. She said that even though she didn't understand Finnish, she could still tell what was going on all the time! Isn't that pretty amazing?

More great stuff was coming up today. Tonight, all of us on the course got to see a real, professional Palatsi Theater production, ABBA Dancing Queen Show, for free! Of course we all went, who would say no to a free concert (well technically the ticket was included in the price of the course, but anyway) full of ABBA songs, and with our course's vocal coach performing as one of the ABBA members? So, my review of Palatsi Theater's ABBA Dancing Queen Show starts now!

To all not-Finnish readers of my blog, I should first explain that ABBA is kind of a big thing here in Finland, even if the group has been disbanded since 1982. No matter how jealous we Finns are of the Swedes because we've never had such a megastar music brand as ABBA, almost all of us secretly think Dancing Queen is one of the most awesome jamming tunes ever and we know at least that song, Mamma Mia and/or Waterloo by heart. So audiences have very high expectations for any production that attempts to pay homage to the glory of ABBA. I'm pleased to say that the Palatsi production lived up to and even beyond at least my expectations in every way.

The ABBA four were played by Päivi Lepistö, Marko Lämsä, Kimmo Blom and Capri Selo (as Agnetha Fältskog, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Anni-Frid Lygnstad respectively). All of them were extremely good performers and went so well together that you might have believed they'd been performing together for years, just like ABBA! Their voices also went very nicely together; I just adore really good harmonies, like the ones they had at the beginning of Super Trouper. However, two of the ABBA performers really stood out for me, and those two were Kimmo Blom and Capri Selo (a.k.a. our course vocal coach!)

I really wonder why I had never heard of Kimmo Blom before, because that man's a superstar. Not only does he completely own the stage and make it absolutely clear how much he loves what he's doing, he also has a phenomenal voice which he, thank goodness, really got to show off during his SOS solo.

Capri Selo has an incredible powerhouse voice as well, and her solo performances were the definite highlights of the evening for me. If I had to name just one best moment in the show, I would probably pick Capri Selo singing The Winner Takes It All, because it combined three great things: my favourite ABBA lyrics, Selo's voice and perhaps the most skilled aerial ribbons acrobat I've ever seen.

Speaking of acrobats – in addition to the well-known songs and talented singers, the ABBA Dancing Queen Show provided some exquisite visual candy as well. Firstly, one of the things that made the original ABBA iconic was their disco-ballish costumes, so of course Palatsi's show had to recreate some of them. They were bright, they were sparkly, they were ABBA. Aside from the four singers, the show employed two dancers/circus performers. One was Paula Thesleff, the aforementioned aerial ribbons acrobat who twirled in the air during Dancing Queen and The Winner Takes It All. The other was Jenni Pylkkänen, who wowed the audience by twirling up to four hoops at once during Does Your Mother Know and some other song which I've sadly forgotten – it's been a week since I saw this show... When the two weren't performing their respective acrobatic acts, they were dancing to Mönzi Kurbanali's choreographies, which were also very nice to look at.

All of us from the theatre course had a great time cheering and swaying all together – it seems to me that the more friends you're with when watching a performance, the better the atmosphere! Our group of 17 was by far the loudest lot in the audience – Finnish audiences are very reserved in general and it usually takes something really iconic and well-known like ABBA tunes to cause a standing ovation. But even now that we had all those favourite tunes, I definitely think the audience could've been more lively. Come on Finns, don't you want the performers you're watching to know that you love them? You've got to learn how to "bring the house down" as the saying goes!

If you happen to be anywhere near Tampere, go and see ABBA Dancing Queen Show at Musiikkiteatteri Palatsi. You'll come back from the show with all the ABBA hits happily clumped up in your head.


PS I really need to say one more thing which has nothing to do with my course diary or ABBA. I made a fantastic new discovery in music, all thanks to Kristallikettu. I had never heard of Abney Park before or listened to that type of music, but now I've found them and I'm obsessed... Listening to the violin is one of my Huge Random Favourite Things along with top hats, chocolate and tea, and lots of Abney Park songs have some wonderful violin in them! Go look it up!

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