Six years ago, Kery Sankoh from Barcelona worked at the Germans Trias i Pujol hospital (Can Ruti) as a laboratory technician preparing chemotherapy treatments. Among the toilets, she was known for singing through the corridors and moving her feet to the beat of the noise. It was his classmates who encouraged him to prepare for the musical auditions Sister Act. After a failed attempt, Kery went to the casting of The Lion King and entered the scenic savannah as a musical ensemble (choirs and dances). She swapped the white coat for the leopard print in a few days. And now, in the new season, his voice will be the absolute protagonist of Tub, the musical about the life of Tina Turner, harvest of Stage Spain.
The interpreter explains that the road has not been easy and has experienced financial complications due to the job instability of the artists. The stoppage of the pandemic also made a dent: “I was working on the musical about Michael Jackson in Mexico, Germany and France. We charged per gig, so on February 28 I had my last income. Thanks to the strike and all that I saved in the tour I have spent the year of labor lockdown “. Sankoh also made an effort to pay for classes in preparation for auditions of the musical of Tub, which have paid off. In the rehearsal room, interpret Simply the best as if it were Turner herself at the legendary concert in Brazil, in 1988, before 180,000 spectators.
The season kicks off with premieres and reruns. Among the first, the glitter of Grease will shine in the Nuevo Teatro Alcalá, while the umbrellas of Singing under the rain (directed by Àngel Llàcer and Manu Guix), will open at the Tívoli Theater in Barcelona from September 15th. The Apolo Theater in Barcelona will premiere Fame. Patrick Swayze will become David Bustamante in Ghost and the working strippers of The Full Monty They will make their debut at the Rialto Theater in Madrid.
The Lion King also returns to Madrid (September 23), the most watched musical in Spain, with more than five million viewers since the first curtain was raised on October 21, 2011, and the Gran Teatro Principe Pío will throw a fuse with your bet We will Rock You about Queen, with a new adaptation and set design 17 years after its first release.
There are musicals that move to expand audiences: the successful Billy elliot moves to Barcelona with a new cast, while Antonio Banderas’ company lands in Madrid from Malaga with A Chorus Line.
Spain, fourth power in musicals
Like the verses of Lope de Vega himself: “Love has an easy entrance and a difficult exit”, Yolanda Pérez, director of the production company Stage España, says that turning off the theater lights and lowering the curtain due to the imposition of the pandemic was a painful and complicated exit. Stage is one of the large musical production companies, which in March 2020 not only made cash and sold out with the story of Simba, also with the musical of Anastasia. “It has been thorny to come back. Almost 80% of the tickets we sell are from people outside of Madrid. Without tourism, last season the numbers did not come out. Now people want to go out and we are seeing it at the box office” explains the director.
At the Lope de Vega Theater on Gran Vía, the marquees turn gold again and the pre-sale resuscitates the spirits of the more than one hundred and fifty workers of the musical The Lion King. In the African steppe stage, nervous lions wag their tails, giraffes warm their throats after days without hitting the note, and Timon and Pumbaa return to their musical duo after pulling critters from under the stones.
The Angolan actor, Ricardo Nkosi, plays Mufasa and shakes his body to jump again like a real feline king: “In my adolescence I had to stop studying because we needed money at home. I learned to sing at church and I prepared years and years for castings of the Lion King, it was a dream and it wasn’t easy. “Nkosi started working as swing, the person in the cast who knows all the positions (roles) and who, in a mishap of a partner, takes his place and plays the role. “Before the pandemic I was transferred to Mufasa and although I have vertigo and a scene on a rock with a five meter drop, I enjoy it very much.”
Yolanda Pérez assures that producing musicals “is very complicated because it is a huge investment and it has a lot of risk.” The director of Stage travels continuously to the big capitals to browse and buy works that may work here: “On Broadway, only one play out of five has benefits, that is why Stage has an extensive team of marketing that analyzes the demand and trends. “The director is confidently and assures:” Spain is the fourth world power in musicals: Broadway in New York, the West End Theaters in London and Hamburg in Germany. The public is fond of it and that is why four or five other important musicals are premiered in Madrid in October “.
The ‘Billy Elliot’ this season are the ‘Danny Zuko’
The team of the other great national production company, SOM Produce, was saddened by the death of its founding partner, José María Cámara, on August 18. The producer managed the Alcalá Theater, the Rialto Theater, the Calderón Theater and the Nuevo Apolo Theater, and he specialized in adapting successful titles to the music scene. It is the case of Billy Elliot, which opens in Barcelona with a new cast on October 9 after an absolute success in Madrid. A large part of the team that performed in Madrid now returns to work in Grease.
Marcos Cámara is the executive producer of Billy elliot and of Grease: “In Spain it is consumed what in the Anglo-Saxon term is called feeling good; musicals in which we already know the history, we know the songs and we even like to dance them. They would be all those that represent closeness to our leisure, history and way of being. “SOM Produce had to return close to 20,000 tickets only of Billy elliot in Madrid, and another 20,000 pre-sale tickets in Barcelona: “Between March 15, 2020 and the first week of April we had to reimburse two and a half million in tickets. In addition, we have made a titanic effort to produce Grease, which has cost between three and a half and four million, “says Cámara.
The adaptations of the choreographies of both musicals are in charge of Tony Espinosa: “When a musical depends on a franchise (the musical is already made and is bought as is), they require you to adapt to the original. With Billy Elliot it came to me from London what is known as the choreography bible, a document where the transactions and the choreographies of the numbers are drawn, “he explains. From this framework, Espinosa has to make a dance proposal “that breathes the spirit of the bible.”
In Spain the ‘feeling good’ are consumed: musicals in which we already know the history, we know the songs and we even like to dance them
These days he is working on Grease, and preparing a musical future about Matilda, based on the book by Roald Dahl. The choreographer says that the rehearsals are being quite complicated because “the general group is forty-five people, so we had to divide them into four simultaneous spaces due to the virus protocols.” The actors and dancers are given a test every day and in the rehearsals they continue with a mask. “Now we are linking the scenes and the transitions. We have been in the theater for a week working with the department of management and machinery to unify the movement of the props with the musical numbers,” he says.
If there is a company that can boast of opening a path and school in the genre, it is Dagoll Dagom, the Catalan company founded in 1974 in which Anna Rosa Cisquella has worked since 1976, and even militates: “The taste for the musical is educated, it is a Language that if you attend it when you are little, when you grow up you get a harvest. We have produced twenty musicals and the spectators who have come to school, when they are grown up, have come with their children “.
Cisquella believes that Madrid and Barcelona are powers because “the zarzuela has been the most consumed and demanded popular genre for centuries” and the musical is “nothing other than an updated zarzuela”. These days she is working side by side with three girls of 9, 10 and 11 years old who will be the protagonists (in turns) of the first children’s musical by Dagoll Dagom. “Bye Bye Monstre was born in full confinement when TMB (Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona) launched a story contest for children. With the three winners we have created a very special piece from scratch, “says the veteran producer and now director who is eager to premiere on November 6 and for normality to be established on the scene.