So I thought that it would be interesting to do a comparison between Broadway musical theatre and German / Austrian musical theatre. Now, in grouping German and Austrian musical theatre together, I do not mean to say that the two cultures are the same but I have noticed that there are many similarities between the two and that many actors in Austrian musical theatre are from Germany. So I’m grouping them together. I would have liked to have been able to have thrown West End theatre into this mix but, unfortunately, I know little to nothing about West End theatre from personal, first-hand experience so I decided that it wouldn’t be a good idea to go that route. So, let’s jump into it.
Funny that I’d start at the end of the theatre experience, huh? I don’t actually have any reason for it or any comment to make on it. I just wanted to point that out. Anyways…
Curtain calls, curtain calls, curtain calls.
So, the curtain call is pretty much where the audience practically thanks the performers for their work on the stage and telling them how well they did. That remains the same in both Broadway musical theatre and German / Austrian musical theatre.
The order in which the actors come out is also more-or-less the same.
And yet, in Austria (and I’m pretty sure in Germany as well), they welcome the conductor onto the stage to take the final bow. I guess that’s just a respectful thing to do. I’m not really sure. I know that it’s done in Austria and I’ve seen it done in touring productions in Germany but that might vary from production-to-production.
Then, another thing that I’ve noticed (though this might only be for special performances; I don’t really know) is that the actors receive flowers at the curtain call. I know that this is done for the leading lady sometimes but I saw this done for all of the main actors for the first time in ELISABETH. If anyone is particularly knowledgeable on this, I would be very glad to know if this is a thing that happens at all performances or only at special performances.
As a general observation, I’ve noticed that Broadway costumes and wigs can be downright sloppy compared to other productions of the same show. One needs look no further than the Broadway production of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA to see what I mean. Now, I don’t mean to discredit Broadway (okay, maybe I do) but if you’ve seen what they did to TANZ DER VAMPIRE in the Broadway production you’d know what I mean. The costumes for the Broadway production were absolutely horrible and actually embarrassing. For the German and Austrian productions, the costumes are beautiful.
Now, I know that maybe this isn’t true for everything. But in general, I’ve noticed that Broadway’s costumes and wigs are not as beautifully made as other productions. Maybe that’s not always true though!
MUSICALS THAT HAVE SUCCESS…
I’ve spent time analyzing things like this (for far longer spans of time than I should) and I’ve noticed that on Broadway and London’s West End, the popular shows are more-or-less the same. I don’t know if that has anything to do with the fact that both countries speak English as an official language. But in Germany and Austria, musicals that are not very well-known in America are actually very successful. STARLIGHT EXPRESS is Germany’s most successful musical and it was London’s most successful musical for a little while. But now? It’s pretty much forgotten by most people.
And of course, in Germany, Austria, and in America, people have respect for those successful musicals that everyone knows such as LES MISÉRABLES, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, and WICKED, but in Germany and Austria, I’ve noticed that those productions don’t have nearly as long runs. Maybe that’s just culturally how they run musical theatre or that maybe these shows just aren’t as popular as they are in America.
In Germany and Austria, though, I’ve noticed that people know and do enjoy musicals from America and England and ones that are popular there but that the opposite is not necessarily true (though I will say that from what I can tell from my personal observations, I have seen that recognition of musicals like ELISABETH and TANZ DER VAMPIRE are growing. This is more of a mainstream success thing as far as I can tell, though, because these people who do recognize these German / Austrian musicals are only really into those two or maybe just one. Which is totally fine, I just don’t consider it a true interest in German-language musical theatre as a whole if you know what I mean).
One thing similar is that I’d say that on Broadway and in German-language musical theatre, the same people seem to be cast in every major production. Which is much more understandable in Germany and Austria than it is in Broadway. New York and America in general is filled with people who want so badly to be on Broadway but you see the same people on the stage almost every time with maybe a few new faces thrown in there for good measure. In Germany and Austria, however, I think that musical theatre is a much smaller (but steadily growing) industry so it’s understandable that people like Mark Seibert and Jana Werner get cast over and over again. (Which I don’t personally mind very much because I absolutely adore both Mark Seibert and Jana Werner.)
But you know what’s different?
In Germany and Austria, I’ve seen actors from America, England, and other countries star in productions. And it’s super cool and awesome. I mean, Veronica Appeddu may not speak German but she sings it very well. And Drew Sarich? He’s American but I had no idea that he wasn’t German. Now, in SCHIKANEDER: DAS MUSICAL, Katie Hall from England is doing an amazing job. And I think that it’s so wonderful that these people are getting to get a taste of Austrian / German culture.
But you know what I’ve not seen much of?
I’ve not seen much of actors and actresses from countries other than London and other countries where English is a main language star on Broadway. I don’t know if the same applies to England so I won’t say anything about it. And of course, there are exceptions (though none are coming to mind right now). But honestly, I was so disappointed when, on the Broadway.com show they were talking about how, if SCHIKANEDER got a Broadway transfer, Hugh Jackman might get the role. And now, this is nothing against Hugh Jackman personally or professionally but the role that they want him to play is not in his vocal range at all. They’d have to lower the songs a whole octave just so that he could sing it right. But why was I super disappointed? Well, because Mark Seibert who is playing Emanuel Schikaneder in Vienna right now can speak English and I think that it’s about time that he get to be on Broadway. And seriously, it doesn’t even need to be Mark. But it would be nice if the at least considered bringing on a musical actor from Germany or Austria.
Sorry for that little rant… I didn’t mean for it to get that heated. But I had to get it out of my system.
Clearly, those aren’t all of the differences and similarities. I’ll probably make another post when I can think about it a little more clearly. And I’ve got homework to do. And this was getting to be a pretty long post. Anyways, my question for you is: what do you think about the whole Hugh Jackman thing that I ranted about earlier? Do you think that Broadway should be bringing on more actors from non-English speaking countries like they do in Germany and Austria? (Or maybe, as a German-speaker, maybe I’m just a little bit too angry about it? Believe me, that’s completely possible!) Also, have you ever listened to a song from a musical in German? Did you like it?