The Little Theater on the Square
Life and death, love and hate, all taking place in 1928 -- the place? Berlin's Grand hotel. Amusingly enough, this was one of the better performed musicals of the year. Pity the script sucked...
Let's introduce everyone, shall we.....
Colonel Otternschlag: the musical's ersatz narrator, the Colonel Doctor was a survivor from a WWI mustard gas attack, and is now stark raving mad -- and a Morphine addict.
The Baron: Inherited a small title, but no money -- he manages to survive on loans, swindles, and his good looks. Unfortunately his luck is running out.
Preysing: General Director Preysing, to be precise -- he's the CEO of a company that's not doing so well, even though he's sunk a great deal of his wife's money into the company to prop it up. His last hope is a merge with the Boston Company.
Grushinskaya: An aging Russian ballerina, making yet another farewell tour -- even though no one seems to care anymore.
Raffaela: Grushinskaya's personal assistant, who's also quite in love with her employer (although she doesn't know it).
Otto Kringlien: Preysing's former accountant -- he's not long for the world, and has converted all his possessions into cash so he can live up his last days. He's also Jewish (yes, it matters).
Flaemmchen: No first name, just Flaemmchen. She's a very down on her luck typist who's ready to do anything to get to America and stardom.
And a few odd others...
Erik: He runs the front desk, he's not particularly fond of his job, but his wife is about to give birth to their first child, and they need the money.
Rohna: He runs the hotel, and would fit in well with the Nazi party, as long as they didn't discover his interest in Erik.
Chauffeur: And enforcer for whoever it was that has loaned money to the Baron.
So we start with a big, full cast musical number -- with the good doctor busy shooting up in the balcony (the only weak bit of the play -- had he treated his addiction more like Michael Caine did his in The Cider House Rules maybe the whole thing wouldn't have seemed quite so absurd). We meet the principals, get a bit of the stories. The baron meets Otto, who he thinks might be an easy mark -- Flaemmchen (a.k.a. F) meets the Baron (who might be her ticket out) and Prysing, who hires her to type his notes for the shareholders meeting. Grushinskaya (a.k.a. G) and Rafaela (a.k.a. R) arrive in Berlin for a performance, but G doesn't want to -- R and the manager talk her into though. The Baron takes Otto to a club, introduces him to F, and his stock broker. G has a bad performance, and to pay the bills looks to sell a valuable piece of jewelry, which the chauffeur (a.k.a. C) tell the Baron to steal. He tries to, but G walks in on him -- and in the course of trying to bluff his way out of her room, he falls in love with her. Prysing's shareholder meeting goes bad, when he gets news that the merger with the Boston company has fallen through, and he lies and says it's still on. The next morning, The Baron tells G of his love, and the real reason he was there last night, so she will know his sincerity. Otto shoots his entire wad on the stock market, and wins big. He goes to the club and dances with F, and drops his wallet and his cash -- the Baron finds it, and ends up giving it back -- Otto gives him some money as commission, which C takes as a partial payment. Prysing's sanity has slipped since the news of his company's collapse, and he's offered F a great deal of money to "be very nice to him" (nudge nudge, wink wink). She thinks she'd do anything to get out so she agrees. C tells the Baron to go steal Prysing's wallet while he's having F be nice to him. But the Baron hears F trying to get away, and goes to her rescue. He gets shot for his trouble. Prysing gets arrested, R decides to hide the death of the Baron from G (the show must go on, after all), F ends up going with Otto to France, and Erik's wife gives birth to a healthy baby boy.
We knew this musical had problems before we even left town to see it -- my aunt had already seen it, and alluded to it's flaws. It was a strange show, but like I said, they did it well. This was a rare time that the dancer's seemed to enjoy dancing (as opposed to looking like they were counting along with the music to be sure they hit their marks at the right time). The accents were well done (especially when G was singing, in her Russian accent). The sets and lighting were very imaginative -- everything was great -- it's just that the source material was bad. It's trying to be some sort of a morality play, I guess -- but everything came out weird. In retrospect, it kind of reminds me of Sweeny Todd, but not as funny. Or wicked. Or interesting.
And they did it so well.....