The Sound of музыка: Moscow Woos Musical Theatre

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Russia’s capital city this year has welcomed the bright lights of musical theatre in two Moscow locations. The most recent opening came earlier this month with the largest cinema hall in Europe converted for showing live performances. According to the Oct. 2 article from online news source Russia Beyond the Headlines:

The Rossiya Theatre – formerly known as the Pushkinsky Cinema – has been officially unveiled after its restoration. Musicals are still a relatively new genre in Russia, yet the theatre has scheduled daily performances of this kind for Moscow audiences…The Rossiya Theatre will open its season with the Russian premiere of “The Little Mermaid,” a fairy tale in which all cast members sing, dance and show off their acrobatic skits – just as the genre requires.

The Rossiya Theatre

The cinema had always hosted major events, such as the Moscow International Film Festival. Last spring, Moscow authorities chose to restore the cinema, and subcontracted the Netherlands company Stage Entertainment, “thanks to its great experience in staging musicals in Russia (‘Cats,’ ‘Mamma Mia!,’ ‘Zorro,’ ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ and ‘Sound of Music’),” notes RTU, which calls itself the Theatre Information Gateway For and About Russia.

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Russia Beyond the Headlines cites information supplied by Dmitry Bogachev, general director of Stage Entertainment:

According to Bogachev, a steel stage construction was installed in the theatre and stands capable of bearing 25 tons of scenery and equipment. Furthermore, a section of the stalls was raised by 5 feet, in order to give the audience a better view of the stage.

RTU added in a May article:

The authors of the projects think that the transformation of this respectable cinema into a theatre of musicals may become an organic step towards formation of Moscow’s theatrical centre (given the closeness of the future theatre to the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theatre, the Moscow State Operetta Theatre, the Russian Academic Youth Theatre, Theatre of Nations, the Lenkom Theatre as well as the Theatre Centre “Na Strastnom”, owned by the Theatre Union of the Russian Federation.)

In February of this year, the musical “We Can’t Choose Our Times” opened at the Gorbunov Palace of Culture, known as the Gorbushka, Russia Beyond the Headlines reported. The show featured Soviet and American music from the 1930s, and was the theater’s first show since its redevelopment exclusively for musical theatre. The play portrayed the story of an American radio journalist who discovers his Russian roots.

The news site quoted Mikhail Shvydkoi, a former Russian minister of culture and now the theater’s artistic director, about the show:

“After the premiere in New York, I started to think about how we could stage it over here. At that moment I met the producer David Smelyansky, who told me that the Gorbunov Palace of Culture was looking for a new image. The rock musician Alexei Kortnev and I wrote the libretto. Now, however, I’m more occupied with the refurbishment and the commercial side of things as a whole.

“More than $3 million dollars has been invested in We Can’t Choose Our Times, and we’ve spent about the same amount on the refurbishment, perhaps even more. On top of that the Khrunichev Factory, which owns the Gorbushka, has also spent a considerable sum on the refurbishment.”