Avalanche of musicals: it is as difficult to choose a title as it is to decide on a series on Netflix

Unraveling the Spanish musical billboard is beginning to be as maddening as choosing which series to watch every night in the magma of television platforms. If last fall there was an avalanche with the effects of the pandemic still kicking, the season that begins is not short either. From now until mid-November, a dozen major productions are going to premiere between Madrid and Barcelona alone, to which must be added those that both cities carry over from previous years and those that are touring the rest of the country. Most have their main claim in the title itself, because what is most successful in the sector are the adaptations of popular books or movies: Matilda, Mamma Mia!, The Bridges of Madison County, Pretty Woman, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The NeverEnding Story either The choir boys among others. Without forget The Lion King, fireproof since 2010. Either malinche, the great bet of Nacho Cano, or the new proposal of Antonio Banderas, Godspell.

There are musicals for all tastes, but the one that has many ballots to become the great success of the new season is Matilda, Spanish adaptation of the one that has been triumphing in London’s West End for a decade, where it has won a record number of seven Olivier Awards. It was replicated on Broadway in 2013 and later in a dozen countries. Netflix just released a movie version. But the most important fact is the following: it is an original spectacle of the sacrosanct Royal Shakespeare Company. Based on the famous novel by Roald Dahl, which became even more popular after the homonymous film directed by Danny DeVito in 1996, it tells the story of a girl who loves to read and uses her telekinetic powers to confront the evil director from her school.

The Spanish version, which premieres on September 30 at the Nuevo Teatro Alcalá in Madrid, also has its own attractions. It is produced by SOM, responsible for hits like West Side Story, Billy Elliot either grease, under the artistic direction of David Serrano, one of the magicians of Spanish musicals. He was the one who directed the three previous titles and is also a renovator of the genre in the cinema with films like the recent I’m going to have a good time either The Other Side of the Bed. He forms a perfect tandem with Marcos Cámara, executive director of SOM, one of those passionate producers who is deeply involved in each project. the of Matilda I had been dreaming about it for years: “The first time I saw this show in London I was stunned. And how is this done? I want to do this”, he recalls sitting in the stalls of the Nuevo Alcalá during a technical rehearsal of the montage last week. Twelve million euros has cost him to set it up in Spain.

Cristina Llorente and Roger Berruezo, in a promotional image of the musical ‘Pretty Woman’.

Next to him, Serrano nods: “Possibly, Matilda be the biggest challenge we’ve faced since we started making musicals. Not only because the main weight of the work is carried by children, which is a brutal effort because we have to work with six different casts so that they alternate. We have been working with them for two years. But is that the score [de Tim Minchin] it is very complex, it is not easy music. It has also been difficult to translate the lyrics, the staging has a lot of magic… It’s brutal”, warns the director. To which Cámara adds: “Like many other musicals, Matilda it has for the public the attraction that it is a title that they know. It is a brand and that is already an advantage. But to this add excellence, this has the seal of the Royal Shakespeare Company”.

In parallel, Cámara and Serrano have raised for this season Mama Mia!, a title that has already been seen in Spain, but that they have completely revamped in a new production that will be presented on October 7 at the Rialto in Madrid. Isn’t it too risky to launch two big bets at the same time at a time of such economic uncertainty? “At the moment, the advance sale is going well. We are not noticing any change with respect to last year”, answers Cámara. Yolanda Pérez Abejón, CEO of Stage Entertainment Spainproducer of The Lion King, is even more optimistic: “Not only are we like last year. It is that we are returning to the sales levels of 2019, which was the best musical season in history in this country.

Nacho Cano, in the center with a microphone, surrounded by members of the 'Malinche' cast, during the production's presentation on September 7 in Madrid.
Nacho Cano, in the center with a microphone, surrounded by members of the ‘Malinche’ cast, during the production’s presentation on September 7 in Madrid.Sergio Perez (EFE)

It seems that neither the war nor the inflation nor the rise in interest rates scare the sector. The market has not stopped growing in Spain in the last decade and the recovery after the stoppage due to the pandemic is going from strength to strength. However, Pérez Abejón warns: “Competition is always good, it encourages the market. But be careful: not everything that is sold as ‘musical’ has the same characteristics. A small production is not the same as a large one. Nor is a show with a few songs that another with fifteen or twenty songs. What is meant by ‘musical theatre’ is mostly based on music. And it has to be live music, with good performers who know how to sing, dance and act at the same time. It is important to take this into account to know what is being paid in each case”.

Another musical that will surely give a lot to talk about this season is Malinche. Not only because of the media projection of its creator, Nacho Cano, one of the three members of the dissolved Mecano group, but also because of the controversies that it drags on. The first was unleashed last year when the Madrid City Council, governed by the PP, announced the transfer of public land in the capital for Cano to build an Aztec pyramid as the stage for the show, which provoked criticism from the opposition, which understood that a private project was being given preferential treatment. After criticism, the Aztec pyramid project was canceled and the musical will finally premiere tomorrow in a tent at the Ifema fairgrounds.

Also controversial has been the argument that Malinche: tells the relationship between the Spanish expeditionary Hernán Cortés and the indigenous Malinche as a story of love and encounter between two cultures, ignoring the bloody component of the Spanish conquest of Mexico. At the press conference to present the montage last week, Cano clarified: “I know we are going to receive criticism because it is a topic that generates opinion. But, for me, the important thing is that people know this story, because the interaction between Cuts, Malinche Y Montezuma made the world the way it is. And it is preferable to accept it positively than negatively”.

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Avalanche of musicals: it is as difficult to choose a title as it is to decide on a series on Netflix