Top 5 Countries that kick ass in Musical Theater
When we think about musical theater we usually think about UK and US and the big budget productions they manage to make, but around the world there are countries that built a solid musical theater tradition from scratch and today have a loyal audience that celebrates whenever there’s a new musical in town.
For this list I’ve chosen countries that can deliver the full Broadway experience, with the singers, lights and special effects, whether they replicate a UK musical or make their own. So, let’s get started.
Wait? What? Russia has musicals? Yes. And they are great. The big musicals started to be produced in 2004 when Stage Entertainment started to operate in the country. Everything started with Cats, which ran over a year. Then Mamma Mia and Beauty and The Beast, which was a little diferent from other countries because only the Russians have the balls to say to Disney: “My Beast will have horns. Deal with it.”
I think the reason they got away with it is because Russian musical theater is amazing. Gala events, huge sets, complex light design and so on. They follow the same tradition as the Russian opera and Russian ballet and target the same wealthy audience.
Canada is a country full of surprises. Great music, great athletes and successful actors that people always assume are American. Anyway, being the Twilight Zone of musical theater has its benefits and one of them is when big budget productions need somewhere to go, their idea is: “Hey, let’s go to Canada,” and they end up having better productions of The Phantom of The Opera.
Including the fact that Colm Wilkinson, who was the first Valjean in Les Miserablés, played the Phantom. I mean, how can a single actor be Valjean and the Phantom? Thanks to Canada, which, by the way, has a great history of creating musical productions since 1958 when the first regional theaters were established. This is why they deserve a place of their own on our list.
The French like to do things their own way and that’s a good thing. Sure, they have their share of imported American and English productions, but they also export composers like Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, responsible for musicals like Les Miserablés and Miss Saigon. They also have good musicals like Les 10 Commandements, which was a huge success and had its own Kickstarter campaign funded successfully to be produced in Rwanda. Yes, Rwanda. Is that cool or what?
It all started when CIE International aquired a portion of a local entertainment company, restored an old cinema called Paramount and transformed it into a big theater with a stage fit to receive international productions.
Ironically this was the first cinema in Latin America that received sound equipment when it opened in 1929. The first production played was Les Miserablés in 2001 and since then musicals are a hit in Brazil. Usually there are over five international productions playing in different stages of São Paulo at the same time and another three or four in Rio. But not everything is great in the world of Brazilian theater. Brazilian productions usually don’t record CDs like other countries on our list do and only after 14 years later is Brazil starting to create its own musicals.
1. The Netherlands
When I started to research diferent versions of musicals around the world, the Netherlands blew me away. The quality of their productions is amazing. The singers are really good. They record CDs of most of their productions like Broadway productions do and have a faithful audience. They even have musical awards! What more could you ask? It’s the full package. This is why they deserve the number one spot on our list. They bring the full Broadway/West End experience outside its original borders.
Look at this Jean Valjean. This guy needs no makeup to look like the part. He just shows up. Take that Hugh Jackman!
To finish our around the world musical tour, let’s watch a lot of Valjeans from the four corners of the globe singing the same song in words that I couldn’t possibly understand, because why not?