Frank Wildhorn and His Musical Theatre WORLD
A few weeks back, BroadwayWorld.com's international sources tipped us off to the fact that composer Frank Wildhorn was having quite the European adventure this past summer, with new productions of Dracula, Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel and Rudolf, taking the continent of Europe by storm in Germany, Italy, Austria, Hungary and more. In addition, a musical theatre festival named after him as well as word that the Far East is joining in the Wildhorn fever as well.
This of course, made me track him down and found myself heading into Lower Manhattan to sit and chat and hear firsthand about all things "Wildhorn."
Word on the street is that you've gone completely "international" as of late - from the West to East. Where should we begin?
Japan's a good place to start, because it all leads back to Europe. Last year in Japan, I was the first Westerner to be commissioned by Takarazuka, which is the all-girl group in Japan. They've been in existence in Japan for a hundred years. It's a whole culture where you graduate from the schools and then join these performance companies. Almost all the biggest stars in Japan have come from this tradition. So, I did a show in Japan called Never Say Goodbye (which I wrote with Shuichiro Koike). I'd never been there before and it's suddenly become a huge market for me. So in 2008, Rudolf, which is playing in Budapest, Hungary (and has played in Szeged, Hungary for the past 2 summers - theatre capacity 4,000!) will be moving to Japan and The Scarlet Pimpernel will also be done by Takarazuka as well.
It sounds like maybe you're eating a lot more sushi?
I don't eat sushi, which is a problem, because they don't know what to do with me! I'm such a steak and potatoes kind of guy.
Lots of Teriyaki then? I'm sure that's not stopping your flow of work down there...
In 2009, Cyrano will be there. I went to Japan this summer to celebrate the 7th year (running) of Jekyll and Hyde and the only reason that it is coming off is because of Takeshi Kaga, the show's star (who's also happens to be "The Iron Chef"). He is like the Brian Stokes Mitchell of Japan - their biggest leading man. Jekyll must cease performing so that he can star in Cyrano next and they need to make room for it. Otherwise, needless to say, it could keep running, but otherwise 7+ years is simply great.
Thomas Borchert (Dracula) and Vampire Girls in the Austrian production
After that, there's a woman named Yoka Wao, who was the star of Never Say Goodbye, again from Takarazia. She's a beautiful, tall, incredibly talented Japanese star there. She has now graduated / retired from Takarazia and the next thing she's going to do is Dracula...and she's going to PLAY Dracula.
Fascinating as Japanese history and the tradition was for more to play woman. Now, a female Dracula?
Exactly! While I was in Japan this summer for Jekyll, she
came to me with this idea and I said – I don't know. But, she convinced me.
When, we resurrected Dracula this summer
in Europe, she came with her producers and we made a deal, so in Spring of
2009, Dracula will open in Japan with a woman in the starring role. I think that's so cool, and the costs of musicals alone make it financial risks so to cast a woman in a role traditional a man (not to mention the Bram Stroker novel) becomes riskier.