BWW Feature: THE BOOK OF MORMON Guys Are Gender-Reversing in Broadway Backwards-style
THE BOOK OF MORMON has been playing at Det Norske Teatret, one of Norway's biggest repertory-theatres, for over two seasons now. As a result the freelance performers hired for this production have had the opportunity be in multiple plays during the two seasons, and have also been given the opportunity to create original content to be performed at the cabaret stage in the front house.
The result being an homage to the likes of Broadway Backwards and Miscast, appropriately named (Wo)Man up. It has been such a big success they have already done it three incarnations at various dates. And in May they will go out with a bang, doing a fourth outing. I was present at show number three, last November.
According to the cast the concept started with resident choreographer Belinda Braza, inquiring if they wanted to do something original to staged at the cabaret stage (Bikuben), and find a mutual concept they all could get behind. The result was a "one off" riffing on the Broadway tradition of doing songs the performers would never otherwise get the chance to sing in a professional setting.
"There are many show geeks in the ensemble, obsessing over YouTube clips from Broadway Backwards and Miscast and we quickly agreed upon this theme, as it had never been done in Norway before, at least not on stage," says cast member Sigurd Vespestad Martinussen. He continues, "Our theme being female songs, it was just a question of everyone adding favorites to the list, and take it from there. The first show in essence us doing all numbers we always have wanted to do. It was all fun and games, and then it was very well received by both the audience and the managers ar Det Norske Teatret. They ordered another show to be performed five weeks later. So just had to get on with it to see where we could take it from there."
Hans Magnus Hildershavn Rye adds "We didn't want to do a show where we all just showcased one number each, and on with the next one. Instead we wanted it to have a flow going through it and purpose. We wanted had to have both energetic numbers like 'Oh My Good You Guys' and 'One Night Only', but also a good portion of narrative ballads and not only do it for comedy but also give something that resonated."
Martinussen continues "We didn't want the show to feel rushed in any way so we all worked hard to make it as good as possible with the time we were given and also brought in outside assistance to help us. Director Renate Stridh has been such key people in making this all come to life. She is wonderful to work with on interpreting a song so that the acting comes naturally through."
And they have definetly succeeded! The show I witnessed, which was show number 3.0, they went all in with first "What I Was Born to Do" from Bring It On while merging it with "Meet the Plastics" from Mean Girls. The opening number was anything but subtle, to put it mildly. And it was done full out with choreography and "bitchy acting".
There was also time for rather moving moments such as "I'll be here" from Ordinary Days, performed beautifully by Joakim Havnø Ousdal. Other highlights included "Dyin' Ain't So Bad" from Bonnie And Clyde and "Shadowland" from The Lion King. The first sung Sigurd Vespestad Martinussen and the latter by Richard Lessey.
"We gladly give up our spare time to do a production like this" adds Joakim Ousdal. "When you have been given a chance to do material like this, and to work in such a good environment it is all a joy. Of course it is challenging as well. We all do multiple productions at the theatre and also do of 'put in rehearsals' on Mormon during the day."
"We would always have liked to have had more rehearsals and more time. We joke that we all are overly 'ambitious perfectionists' while at the same time being realists of what can be done in such a setting. There is things we have opted not to include as they may be too ambitious. Musicals are still in their infancy in Norway so it is important for performers to create projects that appeal to the public, " says Carl Martin Prebensen, but also adds "Maybe we will do them in 4.0 coming in May.
The show last November was packed to the rafters, so I would advice Det Norske Teatret to maybe consider doing the fourth outing on the main stage. I know at least I would have loved the final outing to go out with a bang!
Sigurd Vespestad Marthinussen, Hans Magnus Rye, Mikkel Gythfeldt, Richard Lessey, Sindre Bjørke Høyang, Joakim Havnø Ousdal, Carl Martin Prebensen
Ketil Elvegård Kristiansen, Mads Frøystadvåg Skovdahl, Sander Eriksen