New Swedish Rock Opera RICHARDROCKS to Premiere in London
King Richard III was finally laid to rest this month with suitable pomp and majesty in Leicester Cathedral.
But England's last Plantagenet king will be brought vividly back to life later this year with the world premiere in London of a major new Swedish rock opera, RichardRocks.
Featuring cutting edge lighting, sound design, video and computer animation, RichardRocks will open for a five-week season from October 3 in the 770-seat Great Hall of The People's Palace, a superb Art Deco theatre in the East End.
Press night is Wednesday 7 October at 7.30pm.
RichardRocks, with 35 original songs and a cast of 28, has been inspired by both Shakespeare's Richard III and by Al Pacino's 1996 film, Looking for Richard. It has music by Peter Robsahm, book and lyrics by Maria Robsahm, and is directed by Staffan Aspegren. It is produced by Viper Island Production in collaboration with London-based producer and promoter, From Sweden Productions.
Swedish musical theatre star Fred Johanson will play Richard III. The rest of the roles will be cast in London.
"Don't expect this Richard to be a hunchback with a bad haircut," warns writer Maria Robsahm. "Our Richard is a manipulative Machiavellian prince - a modern psychopath. Externally he is charismatic, handsome and witty. It's inside - morally and psychologically - that he's distorted. He knows how to get what he wants, whatever the cost. He sees the people around him either as a means to an end or as obstacles to be removed."
Composer Peter Robsahm added: "The story of Richard III has often been reduced to a one-man-show portraying evil. And no doubt the question of evil is very interesting. But how does it feel to be a boy of 13 suddenly becoming king? And how does it feel to be a mother and realise your son has done horrible things? I was also interested in the people around Richard. RichardRocks is something out of the ordinary - both artistically and technologically. The show's music combines heavy rock with beautiful harmonies of a more classical cut. The flavours in my music range from German metal band Rammstein, Deep Purple, the Kinks and Eminem to Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Elgar."
Fred Johanson has starred in several major musicals in both his native Sweden and London's West End. He played Peron in Evita, Javert in Les Miserables, Max in Sunset Boulevard, Old Deuteronomy in Cats, Reverend Shaw in Footloose, The Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Louis B. Meyer in Garbo and Frollo in Notre Dame de Paris. He played Pontius Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar both on stage and in the British-made film version in 2000 that went on to win an Emmy Award. As a soloist he has performed at the Royal Albert Hall, the Berwaldhallen
Concert Hall and the Stockholm Concert Hall. He has released two solo albums and reached number 1 on the Australian charts with the group Scandal'us, achieving double platinum status. He has also written songs for ABBA's Annifrid Lyngstad.
As a member of his own rock band, Robb & Friends, from 1978 to 1984, Peter Robsham wrote and staged Childhood Gardens, a multi-media themed concert combining dance, art and poetry. In 1993-4 he went on to write and star (as Quasimodo) in his first musical, Notre Dame, which was staged in the Swedish cities of Skövde and Jönköping. From 1997 to 1999 he was a member of the Swedish National Theatre's regional board and has also been active as a concert promoter and as a reporter for the music magazine Showtime. He was originally inspired to create a rock opera based on Shakespeare's play Richard III when he saw Al Pacino's film Looking for Richard in 1997; RichardRocks germinated over a number of years and its completion coincided with the discovery of the remains of the real King Richard III in Leicester in 2012.
An award-winning journalist and author, Maria Robsahm spent a number of years as a respected news reporter and news anchor for the Swedish national broadcasting companies TV4 and SVT. She was also on the editorial team of Dagens Nyheter, the leading daily newspaper in Sweden, and a writer for the monthly magazine Moderna Tider, receiving the Great Journalist Award (Stora Journalistpriset) in 1996. She has written two books and also made several acclaimed documentaries for Swedish TV, including a trilogy about the 1994 sinking of the cruise ferry Estonia. From 2004 to 2009 she was a Member of the European Parliament (MEP). RichardRocks marks her debut as a lyricist.
Staffan Aspegren is one of Scandinavia's leading directors of musicals and opera. In 1994 he directed the
inaugural performance at the Göteborg Opera House, which was broadcast live on Swedish National Television, and his subsequent productions at the house have included Madama Butterfly, Macbeth, Die Fledermaus, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, A Chorus Line and Kiss Me Kate. He has worked at every opera house in Sweden and at a number of others around the world, directing Sweeney Todd at the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki, La traviata at the Danish Øresund Opera, West Side Story at the Teatro dell'Opera in Rome and Dvo?ák's Rusalka and Massenet's Werther at Cape Town Opera in South Africa. Among the many theatrical productions he has directed are Tosca, Chess, Cats, Aspects of Love, Eugene Onegin, The Snow Queen, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Amadeus and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Helena Hvistendahl Philipson has choreographed numerous musicals including Oliver, Fame, The Wizard of Oz, Annie, Snow White, Robin the Robber's Daughter, Pippi Longstocking, When the Robbers Came to Cardamom Town, Peter Pan and Cinderella - and the operetta The Czardas Princess.