Going to the new Rhein-Main-Theater is like a trip to the country. The way, surrounded by the woods and pastures, leads us to the 350 million ATS [approx. $35 million] theatre building which was built in a record 16 months. The ultra-modern glass-palace is built on a wide pasture near the small city of Niedernhausen (pop. 140,000) and appears like a fata morgana after a 20-minute drive from the Frankfurt airport.
For somebody who's no musical-fan it's like being in the wrong picture because of the huge sign on the flat roof of theatre (1,500 seats) showing "10086 Sunset Boulevard".
Continental premiere. Shirley Bassey, Udo Lindenberg, Fritz Wepper and many other real and ostensible celebrities will arrive this Friday at the outskirts of Frankfurt. Among them, the uncontested world champion at his trade: Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, who is responsible for the most spectacular premiere of the year. With a 130 Million (ATS) expenditure the continental premiere of his smash-hit "Sunset Boulevard" will be celebrated.
The story is well known from the movie of the same title: the aged silent movie star Norma Desmond (America's ex-rock-singer Helen Schneider) dreams of an unrealistic comeback and involves herself in a hopeless relationship with the unemployed scriptwriter Joe Gillis (Uwe Kröger). The situation escalates to disaster. The work won 7 Tony-Awards.
A new start for "der Tod". For Uwe Kröger--as "der Tod" in "Elisabeth" he drove innumerable teenagers nearly insane--this is the third "big deal" in only 16 months. What celebrity astrologer Eva Vaskovic-Fidelsberger saw (at the farewell party near Vienna, in front of weeping teenagers) for the Sagittarius' future happened: the "high speed career" (Fidelsberger) "escalated" last December with the leading male role in the Vietnam musical "Miss Saigon" in Stuttgart. The part of Joe Gillis in "Sunset Boulevard"--"the best male part which was given this year" (his manager Marika Lichter likes to mention this fact)--is for Kröger more than "a realization of a dream". Says Marika Lichter, also a musical theatre performer and responsible for the boom of the "Kröger stock" since "Elisabeth": "His market value is now three times as much for an entrance at galas--for "Sunset Boulevard" he earns twice as much as at the Theater an der Wien."
Posh new residence. Now the "Musical Diamond" looked for a "fitting setting": his new residence in Wiesbaden--a 10-minute drive to the Rhein-Main-Theater--is in a luxury district, whose name and location must stay a secret because of threatening fan attacks (in Vienna "hard-core" admirers rang his doorbell at night and dug in his garbage can looking for information or some "relic").
Police patrol the well-tended gardens around the villas (so fans could not--even if they want to--get to the desired sweepings) to take care of the privacy of all the millionaires. Kröger's residence seems to be very modest among all these magnificent buildings. He lives in 80 square meters--his stuff is still packed in boxes. Only the Versace couch (valued at ATS 154,000) which came with the flat is a hint that an affluent gentleman lives there. His Viennese hairdresser (Monika Potucek), who had already styled his GI-hairstyle for "Miss Saigon", came to Wiesbaden especially for a little hairdo--one of the luxury needs he affords.
Stress. After 2 months of exhausting rehearsals he deserves those extras. To be able to leave "Miss Saigon" a month in advance and not be in breach of contract regarding the number of his appearances, he abstained from taking any vacation for the whole year. "The "Sunset Boulevard" rehearsals were extremely hard--10 hours a day, and I'm onstage nonstop."
Aggravating circumstance: the construction was barely finished on time. Kröger: "At the beginning the air was unbelievably dusty--terribly bad for the voice. Many actors had allergic reactions to the toxic fumes of the fresh paint. At the first day of rehearsal we had nothing to eat--they simply forgot the catering for the cast."
At least the part promises "opulent times" :"As Joe Gillis I'm narrator of the whole story. This part puts me to the test as an actor--and this is becoming more and more important to me. I'd like to play the lead in a movie." Smaller parts in European TV series (for example "Kommisar Rex") are his first experiences of a promising new path in his career.
A year in Frankfurt. For now Kröger is still settled doing musicals: he is bound by contract for a year and 8 performances a week in Niedernhausen. That there won't be a large enough audience is not to be feared. 90 percent of the tickets until March are sold. PR gigs--like Helen Schneider's appearance on the TV show "Wetten, daß...?"--supported the luxurious production. Norma Desmond's villa is dominated by a huge staircase (14 tons) which can be lifted hydraulically. Underneath it the second setting is completely installed. The costs of the costumes are up to ATS 14 million. The aged diva's evening dress needed three months of needlework.
A sad "Kröger-less" time for his enthusiastic Viennese fans. He only appears on the Austrian television benefit "Licht ins Dunkel" on December 24, 1995, and a CD with musical theatre melodies is currently under preparation.
Such an intense idolization is unusual in Germany. Kröger: "Here, groups of people arrive in busses from all over Germany every day. Most of Viennese fans saw "Elisabeth" more than 100 times. Such a close relationship develops here in Germany extremely rarely."
As "Tod" it's easy living--as you know especially in Vienna.