With this show, theatre manager Peter Weck is making his farewell from the Theater an der Wien--and once again Austria's capital shall be Europe's musical capital. It's a title Vienna does not like too much, but it attracts tourists. "The Viennese are pretentious, they have their Burgtheater, they love opera and operetta, and musicals are not too well-liked," Kröger describes the situation he is facing. "And the Austrians love their "Sisi"; they will look very critically at the world premiere," says Hamm's musical star, who sees Elisabeth, after Starlight Express, Starmania, and Jesus Christ Superstar, as one of the milestones of his career.
Even for Kröger, it was a surprise that Elisabeth will not be like the Romy Schneider movies. He went to the audition completely relaxed, he says. He was expecting a Heimatstück, and wondered if there was in fact a part for him, maybe as Emperor Franz Joseph. "And then I heard that marvellous music, rocky, jazzy, sometimes reminiscent of Carmina Burana," says Kröger enthusiastically. He got the part of der Tod immediately. Elisabeth, Pia Douwes, had to audition three times.
Elisabeth's director, Harry Kupfer from eastern Berlin, already had rather fixed ideas of the cast. The result was a fascinating opportunity for Kröger: "I have the change to create this role, to really bring something of myself to it. As I am the first to play it, there were no preconceptions." That is not easy, as he is playing an apparition rather than a historical personality. And yet he is the main character of the piece, which is about Elisabeth's longing for death as well as the decline of the Habsburg monarchy. "At times I just observe, but at others I force a decision," Kröger outlines der Tod as the driving force of the musical. His estimation: "The show has the potential to become a hit."
That would also mean a further big step in Uwe Kröger's career--but hard work has always been more important to him than success. It has brought him from "Backstage" productions in Hamm to the international musical scene. It all started with the revue Dreams of Broadway at the Kurhaus. "If it weren't for that and Annette Brückner, I might still be working in youth psychiatry," says Kröger, looking back to his roots. About the ballet teacher in Hamm who got him started, Uwe Kröger says: "Annette Brückner can push the level so high, that people who come through her training will be able to succeed." His future plans also show that the successful artist has not forgotten his hometown: "Possibilities in the Ruhrgebiet are always in discussion." Important for him: "curiousity about everything new." But first, it's toi, toi, toi for der Tod.