The Stars are Wobbling

The Rock Opera Starmania at Essen's Aalto-Theater

Ralf Stiftel

It is a pink, shining star that glides down, and insides sits the diva Stella Spotlight--played by rock singer Oona. And while she sings her sad ballad about the end of a sex symbol, her star wobbles, the spotlight shakes, and the audience is terribly worried about her beautiful voice. It was not just that star that wobbled at this German premiere of the rock opera Starmania, with which Musiktheater and Junges Theater Casa Nova wanted to prove that the Ruhrgebeit is "musicals land"--despite Heyme's flop with Anything Goes in Recklinghausen.

There's a lot of advertising for the show by Frenchmen Michel Berger and Luc Plamondon, and a lot of money was spent on the actors and equipment in particular. The result is rather weak. It isn't the fault of the actors, who did what was asked of them by the notes and book brilliantly, and with committment. It is, rather, the fault of the quite confusing story, that takes place in a fully technologised future in the year 2000, in Monopolis, where the lousy multi-millionaire Zéro Janvier wants to gain political force and establish a nuclear country, against which some brave rocker-terrorists are fighting, lead by Johnny Rockfort. In between there are some melancholic love affairs, and in the end a hail of bullets tears Cristal (who's gone from TV favourite to purified protester) from Johnny's side, whereupon he starts singing. It doesn't have to be a flop; it isn't any stupider than locomotives on roller skates or dancing cats.

Only after the intermission does the very competent band reach its top form; before that, the uptempo songs were too slow. It's in the ballads that the singers prove their qualities. That's the good thing about Starmania: Oona's voluminous melody arcs, Gundula sparkles as the intriguing Sadia, Annika Bruhns's appearances, especially after the intermission, are powerful, and Andrea Weiss electrifies the audience as narrator and cafeteria waitress, with slow ballads as well as uptempo dance numbers. The male actors--such as Erwin Bruhn (Zéro) and Uwe Kröger (as the gay would-be drummer Ziggy) are hardly inferior. Admittedly, the material contains not a single haunting tune; it only quotes every rock cliche of the past ten years.

The star wobbled, the curtain stuck and rustled, the pretty cardboard skyline shook--not only was the world under a curse, Robert Ebeling's scenery was as well. Now to the really sad part: the lyrics by director Jürgen Schwalbe and Gerulf Pannach, which hunted down and killed the German language. Not a single correct stress placement, and Andrea Weiss has to sing, "Soon you will see/the lady of the coffee machine/go away/and she plants salad." Ziggy and Marie-Jeanne say farewell with the lines, "two stars separate/this night/forever". This kitsch is already embarrassing.

It would have been possible to save the story with faster tempi, some ideas for the choreography, singable lyrics, and a lot of irony. There were some signs of this in the appearances of the TV moderator (Carlo Lauber, great as a German robot/rapper). Too few--Schwalbe staged the story's triviality with the pathos of a Wagnerian opera, and insults the intelligence of the people who are expected to pay for their tickets.

To the main pageTo the press page