By Dimitris Rigopoulos
On Monday, December 16, more than 2,000 people flocked to the Badminton Theater in the Athenian suburb of Goudi to watch a tribute to Stella Greka, who, along with Sofia Vembo, Danae and the Kalouta sisters, was among the leading proponents of what was known as “light” pop in the 1940s. A few weeks ago, tickets also sold fast for a tribute to Mihalis Sougioul, a composer active from the 1930s to the 50s who created the sounds that are today associated closely with postwar and post-occupation Athens.
It sounds surreal, on the eve of 2014, that the Greek capital's biggest orchestra be performing music from the period before, during and after World War II, and not because there is anything lacking in the quality of the songs but because it is surprising that they should be so enduring and so popular with a broad contemporary audience.
It appears that retro works and the Badminton Theater especially has invested in this direction – quite successfully as well. The crisis has played its part because it has become increasingly difficult to bring impressive and popular international shows and acts to Greece.
So, the managing director of the Badminton Theater, Michalis Adam, and his associates have turned to the concept of shows that transport the audience to a different era rather than a different world.
“To every era except our own, to be precise,” said Adam in jest while discussing why retro revivals have so much popular appeal today.
In early 2012, and following the resounding success of the Greek National Opera's tributes to Greek composers Theofrastos Sakellaridis and Costas Giannidis, playwright Lambros Liavas worked with the Badminton Theater on a production that paid tribute to the Athenian composer and songwriter Attik (1885-1944), which was the first of its kind to become a success – selling more than 50,000 tickets – and marked the beginning of the retro trend.
The most recent tribute at the theater did even better than “Searching for Attik” or subsequent like-minded performances, as it has sold over 90,000 tickets so far and has been granted an extended run due to popular demand. The tribute, titled “Tha se paro na fygoume” (I Will Take You Away), is a musical about the story of Greece as it was told on the stage in popular revues.
A tribute to famed composer Mikis Theodorakis had also sold some 70,000 tickets by the end of its run, while a show about chanteuses Marinella and Vembo starting on January 15 is expected to be another smash hit.
Adam believes that retro music and theater always strikes a chord because it prettifies the past and because “in times of crisis and collective depression, running backward is seen as a way out. Have you considered why there was no such thing as retro in the 1960s?”
The term “retro” emerged in Greece in the mid-1970s during the first OPEC crisis, while in the West, the trend was best encapsulated by the huge commercial success of the big-screen adaptation of “The Great Gatsby.”
Do you think that 30 years from now this age, this difficult yet fascinating era, will be “retro” and there will be shows made about the crisis and 2010? The question is rather rhetorical, because this will most definitely be the case.