As austerity persists, Greeks seek solace and escape in musicals

What has prompted Greek producers to invest in musicals over the last few years? Despite a harsh winter and summer season, and a staggering 90 percent unemployment rate in the acting world, producers are gearing up for another musical-filled season in Athens. Even though the genre has little to no history in Greece, we’ve seen how well performances such as “Aman Amin,” “Fame” and “Chicago” have been received in the country’s capital. In the past year, we’ve also seen many singers not usually associated with theater, including Aleka Kanelidou, Marinella, Costas Makedonas and Isaias Matiaba, performing in such productions.

The latest to jump aboard the musical train is award-winning actress Maria Nafpliotou, who will perform in the hit show “Cabaret,” set to premiere in early October at the Athens Concert Hall. Ahead of that, Nafpliotou will also play Melina Mercouri in a performance that combines prose and songs penned by the poet Stratis Paschalis and music by Stavros Xarchakos, Elli Paspala and Iro Saia.

In January, director Themis Marsellou is expected to begin rehearsals for the musical “Annie,” which will feature Greek-Cypriot pop star Michalis Hatzigiannis.

The Badminton Theater is set to premiere a show about the life of Sophia Vembo, a leading singer and actress active from the interwar period to the early postwar years and the 1950s.

“Some Like it Hot,” directed by Stamatis Fasoulis and featuring performances by Zeta Makripoulia and Yiannis Zouganelis, will be gracing the stage of the Pallas Theater, while Nikos Karvellas’s rock opera “Demons,” featuring singer Anna Vissi, will premiere on October 5.

“There is no doubt that here in Greece, we don’t have a history of musicals, but we’ve seen that the audience has received such shows – which include live orchestras, dancers, actors, song and plenty of dancing – quite well,” producer Dionysis Potsokalis told Kathimerini.

Michalis Adam, founder of ADaM productions, said that watching musicals such as “Chicago” translated into Greek is like “listening to the Rolling Stones in Russian or German. That’s why we supported performances about the lives of 20th-century composer Attik or Mikis Theodorakis. We’re now preparing a tribute to Vembo. Someday we’ll compose a Greek musical.” Adam is responsible for bringing “Cats” to the Badminton Theater in Athens.

In Adam’s opinion, theater is surviving in these difficult times because it provides the public with a means of escape.

“Audience members over 45 years old, who maintain a steady income or pension and purchase 50-euro tickets, are able to support theater in this way.” As for how such performances can survive in these times of austerity, he’s assertive.

“It’s not strange, and it’s certainly not an issue of overspending. A big production can survive because we have a larger seating capacity, but for a performance with 300 seats, I would say it’s very difficult.”

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