The catch line at the bottom of the splashy advertisements strewn across train stations always makes me laugh, because being tourist-oriented in the ever-obsessed-with-cool Berlin is probably the last thing you’d want to emphasize. Of course, what they’re trying to get at is that you don’t need a mastery of the Teutonic tongue to enjoy the show. But as your humble editor well knows, the city has no shortage of shows more than suitable for foreign guests. That said, there’s no territory an intrepid stage editor shouldn’t tread, so this month’s column is dedicated to those shows that rely more on dazzling the eye than stimulating the mind.
Going into its fourth season in the illuminated Spiegeltent across the water from Hauptbahnhof, the “gourmet-theatre” Palazzo disproves the stereotype that a theatre serving dinner will do neither well. While there were some duds at the premiere – both culinary (the vegetarian menu’s risotto was undercooked) and theatrical (the MCs’ transitions and the musical numbers dragged at times) – the overall effect of the show is that of a polished, delightful evening of entertainment. Culinary highlights include the house specialty Onseneier, dulce de leche and delectable black currant sauce.
Half-German and half-English, half-Queen standards and half new music composed by Ben Elton, We Will Rock You (Theater des Westens) fails to capture much of the spirit of the glam rock pioneers, but that’s not for lack of trying. The show looks fabulous enough to make even Freddie Mercury proud; the just-a-little-too-put-together punk costumes aren’t authentic, but the audience at Theater des Westens is unlikely to overlap with the gangs at Frankfurter Allee. The performers are all at the top of their game, but even their enthusiasm can’t do much for the clunky dialogue and awkward irony inherent in a Broadway-style musical about punk rock rebellion. Worth a try for the visuals and vocals, but don’t expect much else.
The FriedrichstadtPalast’s current spectacular Yma will dress up the show in special holiday costume for most of December. While it remains to be seen exactly how it will be changed, Europe’s largest and best-equipped stage never fails to impress with a revue of incredible acrobatics, masses of dancers and a breathtaking aesthetic.
Mark Scheibe’s Wilde Bühne provides another option for an evening of varieté in the luxurious environs of the Wintergarten. Will any of these shows change the way you think about humanity, society or the problem of morality? Probably not, but that’s not the point. Sometimes the theatre needs to take itself a little less seriously and remember that a little entertainment can go a long way.