Many thanks to Pontus Eliason who sent me the articles and kicked off the translations.
The pre-requisite: Helen must be on-stage
Sjöholm is currently in New York for Duvemåla rehearsals: No one else can be Kristina.
NEW YORK. “Kristina från Duvemåla” has finally come home to America. And Helen Sjöholm has followed suit. Because according to the creators that was the only way they could fulfill the “immigration”.
– We have searched this whole country, but not found anyone that’s been close to Helen’s performance, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus tells before the US premiere of “Kristina”.
She was heading to the USA all along, the girl from Duvemåla in Småland that was created by Vilhelm Moberg and since then have become the main character in Björn and Benny’s revered musical. And so now she’s here.
On Wednesday and Thursday, “Kristina” will be performed in the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York.
Sjöholm has to be involved
This English-spoken version premiere has been in the works for quite some time, but the world-famous creators from Stockholm have had a reservation: Helen Sjöholm has to be involved.
– Yes, when all this started to come together, we called Helen and asked if she wanted to go to the USA, and she did. And thank god for that, because there is no one else who could do this, say Andersson and Ulvaeus during a press meeting in the rehearsal hall on 42nd street.
– We have looked for people to play Kristina here in New York, on the west coast and in Nashville, but not found anyone that’s been close to Helen’s performance.
– A lot of people here, at least in the theatrical circuits, are molded in a form that builds upon them adapting to some things. They project so much, whilst Helen is so… rooted in her whole being.
That the Abba stars are so fond of their fellow countrywoman does not seem to be stirring any kind of jealousy in the American ensemble. Quite the opposite.
The former “Mamma mia!” star Louise Pietre, who is playing the role of Ulrika in the New York production, is also enthusiastic about Helen Sjöholm.
– I love her voice and actually started to cry when I heard her sing “You have to be there” in rehearsals a few days ago. It’ll be wonderful to be working with Helen, she says.
The joy is mutual – Sjöholm looks forward to the performance with great eagerness.
– Yeah, it’s actually wonderful to be here, she says.
– But it’s quite special to work with a piece that is so familiar, yet on the other hand feels completely new because of its English translation.
Could be getting a permanent home
As there should be, there will be a long line of American Broadway producers waiting to see the performance at Carnegie Hall. If they like what they see it’ not an impossibility that “Kristina” gets a permanent home in New York in the future.
– It would be interesting, but it requires that we find someone with enough enthusiasm to stage the show and who wants to do it the right way, says Benny.
– Otherwise we’d have to move over here ourselves, and that doesn’t feel too tempting. It’s 25 years too late.
Now they have taken their first steps towards Broadway
Next week Kristina will finally get to New York. The start of a long-term visit on the other side of the Atlantic. Björn and Benny’s songs are given life both on record and stage.
It took a long time for the emigrants from the 19th century to travel from Småland to Amerika. It has taken 14 years for “Kristina från Duvemåla” to get from Malmö to Broadway. Well, almost Broadway. When Kristina is performed on the 23rd and 24th of September it’s one block away from the theatre street, in the distinguished concert house, Carnegie Hall.
Kristina in concert-version.
Björn and Benny have had the English lyrics complete for several years. There were talks about a “Kristina” in English even before “Mamma Mia!” became a success.
But there have been obstacles along the way. Over recent years Broadway has had difficulties filling its theatres. A four hour long musical with unknown songs about Swedish emigrants looks like a risk for some potential investors.
Now the fantastic music from “Kristina från Duvemåla” will be performed there. Furthermore it will be released on record. It’s one step away from launching the musical.
For example, that’s how “Jesus Christ Superstar” was launched 30 years ago. First an album that became a chart sensation. The production then followed.
On October 7th, 1995, I sat in the stalls in Malmö and heard the mighty musical for the first time. The following day I wrote a review and especially promoted two songs, “Du måste finnas” (“You Have To Be There”) and “Guldet blev till sand” (“The Gold Turned Into Sand”).
Since then, I have heard the musical many times and found more masterpieces. The favourites shift around.
It will be very interesting to hear them in Carnegie Hall on Wednesday, with partially new voices and new words.
And to see if Kristina has found home. A new home far away.