On Saturday 12 September 2015, almost 20 years after Kristina från Duvemåla first premiered at Malmö’s Musikteater, the latest and last official production of the Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Lars Rudolfsson musical opened at Cirkus theatre on the Stockholm island of Djurgården.
We will not ourselves stage ‘Kristina’ again. We have done it six times now and we all feel that is enough – Benny Andersson.
The red-carpet event was attended by all three of the show’s creators accompanied by their wives, family members and a host of famous faces including Görel Hanser, set designer Robin Wagner, Benny’s son Peter and Nanne Grönvall, Peter Jöback, Anders Ekborg, Ingmarie Halling, Gunilla Backman, Anders Glenmark, Anders Hanser and Kristina Lugn.
Featuring Maria Ylipää as Kristina, Robert Noack as Karl Oskar, Oskar Nilsson as Robert and Birthe Wingren as Ulrika, the Cirkus staging remains virtually unchanged from the hugely successful 2013/14 Helsinki and 2014/15 Gothenburg productions.
The experience of the cast was evident and the consistently strong, polished performances delivered seamlessly throughout the four-hour show were rewarded by rapturous applause and standing ovations from the first-night audience. But it will come as no surprise, that the loudest cheer of the evening was, undoubtedly, for Benny and Björn as they joined the cast and production team on stage for a curtain call.
‘Kristina’ will play at Cirkus until Spring 2016. However, regardless of the demand for tickets, it must then close. Extending the run is not an option as the theatre is already booked for subsequent seasons.
And Benny has confirmed to icethesite that this will be the very last opportunity for audiences to see the musical as they envisage it:
“We will not ourselves stage ‘Kristina’ again,” he said. “We have done it six times now and we all feel that is enough.
“The scaled down production designed for the smaller theatre space in Helsinki was an experiment. We were not sure it would work, but its success proves that it is a feasible project for any theatre, so maybe it is now time for someone else to have a go and do it their way,” he told us.
Benny added that although they had discussed recording the current production, with a DVD release in mind, they had decided against the idea.
“We see each performance as a living thing that is best experienced in a live theatre environment,” he explained. “So if people really want to see it they will have to come to Cirkus before next summer!” he said.
Recent press articles have drawn a lot of comparisons between the problems faced by emigrants like Kristina and those caught up in the current refugee situation. But Benny himself is not convinced that this will help Kristina från Duvemåla appeal to a new or wider audience as the media has suggested.
“It is incredible timing and seems very appropriate that we have opened now, but I don’t know if it will alter our audience numbers,” he said. “However, it is true that we are dealing with many of the same issues, so if the resemblance helps someone to think about and understand the plight of such people, well, that can only be a good thing for everyone, I suppose,” he concluded.
By coincidence, as the curtain rose for ‘Kristina’ in Stockholm last Saturday, so it fell on the Broadway production of Benny and Björn’s other musical Mamma Mia! Therefore, although Mamma Mia!’s producer Judy Cramer was at the Broadhurst Theatre for the final performance (which was described by U.S. theatre critics as more like a rock concert than a Broadway musical!), neither, Benny or Björn were able to be in New York due to the clash of dates.
“We did send a video message to the cast to say ‘Thank you!’ though, ” Benny said. “And under any other circumstance we wouldn’t have hesitated to attend. But when it comes to a choice between an opening night or a closing night? Well, no contest!” he declared.