In September 2012, Stockholm’s Orionteatern, once a huge mechanical workshop and now Stockholm’s largest avant-garde stage, announced that it would celebrate its 30th year with a new musical by Benny Andersson, Kristina Lugn and Lars Rudolfsson. On 21 November 2012 a press release from the theatre confirmed that Björn Ulvaeus was joining the creative team and would be writing all the song lyrics.
Benny, Björn and Lars (founder and artistic director of the Orionteatern), had previously collaborated on CHESS and Kristina från Duvemåla. Kristina Lugn (a renowned Swedish poet and dramatist) had previously provided the lyrics for several pieces of Benny’s music, however this was the first time that all four had worked together.
On 8 February 2013, Hjälp sökes premiered at Orionteatern to glowing reviews from the Swedish media.
Hjälp sökes features a mix of ballads, Russian-type marching music, pop, rock and circus-style pieces. However, unlike CHESS and Kristina från Duvemåla, Hjälp sökes is not mostly sung through but features a lot of spoken dialogue.
The incidental music and eight songs that make up the score run to a total of 45-50 minutes of the 2 hour interval-less show.
A sample of a track from the musical, called Borton Sol och Måne performed by Sofia Pekkari was posted to Benny’s Mono Music website ahead of the opening night.
- Music: Benny Andersson
- Lyrics: Björn Ulvaeus
- Playwright: Kristina Lugn
- Director: Lars Rudolfsson
- Set designer: John Enberg och Torbjörn Isaksson
- Lighting designer: Anders Rosenquist
- Costume designer: Kersti Vitali Rudolfsson and Karin Hoeg
- Cast: Johan Ulveson, Sofia Pekkari, Magnus Roosmann, Suzanne Berdino, plus two giant cows, a horse, two pigs, one goat, three dogs and four geese!
Hjälp sökes (in English, “Help Wanted”) tells the story of two brothers, Axel and Engelbrekt, who have inherited their parents’ farm.
They are struggling in desolation with existential questions as well as with the household duties. They constantly live in the shadow of their parents’ legacy and behave as two orphaned sons. They need help and therefore put an advert in the local newspaper. The ad begins with: “Help wanted for small farm…”
In response to the advert, a mother, her daughter Hillevi and the goat Kalleman appear at the farm. The daughter works as an interpreter for her mother. She explains: “My mother is not deaf. But she has decided not to listen. My mother is not dumb. But has made her life a silent one. And the goat? Well, Kalleman is the boss, you could say.”
The mother is an expert in communicating with animals. One day after the arrival of the mother and daughter, the brothers see their old horse performing the finest circus acts. The animals are dancing, not working, which frightens the brothers. What is happening to their family farm? Why did they write that ad? Will nothing be the same again?
Engelbrekt and Hillevi start a midnight conversation and connect to each other in a way that makes Axel jealous. He acts against the mother and her strange goat and wallows in his misery. But the presence of Hillevi, her mother and Kalleman changes the way the brothers see life. Suddenly they can hear the nightingale sing. They start to enjoy having their new friends at the farm and stage a cabaret with the animals to keep the odd trio from leaving.
Having accomplished their goal of giving hope and spirit to the brother, Hillevi, the mother and the goat leave the farm. What remains are two brothers who have witnessed incredible things and had amazing life experiences and now see the farm in a new light, glowing in the morning sun.
A CD featuring all eight songs together with the incidental tracks is currently being recorded and is expected to be released late April 2013.