Sexy Vegas-style show revives Berlin revue theatre

Thu Apr 1, 2010 10:29am EDT
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By Christopher Lawton

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - For years Berlin's historic Friederichstadtpalast staged revue shows that seemed as old as the city itself.

The famous theater in the heart of old East Germany even had a production called "100 years of Berlin."

Now after years of struggle the 1,895-seat theater that calls itself Europe's "largest and most modern show palace" has started playing to full houses, attracting younger international audiences, boosting ticket sales and making tidy profits.

Its current show "Qi" -- featuring dozens of gravity-defying acts by artists from around the world -- is largely responsible for the comeback.

The show, which also includes a gender bending chorus line featuring men and women, was created by general director Berndt Schmidt, who took over at Friederichstadtpalast in 2007 after running theatres in Stuttgart.

What he found in Berlin, he says, was a theater in "crisis." Ticket sales at the grand theater, probably one of the most expensive buildings ever made in Communist East Germany when completed in 1984, were down to 370,000 from a peak of 500,000.

The theater, which features a vast 2,144-square meter stage they call the largest in the world, had a four million euro loss in 2007 and was kept alive on state subsidies.

Revues -- traditionally multi-act theatrical shows with music, dancing and comedy -- dealt with subjects like witchcraft in the Middle Ages or Casanova, the 18th century lover, and used music from the Moulin Rouge, the 19th century Paris cabaret.   Continued...