There is a lot happening in Berlin, but the Friedrichstadt-Palast is truly unique. It combines show with artistic, song with music and breath-taking costumes with dance. The current production THE ONE Grand Show can be seen until July 2018. All those you haven’t seen it yet should hurry - it is worth it!
The Friedrichstadt-Palast was opened in 1984 in the centre of Berlin. It got its name from the old Friedrichstadt-Palast which used to be a circus and theatre for more than 100 years and that was located in close proximity. The classic GDR TV show “Ein Kessel Buntes” was shot in the old Friedrichstadt-Palast from 1972. It had to be closed in 1980 due to severe damages to the structural integrity of the building that experts had found. The stage was still used for rehearsals until the building was taken down in 1985. Today, an apartment- and office building stands in its spot.
Only about 400 meters from the train station Friedrichstraße a new building was erected as a replacement for the old stage. After 3 years of construction, the new Friedrichstadt-Palast was opened.
The building, that was very modern at the time, radiates the vibe of the long-gone times of the GDR. The concrete building is characterized by three reliefs that depict the history of the Palast. The façade is structured by round arches. A new staircase has been added in 2011.
The foyer, too, has been redesigned, but also here the GDR vibe is still in the air. The chandeliers, for example, were recreated from fluorescent, frosted glass lamps which flood the room with their pleasant light.
Behind the scenes
The Friedrichstadt-Palast has room for 1895 visitors. The auditorium is designed like an amphitheatre for optimal view of the stage. The stage has a size of 2854m² which makes it one of the larges theatre stages in the world. Spectacular highlights are the water basin and the ice rink that are used for some shows.
We got a tour behind the scenes that I really enjoyed. The view from the stage into the auditorium is impressive. I can imagine how much the actors, dancers and acrobats must enjoy performing in front of a full house and get their applause.
The equipment on and around the stage is incredibly complex. Before a show, everything gets tested, checked and prepared. Staff was busy everywhere around us to keep all the machines going.
The orchestra is a little hidden behind the stage and plays live for every show. This is not visible during the performance. Only at the end of the show, the curtain to the orchestra is lifted.
We were also able to take a look into one of the numerous studios behind the stage. Almost all the elements required for production are produced by the studios themselves - from the stage designer to the shoemaker behind the scenes, countless people can be found with their special tasks.
These include the makeup artists. We were allowed to take a quick look into a room where some of the dancers were making up. Here real piecework is done before the show. Countless artists have to be prepared for their performance. Despite a tight schedule, some artists have to be styled even more than 2 hours before their performance, so everyone is ready on time.
I was particularly excited about getting to see some of the costumes before the show. Designer Jean Paul Gaultier fashioned 500 costumes for THE One Grand Show. It was a special challenge for him to design costumes that allow the actors to perform in them without being obstructed. With my eyes on the enormous heads and large dresses I wondered if that is even possible.
THE ONE Grand Show
We sit in the auditorium, excited, not knowing what is coming. The only thing we know:
The show is set in an old and empty revue theatre. An underground party awakes it from its deep sleep. One of the partygoers experiences this magical place in his own way. The former director of the theatre guides him through the past of the place and he gets to discover the desires of the people in a special way.
The lights fade out and a firework of impressions goes off on stage. I don’t know where to look first, what to enjoy first. Breath-taking costumes, dancing, artistry - the stage is overflowing with people and action. I actually spot some of the costumes that I had seen behind the stage. What an opening!
After the underground party is over, silence returns to the old theatre. The thoughts of the young man go on a fantastic journey. This is when showgirls, acrobats and artists, dancers and singers step into the light. What we get to see next is unique. Aerobatics and trapeze acts, artistic work with a Cyr Wheel and fire acts as the dream of the young man combined with lovely music. Some of the songs make me sit up. The style and the choice of words are unmistakable – and a quick check of the program confirms that one of my favourite composers and singers, Gregor Meyle, was involved in the creation of the show.
In the second half of the show, the audience gets to witness the signature feature of the Freidrichstadt-Palast. 32 dancers stand in the so-called kickline and form the longest row of girls in the world. It is a pleasure to see the precision and grace of the ensemble. Wonderful!
The show is a good 2.5 hours long. As the final applause fills the house I am surprised how quickly that went. It was so varied, so emotional, so dreamlike and beautiful that it almost makes a second visit necessary to take everything in.
A word on the costumes
The approximately 500 costumes were designed by Jean Paul Gaultier. Rarely have I ever seen such colourful and flamboyant costumes. Enormous hats, colourful feathers and eye-catching wigs were the headdresses of the performers. Some of them were so big that I have the greatest respect for the actors for being able to move with them.
I particularly liked the bodycon costumes that looked like a second skin on the performers. There were some costumes that looked so fantastic that I was left wondering if they are even something from our world.
THE ONE Grand Show will run in the Friedrichstadt-Palast in Berlin until mid-2018. Starting in October 2018 there will be a new show in the Palast: VIVID Grand Show. For this show too a renowned was contracted, Philip Treacy.
I cannot wait to see it!