“Nothing is worse than a time of lack of culture.” Boris Rhein, President of the Hessian State Parliament, summed up the general sigh of relief in his short address at the opening of the Bad Vilbel Castle Festival: Finally theater again, finally life again in the moated castle, which in the remained closed last year due to the corona pandemic.

Mayor Thomas Stöhr and Artistic Director Klaus Kunstmann were also delighted to see the efforts made over the past few weeks. It was rehearsed under the current hygienic conditions without knowing exactly whether and when the first premieres could be celebrated. Thanks to the good incidence values ​​in the Wetterau and the intensive work of the entire festival team on and behind the stage, a start was now even possible at the beginning of June. Unfortunately, only 150 instead of the otherwise possible 750 spectators were able to convince themselves on the opening evening that even after the long compulsory break, entertaining and highly professional open-air theater is offered in Bad Vilbel; even the thunderstorm held back until ten minutes before the end.

Ulrich Cyran's staging by Gottfried Greiffenhagens and Franz Wittenbrink's (musical institution) revue “Die Comedian Harmonists” is one of those pieces in which, if the musical implementation is right, little can go wrong.

Almost a hundred years after its brief heyday in the last years of the Weimar Republic, the timeless art of singing of the male sextet puts a smile on the face of the audience.

Harmony, funny texts and unrestrained idiocy still look fresh today and simply put you in a good mood.

Perfection in the performance

The piece by no means ignores the effort behind the glamor facade. On the contrary: The first sixty minutes deal exclusively with the difficult process of finding the singer, with hard test work, jealousy, financial worries and unsuccessful auditions at one of Berlin's countless revue stages. The fine hairline crack, which was already apparent in the late twenties between the Jewish and non-Jewish members, is exhibited almost too clearly, possibly in view of the sad end of the group. But whatever happened behind the scenes when the five singers and their pianist Erwin (Horst-Maria Merz) were on stage, they formed an inspiring unit.

With the tenors Samuel Meister and Christian Müller, the baritone David Severin, the bass Daniel Pastewski and Lukas Benjamin Engel as the lively tenor buffo, the Bad Vilbel Castle Festival has formed a vocal troupe that performs the songs of the Comedian Harmonists with ravishing perfection. Popular hit songs like “My little green cactus”, “Veronika, spring is here”, “A friend, a good friend” should of course not be missing, but lesser-known, quieter pieces can also shine. Moving to the point of tears, the six intone at the end, when the Jewish part is forced to leave the group, the folksong-like Eichendorff poem "In einer kühlengrund". Unsuccessful commitment to the German tradition from which they were forcibly expelled.

The little downer in this consistently successful, particularly musically inspiring revue is the lack of theatrical depth, which would have been desirable in view of the sensitive topic and the historical entanglements here and there. Hendrik Vogt plays the various counterparts of the singers from the impresario to the SS officer without flaws, but the tensions within the group are hardly due to a few "mixed poke" teasing and discussions about homeland, Germanness and "foreign" songs more than suggested. The fact that they are not faded out ensures the necessary minor tone in the apparently so happy and harmonious singing cosmos of this revue about the few golden years of the "Comedian Harmonists",with which the Bad Vilbel Castle Festival set an exhilarating exclamation mark: The time without theater is coming to an end!

NEXT PERFORMANCES of “Die Comedian Harmonists” are on June 24th, 25th and 26th, starting at 8:15 pm.

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