“The Next One” from “The Chronicles of the Investigator” was the final performance of the second module of the “School for Musical Theatre”, presented on 21.01.2023. The motive force of this production is Daniela Stankova, director of the “D Stars” School for Singers, who also decided to create a “School for Musical Theatre” intended for extracurricular activities. The project is the result of her long-standing efforts to train complex artists with an interest in the music and performing arts. In the spring of 2022, the first phase of this school began, and the second was in the autumn of the same year. The training in each level takes four months, and is intended to end with a play in front of an audience. The purpose of the training is to introduce the secrets of musical theatre to people who are not professionals, and some of them are children.
For the literary basis of “The Next One” from “The Chronicles of the Investigator” is used the story “Exercises in Style” by the French writer Raymond Queneau. The work illustrates how a text could be changed depending on the emotion of the one who presents it and the genre in which it is interpreted. The speaking moments are just an excuse for singing songs from popular musicals. As a link between the different components of the performance, the director places the figure of the Investigator – the person who is looking for an answer to what happened on the “bus on the southern line”1. After the unusually conducted interrogations, it turns out that this was actually just a dream.
The performance includes the artists Miroslava Burneva, Snezhina Rangelova, Marieta Dragieva, Daria Stoyanova, Mia Boeva, Valentina Stankova, Rositsa Pavlova and Yana Bahchevanova. They perform the roles of the passengers on the bus, and then those questioned about the incident. A great idea of the director Hristina Angelova2 is not just the singing of songs from musicals, but also the inclusion of the singers in the speech text and in the choreographies.
The role of the Investigator is performed by Petar Gerzilov3. He is constantly present on stage. In speaking moments, he is the sure partner of the participants, and during the musical performances he provides the necessary stage comfort so the choreography he has created can unfold. Gerzilov also participated in several dance duets.
The good selection of participants made an impression; despite their different age and experience (children around 12–13 years old and adults over 20 years old), they had worked tirelessly on the requirements of their teachers4 and did a high-quality performance. It was planned that each artist would also be a soloist in a song from a musical, and the rest would be either accompanying vocals or dancing around them on stage, and very often both. The roles corresponded to the original text of Raymond Queneau and the nature of the participants, and the performances of the girls made a difference both as a mise-en-scène and as movements. Traditionally, artists spoke first, then sang, but sometimes the spoken word of some was followed by the vocal performance of others. The culmination was the joint performance of ABBA’s song “Mamma Mia”, a golden hit and part of the musical of the same name, also staged in Bulgaria5.
The professional training of artists for musicals has its history in Bulgarian education after 1989. One of the first in this field was Prof. Dr. Bistra Atanasova-Genkova, who created at the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts the specialty “Acting for Musical Theatre” (the first admission was in the academic year 1995/1996). The team includes choreographer Zhelka Tabakova and pianist and vocal pedagogue Irina Stiglich. As part of the training, they create plays specially adapted for the classes6. When after a few years the specialty at NATFA was closed,
Bistra Atanasova moved the training of future actors for a musical at the Southwestern University “Neofit Rilski” (2008) – again with the same teaching team which expanded to include Assoc. Lyudmila Hadzhieva (classical singing) and Pavleta Semova (pop and jazz singing).
Gradually, the interest in this specialty decreased and the management of SWU did not renew its accreditation. However, the National Academy of Music “Pancho Vladigerov” has established a specialty “Operetta and Musical” for Master’s education and qualification degree, after graduation in “Classical Singing” or “Pop and Jazz Singing”.
In recent years, there has definitely been a growing interest in the art of the musical7. The reason is the attractiveness of the productions, which also attracts new audiences. But quality musicals also require trained artists who are equally fluent in acting, singing and dancing. In this regard, the initiative of Daniela Stankova and the “School for Musical Theatre” is particularly relevant, as it trains and allows children and teenagers to perform in musicals.
This project and the successful performances of the participants in the “School for Musical Theatre” give hope for their long existence and lasting presence in Bulgaria, and I believe that they will definitely help in the search and preparation of future stars of musical in Bulgaria.
1 Citation from the program leaflet to the performance.
2 Not related the singer Hristina Angelakova.
3 Also with the role of a dance pedagogue during the training.
4 Vocal pedagogue – Daniela Stankova; director – Hristina Angelova; choreographer – Petar Gerzilov; assistants – Viktor Ibrishimov and Monika Ivanova; stage speech – Simeon Vladov; technique – Ivelina Tomova and pantomime – Gergana Stoyanova.
5 “Mamma Mia” has a production not only at the Sofia Opera Theatre – July 18, 2018; director Plamen Kartaloff; conductor Svetoslav Lazarov; stage designer Nela Stoyanova; costume designer Hristiana Mihaleva; choreographer Riolina Topalova. The musical was also staged by the Varna Children’s and Youth Opera.
6 Students at NATFA make several performances with excerpts from various world musicals, staging versions of “Les Misérables” and “Oliver”, as well as “Sleep Button” by Valeri Petrov and Georgi Genkov.
7 Sofia Opera (“Mamma Mia”, “Shrek”, “Les Misérables”, etc.), Varna Opera (“Beauty and the Beast”, “Orchestra without a Name”, “Notre Dame de Paris”, “The Lion King”, “Love Never Dies”, etc.), State Opera Plovdiv (“Evita”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Company”, “Maria of Buenos Aires”, etc.), State Opera Stara Zagora (“Esmeralda”, “Sissi – the Soul of the Empress”, etc.), State Opera Ruse (“Who is Golemanov?”, “Cabaret”, etc.)