Two musicals by Eric Woolfson closed recently, following lengthy runs in Germany. Gaudi gave its final performance in Cologne after having played for four years to over one-million people. The most recent Woolfson musical, Gambler, played until last month in nearby Monchengladbach. Since 1996 it had had been seen by over 250,000.
Both Gaudi and Gambler are artistic collaborations between Eric Woolfson, known to rock aficianados as composer for the Alan Parsons Project, and Elmar Ottenthal, a German stage director and theater producer.
Ottenthal and Woolfson first met while working together on the musical Freudiana at Vienna's Theater an der Wien in 1991. Ottenthal was at that time the close associate of the theater's artistic director Peter Weck, who directed Freudiana. This musical portrayed numerous famous cases of the" Father of Psychoanalysis" Siegmund Freud, who had been active in Vienna around the turn of the century.
Woolfson and Ottenthal began to outline ideas for a new musical which would use as its inspiration the architecture and philosophy of Antonio Gaudi, the legendary Catalonian architect.
The Gaudi they conceived of is the story of an author, Don Parker, who idolizes the legendary Catalonian architect. Parker is torn, first between art and commerce, and later between art and love. Parker seeks the answer to his dilemma in Gaudi's architecture. Soon after the premiere of Freudiana, Ottenthal was named general director of the Aachen Theater, a medium-sized repertory theater near Cologne. He continued to collaborate over long-distance with Woolfson. At the start of his second season, following a spectacular production of West Side Story, Ottenthal presented Gaudi to popular and critical acclaim. Ottenthal had succeeded in meshing Woolfson's progressive rock esthetic with Aachen's more conservative, operatically-oriented orchestral and choral forces.
In part due to Gaudi, the revenues of the Aachen theater far exceeded expectations, and Ottenthal was able to return part of his subsidies to the city government -- an unprecedented, and well-publicised, event in Germany's theater landscape!
An impresario from nearby Alsdorf, Friedrich Carl Coch, subsequently acquired the rights to produce Gaudi. He transferred the production to a hall in Alsdorf, and was able to successfully market the musical to bus and tourism companies.
In 1996, Coch moved Gaudi to a specially-built tent-theater near the Cologne cathedral and produced a second Woolfson/Ottenthal collaboration, Gambler. This musical is a modern reworking of the Queen of Spades story used in the Chaikovsky opera Pique Dame. It employed many songs which Woolfson had recorded with the Alan Parsons Project, amongst them "Eye in the Sky" and "Games People Play".
--By Scott Lawton