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When I lived in Vienna (I love beginning sentences like that!) the following picture was plastered all over the walls of every u-bahn station:

I knew it was a musical, and I liked the picture, but I never made any effort to find out any more about it, which I later regretted.  I bought the CD my last week in Austria, fell in love with the story and the music, and I had been hankering to see it ever since.

“Elisabeth” is the true story of of a Bavarian princess who married her cousin to become Empress of the Austrian empire.  Her life draws many comparisons to Princess Diana:  she went from a carefree life into the confining rigors of royalty, she married young, she was considered the most beautiful woman in the world, developed an eating disorder in her efforts to always be young and beautiful, traveled restlessly through the world to avoid a stale marriage, and died a tragic death.  In the musical, the story is narrated by her murderer, Luigi Lucheni, and the main characters are caught up in a love triangle between Sissi, the Emperor and Death.

In my impatience, I got to the theater an hour early, and was surprised to find that since they’re rebuilding the theater, all of the productions are currently being shown in a huge tent.  Everything was still elegantly set up, complete with cloakroom and lavish bathroom facilities.  The seats weren’t staggered very well, so even though I was in the second row, I was on the same level as the first row, and if anyone sat in front of me my viewing would be impaired.  As if everyone knew how important this show was to me, BOTH of the seats in front me remained unoccupied, and I had the clearest view anyone could wish for.  I’ve watched a Viennese production on a collector’s edition of the show that I bought a couple of years ago (yes, what a nerd am I), so during the first couple of numbers I was disappointed by the small changes I detected, and I was sure that the stage was much smaller.  I didn’t know if it was because it was in a tent, or if the director wanted to make those changes.

I was completely enthralled by the second act.  I loved the actors and how they swept as along with their personalities.  The lead was played by an understudy who did a fantastic job.  Germans are incredibly enthusiastic with their encores, and everyone was on their feet in a standing ovation before the ‘minor’ parts had even made it on to the stage for their curtain call.  It was an entirely satisfying evening, and if any of you are keen to see the show, I’d be happy to go again.

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