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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » December 30, 2010
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Milestone Musical Turns 20
December 30, 2010   
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The most famous Polish musical Metro will turn 20 at the end of January, having premiered Jan. 30, 1991 at Warsaw’s Dramatyczny Theater. The theater will mark the anniversary with the 1,600th show of the musical.

For two decades now, Metro has played to full houses, captivating and moving audiences. The musical opened in 1991 as the first private theatrical production in post-World War II Poland. Created with verve and enthusiasm, the high-energy show directed by Janusz Józefowicz, with a timeless score by Janusz Stokłosa and libretto by Agata Miklaszewska and Maryna Miklaszewska, hit the mark with its story of a group of young artists searching for their place in life and pursuing their dreams. Songs from Metro became hits across the nation, catapulting the performers into stardom. The musical soon became a legend. Crowds of people came to Warsaw to see the production, fan clubs opened, and “Metromania” became all the rage.

Preparations for the production began in 1989, when Józefowicz, Stokłosa and producer Wiktor Kubiak held auditions for the musical. In total, they auditioned 7,000 people and when the best ones were selected, the Metro troupe was formed.

“I remember coming to the auditions, and there were lots of them, being lucky enough to make it through them and quietly praying to just be there, to be able to take part in it, if only to get the bit parts somewhere in the background,” says Barbara Melzer, one of the original cast members, now a famous theater and musical actress who most recently starred as Carlotta Guidicelli in Phantom of the Opera at Warsaw’s Roma Music Theater. “I never dreamed of being a star or anything like that, I only wanted to be there, because I knew it was something amazing and special.”

Kubiak invested around $1.5 million in the musical and Józefowicz, the director and choreographer, decided to combine professional theater with young and talented amateurs. Many performers who got to work Józefowicz later complained about grueling rehearsals going on for hours and extreme pressure. But without all that, would Metro have ever happened?

“Metro was essential to my career and my entire life,” says Melzer. “I actually had my ‘papers;’ I was freshly out of an art school, but Metro was my real school, as was the work with Józefowicz, a priceless experience on the one hand and an amazing adventure on the other, especially in those early days.”

The groundbreaking project was a career launch for a number of vocalists and actors who went on to become part and parcel of the Polish show business today. Metro gave popularity to artists like Edyta Górniak, Katarzyna Groniec, Natasza Urbańska, Agnieszka Włodarczyk and Robert Janowski.

“Yes, it was amazing to be together in that magnificent group and learn from one another,” said Melzer. “Back then, we were still very young, most of us were newcomers to Warsaw and suddenly there we were in this big city. Wiktor Kubiak took very good care of us, made sure we were in good health and worked in the best possible conditions, it was all like a fairy-tale come true. I could only wish for every performer to get a start like that.”

Metro remains the only Polish musical to be shown on Broadway, where it opened at the Minskoff Theater April 16, 1992. It was a smash hit when it opened at the Moscow Operetta Oct. 22, 1999, and it was also successful in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Roubaix and Orléans, France. The Studio Buffo musical theater in Warsaw has been running the show since 1997.

Marzena Robinson

20th anniversary shows at Dramatyczny Theater:
Jan. 29, 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 31, 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 1, 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
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