A girl in a red dress, standing before a majestic Roman arc held up by two imposing marble pillars. A young man, betrayed by one of his closest friend and killed under orders from the king. And a room/hall filled with the sounds of a couple of dozen voices, singing in perfect harmony.
These all were ingredients of a very memorable night in the theater, on March 28, 2015. I went to the musical Maria Magdalena, performed by True-C in a small but cozy theater nearby. A friend of mine, with whom I act in another play, was one of the actors. It was because of him that I heard of this musical and that I was determined to see it. I can’t thank him enough for giving me this experience. Because —spoiler alert — this musical was unbelievably amazing!
In history, Mary Magdalene is often depicted as a whore, or at least a promiscuous woman. But not in this musical. Here she was portrayed as Jesus’ most loyal companion, his most faithful friend and his one true love. She never left his side, not even when the whole country including his apostles did. This was a story about the suffering of Jesus, but not seen through his eyes, but through the eyes of a woman we know so little about: Mary Magdalene.
I was really looking forward to go see this performance. I mean, it would be theater and music combined, does it get any better than that? Yet I didn’t expect a masterpiece. After all, this performance would be in a small theater in a community center in the suburbs of Nijmegen.
But when I walked inside the theater, I saw this beautiful marble decor. It looked so professional. And when the actors started to sing their first song… WOW. I was stunned. They sang in such beautiful harmony. The songs were truly amazing. They could have easily been made by a Broadway composer. And those voices, they were so powerful. I got goose bumps in literally every song they sang together. And it was clear they were trained by a brilliant choreographer. The actors used every part of the stage in an impressive way. It looked so professional. I even wondered if I hadn’t just reached my goal of seeing a professional musical (nr. 81 on my list). But then I remembered I was sitting in a community center and I decided I had not.
The difference of the individual singing voices was only noticeable in the solo parts. The main characters — Mary Magdalene, Jesus, Judas and Susan (Mary’s friend) — all had really remarkable voices. The duet between Mary and Judas was so beautiful, it gave me goose bumps. It was the best song of the whole piece.
But one of the most memorable parts of the whole musical was when Mother Mary sang her song about her dying son. Mother Mary wasn’t even one of the best singers of the group. Both her volume and her vocal register were limited. In fact, the highest notes of the song were a bit too high for her voice. And she didn’t have perfect pitch on every note. But all of that didn’t matter one bit, because she truly sang with her heart. Her song was so tender, so sweet and so sad. I could really feel the pain of a mother about to lose her child. I could also feel tears rolling down my face.
The songs were so amazing, I’d almost forget reviewing the story. I love the fact that this wasn’t just another story about the last supper and Jesus’ resurrection. This was the story seen through the eyes of the young woman that loved him unconditionally. Although I must say I had expected to see even more of the life and the inner world of Mary. In the first part of the play this was the case, but after Jesus had come into the picture, it wasn’t always that obvious who was playing the main part anymore. I would have liked to see more of her inner struggle and pain.
What I did like, was that —even thought it happened almost 2000 years ago — the story was about modern world problems. Of course it was about love and friendship, trust and betrayal, but unexpectedly it was also about gender differences. Women who are not allowed to make their own choices, or even to read. Women who are expected to live in the shadows of a man. Woman who are being judged for choosing to be independent. Of course we’ve come a long way nice then, but the way True-C portrayed it, I could really see the resemblance with the things women still struggle with in our time.
What surprised me, was that most of the time, the actors were singing. Of course I expected songs, I mean, I went to a musical. I just had expected there would be less of them, and more acting in between. But the actors would just say three or four lines and then they would start the next song. Sometimes there weren’t even spoken lines at all between two songs. And when they did speak, they did it in a very classic theatrical way. Normally I prefer truthful play. I want to see a true person on stage, not an actor. But in this play, the lines were really acted. It varied a bit from one actor to the other. Maybe sometimes it also had to do with the fact that some people were singers more than they were actors. But I also believe it was a deliberate choice to let them act this way. And I must say, although normally I’m not a fan of this kind of acting, in this particular piece it really fitted. Maybe it’s because it’s such an ancient story or maybe it’s because there was so much singing involved. In this play, spoken lines weren’t just that important, I guess. The songs were. The song showed the emotions of the characters and let me have goose numbs and shivers and let me hold my breath.
Speaking of holding my breath, there was one moment, when none of the actors spoke or sang, which was one of the most remarkable moments of the whole evening. And I took a picture of that very moment:
It may not look so special in the picture, but I can assure you it was. Jesus froze time. All characters were fighting, when he yelled: ‘Stop!’ after which they all froze on stage. They stood in their positions you see in the picture for at least a minute. Maybe even three. Nobody moved a muscle. I know how hard this is from experience, even when you’re standing straight with both feet securely on the floor. But these positions… To be able to stay perfectly still in them for over a minute… Wow. Very impressive. It may be a small detail, but hey, lots of details make a whole, right?
So to summarize: I am so glad I went! This evening was epic! There’s just one thing that makes me sad. I’ve heard this was True-C’s last musical. Now that I’ve discovered this great group of people making stunning musical performances, they decide to quit! I object! Can I object? I would have really wanted to see another performance of True-C. And just between you and me, I would have loved to be part of their next project… And now there will be no next project. I can only hope the founder of True-C will change her mind, or that it was just a nasty rumor in the first place.
That having said, have you noticed I’m on 20% of completing my theater goal already? Yay!