The One

While I’m still waiting for that billionaire prince who takes me to Las Vegas, New York and all around the world to see great shows, I of course have to make do with what I have in front of me here in Germany and aside from the Cirque du Soleil occasionally popping by and many smaller entertainment shows that’s not much. The one thing that stands out like a shiny tower in the middle of the desert is the Friedrichstadtpalast in Berlin, one of what we call “Erich (Honecker) ‘s good deeds” back from the days of the GDR. Built to the newest standards back then as the largest open stage in Europe, it somehow survived all the turbulences of the great turnover and after some dire years in the 1990s things turned around in the early 2000s, when they started creating their own resident shows.

I always wanted to go and see those shows, but as is typical, for one reason or another I always missed out, so this has been on my bucket list for forever. Conversely, my mom always wanted to go as well, but when she was still working as a teacher the timing never worked out and when she went into retirement, we had all this trouble with my dad, so it took us just that much longer to work things out. At long last we went this Saturday and while I never had much doubt that I would enjoy it in some way, The One turned out much better than I had anticipated. I was pleasantly surprised. Mind you, it’s still not Cirque du Soleil, but highly enjoyable.

Structured around the old trope of somebody’s dream serving as the framework of the show there is of course not much in the way of a linear narrative, but you still kinda get what it’s about. They didn’t need to hammer it home by explaining it all too much in a spoken voiceover during the intro, IMO. Once the show starts, time flies by quickly, which is alway’s a good thing. If you are not speaking German, though, that may be a bit different, since naturally some of the songs are not in English and you may not understand what they are about. For my taste the singers were a bit underused, considering that in many Cirque shows there’s often a permanent chorus, so there’s room to improve on that. I wasn’t too convinced by Roman Lob‘s performance, which sounded very much like “your average musical singer guy”, but Brigitte Oelke as the aging diva was great.

The musical performances are helped by a sizable live orchestra, something which is becoming rarer and rarer because many shows aren’t willing to afford the cost. This is also where the size of the stage pays off. It’s very deep (to the point where you could literally build a palace inside the Palast) and the musicians have plenty of room at the back of the stage, with only the wind instruments having been put in a separate room at the side of the stage (to better control their volume and overall sound, presumably).

The artistic performances were a bit of a mixed bag, being that the larger groups of course were represented by dancers with some additional training, which limits what they are able to do. The solo performances by “real” acrobats on the other hand were quite good and caused a lot of cheering, with the cyr wheel and trapeze acts enawing the crowd in particular. There was also quite some rigging and wire work with people and set pieces going up and down and appearing in unexpected locations, which goes to show the advantages of a resident show with stationary equipment perfectly finetuned to the needs of the performances.

The marketing makes quite a bit of Jean-Paul Gaultier‘s costume designs, but to be honest it’s not really that much that’s standing out. It’s more or less a “best of” collection, from Madonna‘s cone bra making an appearance to a lot of fetish- and BDSM-inspired shapes and materials. I would argue that a halfway talented fashion student could have copycatted it without the maestro himself being involved at all.

Overall, though, this is worth your time and your money. It’s only still running to 5th of July, but if you are in Berlin on a day with bad weather this could be a good way of killing some time. I’m already looking forward to the new show Vivid and definitely have plans to go see it one day. Let’s hope it doesn’t take as long as it did to even get started with this…

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