Antonio Banderas launches musical theatre in Malaga

Hollywood star Antonio Banderas threw open the doors of his own theatre in his hometown of Malaga in southern Spain on Friday, with an inaugural performance of "A Chorus Line".

Antonio Banderas launches musical theatre in Malaga
ntonio Banderas waves during a photocall for the "A Chorus Line" musical premiere. Photos: AFP

When the curtain went up on opening night, the musical became the first work shown at the Teatro del Soho, a former cinema which has been completely revamped by the 59-year-old actor, who like Picasso, was born and raised in Malaga.

The musical, performed entirely in Spanish, was specially chosen by Banderas, who in May won best actor at the Cannes film festival for his role in Pedro Almodovar's “Pain and Glory” in which he played the celebrated director's alter ego.   

A Broadway hit dating back to 1975, the story focuses on a group of aspiring dancers as they audition for a role in a new musical, putting the focus on the unsung heroes working in the industry.

“There are no stars, the focus is on those people who really sustain the musical theatre industry but who don't have their name in lights and who are unknown,” Banderas told reporters earlier this week.

Describing the musical as “a classic”, Banderas said it told a story about “those involved in performing arts and all the suffering that goes on behind the scenes”.

On accepting his award at Cannes, Banderas admitted he himself had struggled over the years, saying: “There is a lot of sacrifice and… pain behind being an actor or being an actress, but also there are nights of glory.”

Central role

The Andalusian actor, who began acting in the early 1980s, also took part in Friday's show, playing choreographer Zack who auditions the other artists in a performance involving 26 actors and accompanied by a 22-piece orchestra.    

The musical has sold out in the newly-revamped theatre, which has more than 800 seats.    



After two months in Malaga, the show will then head to the northern port city of Bilbao, then Barcelona and finally Madrid.

“Afterwards we'll consider the possibility of taking it to America,” said Banderas who dreams of seeing his Spanish version on Broadway.    

“I would love that to happen,” he admitted, saying “conversations were already under way” about taking it across the pond. 

His involvement in the Malaga theatre really took off after he survived a heart attack in 2017 that saw him endure three operations.   

Theatre is “really my passion”, Banderas said at Cannes, explaining he was spending a lot of time with his 600 students in Malaga and saying he ultimately wanted to stage something based on “my own writing”.

For him, the Soho Theatre is a venture in which he is both emotionally and financially invested, pledging more than 200,000 euros ($220,000) a year to the project which is sponsored by Spanish lender Caixabank.

And as director, Banderas has brought in Lluis Pasqual, a giant of Spanish and European theatre, who formerly served as artistic director at Spain's National Drama Centre, Barcelona's Lliure Theatre and the Odeon Theatre in

For Banderas this also has significance, recalling it was Pascual who “changed my life” when he took him on at Madrid's National Theatre in 1981.    

And while in Madrid, he met Almodovar who gave him a small role in his 1982 screwball comedy “Labyrinth of Passion”, starting a relationship which has lasted until today.

By AFP's Jorge Guerrero

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Top Paris theatre reopens as Covid occupy movement ends

French actors, stage technicians and other members of the performing arts ended a more-than-two-month occupation of the famous Odéon theatre in Paris on Sunday, allowing the show to go on after this week's easing of Covid-19 curbs.

Top Paris theatre reopens as Covid occupy movement ends
A picture taken on January 26, 2011 in Paris shows the facade of the Odéon theatre. LOIC VENANCE / AFP

The protesters took down the banners they had slung across the facade of the venue in the Left Bank as they left at dawn, leaving just one inscribed “See you soon”.

“We’re reopening!,” theatre director Stéphane Braunschweig exclaimed on the venue’s website, adding that it was “a relief and a great joy to be able to finally celebrate the reunion of the artists with the public.”

The Odéon, one of France’s six national theatres, was one of around 100 venues that were occupied in recent weeks by people working in arts and entertainment.

The protesters are demanding that the government extend a special Covid relief programme for “intermittents” — performers, musicians, technicians and other people who live from contract to contract in arts and entertainment.

READ ALSO: Protesters occupy French theatres to demand an end to closure of cultural spaces

With theatres shut since October due to the pandemic, the occupations had gone largely unnoticed by the general public until this week when cultural venues were finally cleared to reopen.

The Odéon, which was inaugurated by Marie-Antoinette in 1782, had planned to mark the reopening in style, by staging Tennessee Williams’ masterpiece “The Glass Menagerie”, with cinema star Isabelle Huppert as a former southern belle mourning the comforts of her youth.

But the protests scuppered the first five performances, with management saying the venue was blocked — a claim the protesters denied.

“What we wanted was for it (the performance) to go ahead, along with an occupation allowing us to speak out and hang our banners. We don’t want to stop the show,” Denis Gravouil, head of the performing arts chapter of the militant CGT union, said on Sunday.

Two other major theatres — the Colline theatre in eastern Paris and the National Theatre of Strasbourg — have also been affected by the protests.
France has one of the world’s most generous support systems for self-employed people in the arts and media, providing unemployment benefit to those who can prove they have worked at least 507 hours over the past 12 months.

But with venues closed for nearly seven months, and strict capacity limits imposed on those that reopened this week, the “intermittents” complained they could not make up their hours.

The government had already extended a year-long deadline for them to return to work by four months.

The “intermittents” are pushing for a year-long extension instead.