Daens is probably the best musical ever made in Belgium
I had the luck to be invited to the première of Daens last night. The first thing about this production that is worth mentioning, is the fact that it takes place in the old postal sorting building in Antwerp. This must have been an incredible challenge for the production people. After going up two flights of stairs you arrive in 'the hall'. Before Studio 100 arrived here, it was just a huge empty space where the post was sorted in earlier days. Being a theatre person myself, I can imagine the reaction of the stage/sound/light/set people when Gert Verhulst and Hans Bourlon (Studio 100 owners) first showed them the space: "This is impossible. There is no height!" But... whatever their initial reaction may have been, they got over it and solved the problem with good old Flemish inventiveness. No flies? Well, let's move everything sideways... And it works very well, it even adds to the industrial atmosphere of the whole musical, set in the turn of the century Aalst (late 19th century).
And the show itself? The acting is great (long live Jo De Meyere!) the singing is very powerful (Free Souffriau is definitely taking her talent to the next level!) and what the whole team and huge cast achieves here is better than anything ever done in Belgium and could well be the best musical we will be able to see for many years to come. As Gert Verhulst said in his opening speech: this is not a localized version of a West End blockbuster, this is a production that was totally created here. And they have every right to be proud of the result! There will be pros and cons (about some of the acts for example, such as the one with the priest dreaming about going to the Vatican) but overall it is very, VERY well done.
No comments? Oh yes, you can have your doubts. Daens could have been called Les Miserables comes to Belgium. There is a lot of ressemblance. But, this is also the case with the story. And this story continues. The next step could be a musical about the Nettes of 2008, because the situation still exists in more countries than we can imagine. And this is just about the only comment you can probably make. And, is being compared to Les Miserables a bad thing?
To sum it all up: You have to go see this show, if only to support its makers and to make sure that there can be more Flemish musicals in the future! www.daens.be