Theater Hagen dares a funny South Sea trip with Blume von Hawaii

This is how jazz comes into operetta. Why Theater Hagen encounters hula clichés with humor in “The Flower of Hawaii”

This operetta falls into the house with the trumpet, so to speak. An erotic jazz fanfare promises right at the beginning: “In the flower of Hawaii” much more happens than waltz-happy languor. The theater Hagen shows Paul Abraham’s underrated masterpiece from 1931 as a fun and ironic play on clichés, sung excellently by a young ensemble and even better played by the Hagen Philharmonic under the highly talented conductor Rodrigo Tomillo.

The saxophones conjure up a romantic heartbreak, the Hawaiian guitar beckons with shimmering glissandi; Lots of piquant harmonies and snappy rhythms say: Now jazz is taking the stage. The audience thanks them with long applause and lots of bravos for an entertaining evening.

Kitschy Pineapple lamps in Hagen

All that remains of the South Seas paradise is kitschy pineapple lamps and toasts, in which the cherries on ham, cheese and pineapple are supposed to symbolize the nipples of the Hula dancers. Here Kenneth Mattice dreams of a drunken Captain Stone in a paradisiacal parallel world, as conjured up in glowing colors by painters like Paul Gauguin and composers like Giacomo Puccini. Shortly before the catastrophe of World War II, Europe‘s metropolises are in a frenzy of the exotic, and jazz is the driver for all these longings and projections.

Accordingly, director and set designer Johannes Pölzgutter puts the story of Hawaii’s last queen overthrown by the USA in a framework that takes place in a shabby European variety theater. The insatiable imperialism of the great power USA can be targeted with small, pointed stitches as well as the sexual exploitation of the South Sea islanders by tourists. But since it is an operetta, such allusions are imaginatively packaged.

Flower wreaths from Taiwan

Three trolleys with palm trees form the “beautiful pearl of the South Seas”, the big moon also serves as an advertising medium for posters for the tourism industry, and the flower wreaths of Hawaii are produced in Taiwan. In this setting, extremely different protagonists meet and create tingling frictional heat. The actor and singer Alexander von Hugo is the endlessly chattering annoyance John Buffy, who, against all expectations, wins the woman of his dreams with virtuoso tap dance numbers.

Acrobatic jazz singer

The musical actor Frank Wöhrmann enchants as jazz singer Jim Boy not only with a great voice, but also with acrobatic interludes. The mezzo-soprano Alina Grzeschik recaptures the overkill of her pink ruffled costumes with a sexy jazz tube. As the tragic Princess Laya, soprano Angela Davis is torn between two men and at the same time between her glamorous life and her newly awakened love of home. In this way, her operetta princess becomes a heartfelt, sung character study.

Tenor Richard van Gemert puts on Prince Lilo-Taro as a tragically renouncing hero, and Kenneth Mattice gives Captain Stone not only physical agility but also shining baritone tones. The young soprano Penny Sofroniadou is a new member of the Hagen ensemble. As Raka she becomes a skillful puller who plays with relish with the stereotypes of the primitive hula girls and in the end directs the whole team into the port of marriage.

Here this and that fly through the air

“The Flower of Hawaii” is actually a revue operetta that needs large hidden objects on stage and the choir for the show effects. This is not possible in corona times. Johannes Pölzgutter cleverly implements the distance requirements. The shine is not created by mass, but by theatrical magic. The audience cannot let the scene out of sight for a second in order not to miss anything – sometimes cocktail shakers and dance sticks fly through the air even without a director’s instruction, carried solely by the sweep of the sweeping ensemble.

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