A few months ago Antonio Banderas received a call from a friend, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. They arranged to have dinner in London, while Banderas was filming Indiana Jones 5. “We’ve known each other for a long time,” explains the actor from Malaga, while the London musician confirms with his head. “And there he suggested that I join forces to produce and develop musical theater in Spanish.” That evening materialized in Amigos Para Siempre, the company that both have presented today in Madrid, an ambitious initiative that hopes not to be limited to Spain, but will make versions of the musicals in the Spanish spoken in the country in which it is performed, nor to the mere premiere of works, since it absorbs ideas that had already been launched in Banderas, such as a school for theater technicians. The name, Amigos Para Siempre (or Amics Per Semper in Catalan) refers to the homonymous song composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Don Black, for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
The work material is obvious: the great Webber classics, and for this Really Useful Group, the company founded by Webber, will transfer to the new joint venture the scenic rights of the Spanish versions of works such as The Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard, Starlight Express, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Cinderella, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) either School of Rock. “For me it is essential to maintain the quality parameters of London’s West End or New York’s Broadway”, explained Banderas. “That has been my ambition in my company and in my Soho theater in Malaga. I seek excellence. Does that guarantee success? Well no. And that is one of the great things and the miseries of art”. Without mentioning it, Banderas touched on the subject that the group of journalists was forbidden to ask about: the London closing of Lloyd Webber’s latest musical, Cinderella, on June 12, a year after its premiere and after numerous losses. The composer has underlined “the quality of Antonio’s productions, something that worries me greatly”. And when seeing the work of Soho Malaga with the work Company He was “very impressed”. And he points out: “Maybe we have not taken good care of the public in Spanish.”
Banderas, who assures that he continues to believe in cinema but that it is in full mutation, bets on theater, and more so after the pandemic: “Theatre survives as a permanent fact, no matter what happens. One person telling a story to another group of people… that will live on. On my return to the theater, on my adventure in Soho, there is something of this: I am telling you a story and there is nothing in between”. Lloyd Webber agrees, although he does believe that there are changes in the theatrical experience: “People are looking for something complete, with restaurants, as Antonio has done in Malaga.” Webber owns six theatres, the latest being the restored Theater Royal Drury Lane, and he understands that this is the future. “From my time on Broadway, that idea of a full evening stayed with me, which included meeting friends, seeing a play and having dinner afterwards commenting on it,” recalls Banderas, who received a Tony nomination for best actor in a musical for his Broadway debut. with Nine. “53% of the public that goes to Soho in Malaga is not from the city, they come from other Spanish cities, even from abroad. They want the full experience. In times of crisis, the theaters fill up because it is an experience in which it is almost impossible to cheat”.
The commitment to musicals in Spanish goes beyond Spain. “We will do specific translations according to the country in which it is represented from all over America, because we also aspire to reach the United States. That is why we will take great care of that section”, emphasizes the actor. “That way the show works better in its emotional connection and gives a sign of respect to each community.” And for this, Banderas already has Roser Batalla, actress and translator, “who has shown her wisdom in Company”.
All the culture that goes with you awaits you here.
“Everything I do requires a large dose of foolishness”
Both Lloyd Webber and Banderas did not want to advance much more: “We are cutting the umbilical cord right now, there is no calendar” from APS. “We will control the shows, but maybe we won’t direct them. We are open to works by other authors, by Spanish composers. This summer we will meet and close the first productions and theaters… or spaces. Because we do not reject the idea of alternative spaces. Much remains to be articulated, although we do know that this is more than a promoter”, the man from Malaga breaks down. “The Technical School of Theater that I am setting up in my city enters this adventure, where I have acquired a space of 8,000 square meters for it.” The composer is in favor of these “flexible spaces, beyond the Italian-style theatrical format, but rather that the installations are mutable, a large black box capable of being converted depending on the work, something that attracts today’s public”.
Banderas does not close the possibility of acting (“Difficult, I am not here to play Che Guevara again in Avoid”) or direct in one of them, and point out one that attracts you as a stage director: song and dance, that impressed him the first time he went to New York in 1985, “with Bernadette Peters leading that strange show.” All this does not mean that she leaves the cinema: “No, please” and she points to her dyed beard for filmic reasons. “The cinema has not been lost, the way of seeing in theaters has been lost. I don’t know where it will go. The romantic thing, and I’m one of those, of going into a dark room to share a cinematic experience with strangers is fading. Instead, there is no Netflix for the theater. Works can be seen at streaming, but then it is not theater”. And he ended with a phrase that defines his adventures: “Everything I do requires a large dose of foolishness.”
“I hated the movie ‘Cats’
Andrew Lloyd Webber did not take a second to confess his opinion about the film cat, based on his musical. “I hated her,” he blurted out. “And that’s why I bought a dog.” The Londoner took the opportunity to illustrate his feeling about the film with an anecdote: “I take that dog everywhere. And to travel with him in the plane cabin, an American airline, whose name I will not reveal, asked to fill out a form with a medical certificate explaining the reason for the passenger to be accompanied by their pet. I put in the box: ‘The film cats’ and they replied: ‘Enough, so you don’t need a medical certificate”.
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