Famous Czech Musicals
Czech theatre has a strong tradition of musicals. Even the Czech national anthem originally comes from a musical theatre production. However, the real golden age of Czech musicals began after 1989.
The musical is a very popular type of production in the Czech Republic. In fact, the first Broadway musical imported to the European continent was translated by the famous artistic duo of Jiří Voskovec and Jan Werich and performed in Prague in 1948. In the Czech Republic there are four cities where people can catch a musical production – Prague, Plzeň, Brno and Ostrava. During the 1970s and 1980s theatres in these cities showed famous Broadway musicals such as Hello Dolly, Chicago, or those penned by English composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
However, it would only be after the fall of communism that musicals really took off in the Czech Republic. The most successful production was Dracula, written by the famous Czech composer Karel Svoboda in collaboration with Zdeněk Borovec and Richard Hes. The musical premiered in Prague’s Congress Centre on October 13, 1995. It would propel the then relatively little-known singer Daniel Hůlka into a major Czech star.
The second commercially most successful author of musicals is Michal David, whose first production – Cleopatra – premiered at the Broadway Theatre in Prague in 2002. The musical was so successful that it was performed more than 1,200 times in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, with a further 200 performances taking place in Japan and South Korea. David would go on to write several other big hits such as The Three Musketeers, Angelica, Children of Heaven, or Mata Hari.
Another major musical star in the Czech Republic is Janek Ledecký, who transformed Shakespeare’s Hamlet into a rock musical that achieved much success both at home and abroad. In 2007, Hamlet was also performed in Soul, South Korea. The musical has since aired hundreds of times in South Korea, appearing also on US and Japanese theatre stages.
Ledecký went on to compose another big hit musical – Galileo – in which the author also played the main role as the famous astronomer.
Several of the most famous Czech musicals are set to be performed on theatre stages this summer as well. Among them is also Night at Karlstein, based on the hugely popular 1973 musical film that tells a fictional story from the time of Emperor Charles IV. The music was written by Karel Svoboda.