08/08/2013 11:23 am ET | Updated Oct 08, 2013

Das Musical

When I was in Berlin last year for the IFA Berlin tech trade show, the hotel that was the center for our press group was a block away from a theater where what appeared to be a musical was playing, Hinterm Horizont. I passed by it every day, had no idea what it was, and never had time to go. When I got back, I checked into it to settle my curiosity.


It appears to be a sort of Mama Mia-kind of musical, with a story build around already existing pop-rock songs by a popular performer, Udo Lindenberg. From what I can tell after reading articles and watching a bunch of videos, he's a little like a more-pop version of Joe Cocker -- a "rock-poet" rough around the edges, with a brain that got fried a few decades ago by too many drugs and alcohol. (I don't know if that's true, mind you, but it's how he comes across.) His trademark seems to be big dark sunglasses, a black fedora, and a wiggly dance move. He's still performing -- he was in a German version of MTV Unplugged in 2011 -- but appears to have had his greatest popularity in the '70s and '80s.

(I use "seems" and "appears" a lot because most of the material I've found is in German, which I don't speak, other than basically "braunschweiger" and "bitte." Using a few English articles and services that translate web pages, I've been able to piece together as much as I could.)

I've come across some video of the musical in montage sequences that the cast performed on TV specials, but what I've embedded below is a music video they put together of the title song, "Hinterm Horizont," (Beyond the Horizon). I like it because it features Udo Lindenberg himself singing the lead along with the terrific Josephin Busch who plays the female lead in the show and shines in the video. Serkan Kaya, who stars in the show, doesn't get to sing in the video, but he appears in his stage role as a fictional Udo Lindenberg in the "story" part of the video. (You can tell that Udo is a rebel because he seems to like to surreptitiously give authority figures the finger.) It's also an appealing number with an affectionate melody.

As far as I can tell, the show (which the video follows) is about a fictional Romeo-and-Juliet love affair in 1983 between a young West German "Udu Lindenberg" and an East German girl, Jessy, which hits a hurdle because of the Berlin Wall.

The musical still appears to be playing in Berlin, so it seems like it's a pretty big hit. I'll be going back to the city soon, so who knows maybe I'll check it out this time. I was going to say that if I do go, I won't have a clue what's being said and sung, but on the show's website here, they say that they have an International Translator, which "allows you to read along live during the show - it is your personal guide." It's a fascinating idea, though it would seem to be annoying to those around you. Perhaps not.

But more than just the main title song, I thought it might be fun to see a 8-1/2-minute excerpt from the show that was presented on German television, with the original cast, including Serkan Kaya and Josephin Busch. (The full video runs an additional four minutes.) The performance features a surprise appearance by Lindenberg himself who joins the cast. As I mentioned above, Lindenberg strikes me (from interviews and videos I've seen) as a "more-pop version of Joe Cocker -- a 'rock-poet' rough around the edges, with a brain that got fried a few decades ago by too many drugs and alcohol." I have no idea if that latter is true, of course, but watching the video, you'll at least see part of why I made that assessment. You can assess for yourself. I still do enjoy the title song.

For reasons that are inexplicable to non-German-speaking me is why at the end everyone is taking shots of something that doesn't appear to be alcohol, more like a mango smoothie, except when you see people drinking it. Perhaps anyone seeing the video who does sprechen zie Deutsch can translate. I suspect they're celebrating the show's opening, or maybe that Ude Lindenberg is able to remain on his feet and semi-coherent. At a certain point, the TV program's host recognize that they've lost control, and it's now the Ude Lindenberg Hour. That aside, the guy does have a stage personality and clearly loves performing his songs, and even not knowing what's being said, it's a hoot.

Auf weidersehen.


Robert J. Elisberg's new novel The Wild Roses, a comic adventure in the spirit of The Three Musketeers but with three women, is now available here in paperback or as a Kindle eBook. His other writing can be found at Elisberg Industries.