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Theatre / Schikaneder

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The turbulent love story behind The Magic Flute.

Stephen Schwartz's second German-language musical, following The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It covers the relationship between Emanuel and Eleonore Schikaneder — the librettist for the Mozart musical The Magic Flute and his wife.

The show opens in the Theater auf der Wieden, to a dismayed company of actors on the verge of being expelled — because Eleonore Schikaneder, being a woman, cannot inherit the theater license from her deceased lover. While Eleonore is at wits' end, her best friend Barbara proposes inviting a "theatrical wizard", who happens to have a license.

He also happens to be still married to Eleonore.

Hearing this, the theatre owner flies into a rage, refusing to ever let Emanuel Schikaneder back into her life. Eventually, she calms down, and recounts to her troupe their story, back when she was "young and naive", so they could judge for themselves whether the company should enlist Schikaneder's aid.

Eleonore, Fraulein Arth at the time, was auditioning for Franz Moser's theatrical troupe when she met the dashing Joseph Schikaneder. To test her skills — against the company's whispers of Eleonore getting hired because her mother was a principal member of the company — Joseph runs the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet with Eleonore. From that point on, sparks fly wildly between them. Despite his reputation as a ladies' man, Joseph cannot win over Eleonore's physical intimacy, and Eleonore nurtures feelings for him but denies it.

Out of the blue, Moser announces that he is retiring, and has ceded the troupe over to a Marinelli, who offered him six thousand guldens. Joseph boldly makes an offer of eight thousand, and it's taken up by Moser. The problem? He doesn't have that kind of money, his parents being indentured servants. After overhearing Moser explain to Eleonore that he decides to retire because he was devastated by his wife's death, Joseph takes up the courage to propose to Eleonore, who accepts, and encourages him to raise the money so he can fulfill his dream of owning a permanent theatre. At their wedding, the groom announces that he will change his name to something that harmonizes better with his bride's name: Emanuel. Together, they effectively become the first couple of Austrian theatre, with adoring crowds at the stage door every night.

However, trouble arrives. A timid writer, Johann Friedel, comes to the troupe in order to collaborate with the great Herr Schikaneder, but ends up staying on as an actor because of his developing infatuation for Frau Schikaneder. Eleonore, meanwhile, finds out that her husband is far from an ideal one: he is routinely unfaithful to her, but brushes it off as being mere entertainment. The last straw is when Maria Anna Miller, Emanuel's newest fling, excitedly (or, perhaps, brazenly) announces to her that she is carrying Emanuel's child, and so Emanuel will marry her. Devastated, Eleonore seeks solace with Johann, and convinces him to run away with her to open a permanent theatre — effectively stealing Emanuel's dream. Maria Anna breaks the news of her pregnancy and Eleonore's elopement to Emanuel, who firmly tells her that he will provide for her child, but he simply cannot marry her. Realizing that Eleonore was right, Maria Anna quits the troupe and moves away for a new beginning.

With the dream team broken up, Emanuel must struggle to keep his troupe together, and Eleonore, with Johann by her side, must take on the colossal task of raising a theatre all on their own.

The musical had its world premiere at the Raimund Theater in Vienna on September 30, 2016, and closed on June 21, 2017. A cast recording was released on December 5, 2016, featuring the original cast members: Mark Seibert as Emanuel Schikaneder, Milica Jovanovic as Eleonore Schikaneder, Franziska Schuster as Barbara Gerl, Katie Hall as Maria Anna Miller, Florian Peters as Johann Friedel, and the ensemble. An English-language production is reportedly in the works.

This musical provides the following tropes:

  • Arc Words:
    • "Dream big." It’s also featured on the show’s merch.
    • "Emanuel and Eleonore." Morphs into "Johann and Eleonore," then finally "Eleonore and Emanuel" in the finale. It showcases Emanuel growing out of his selfishness and Eleonore growing into her confidence.
  • Blunt "Yes":
    Barbara: But before I explain, you have to promise not to explode or throw something at me.
    Eleonore: [laughing] I wouldn't! Have I ever done something like that?
    Barbara: Yes.
  • BSoD Song: "Letzte Vorhang" (Final Curtain), Emanuel's My God, What Have I Done? moment as he angsts about his causing the production to be shut down.
  • The Casanova: Oh, Emanuel. He Lampshades this by referring to himself as Don Juan at one point, and the official program calls him Casanova. The little instrumental piece “Emanuels Affäre” has him waltzing with multiple paramours.
  • Creator Couple: The Schikaneders, In-Universe as "the brightest dream couple" of German/Austrian theatre.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Emanuel and Eleonore. They engage in Snark-to-Snark Combat at the start of “Rein geschäftslich”, too, throwing out barbs repeatedly.
  • Death Song: "Johanns Ende - Requiem". Johann dies with Eleonore by his side.
  • Destination Defenestration: Benedikt pushes Emanuel out the open window to flee from a pissed-off husband.
    Benedikt: [pushing] You always land on your feet!
    [crashing sounds, bone cracking, Emanuel groaning in pain]
    Noblewoman: Not this time.
  • The Ghost: Mozart is frequently mentioned in the show, but usually as an offhand reference to "the composer" or Emanuel's "mad composer friend". Appropriate, since Mozart already got his own musical (in which Schikaneder appeared as a character).
  • Hey, Let's Put on a Show: "Geld und Glück" (Spend and Hope) is Emanuel and Eleonore trying to persuade an investor to fund The Magic Flute.
  • Historical Domain Character: As befitting a historical musical, everyone in this show existed in real life.
  • "I Am Great!" Song: "So viele Fische im Meer", Emanuel bragging about how Eleonore's departure will not affect him.
  • "I Want" Song: Eleonore's "Mein Lied" (My Song), about breaking away from the shadow of the men in her life.
  • Innocently Insensitive:
    • The most charitable explanation for Maria Anna's cluelessness. Why on Earth would someone think that telling someone they should be happy that you're stealing their husband is a normal thing to do?
    • Emanuel, yes, your wife knows about your cheating. No, that does not mean she's okay with it and is also seeing other people!
  • It Will Never Catch On: The company's initial reaction to the snippets of song that Mozart sends them.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The adoring crowd that mob the stage door every night for Emanuel and Eleonore mirror the same crowd outside of the door of the Raimund Theater, where Schikaneder is held. note 
  • Meaningful Rename: Joseph changes his name to Emanuel upon his marriage to Eleonore, because "Emanuel and Eleonore" harmonizes better.
  • Melancholy Musical Number: "Letzte Vorhang", "Johanns Ende", and "Wegzusehen" are all tearjerkers, showcasing Emanuel’s regret, Eleonore’s grief, and her resignation.
  • Mononymous Biopic Title: The show is about the Schikaneders and their turbulent love story behind the scenes of The Magic Flute.
  • Mythology Gag: A ton to The Magic Flute, most of them running on the side of hilarious to people who know the original material.
    • Some characters stutter on the "p" sound - referring to the story of the real life Schikaneder altering the meeting between Papageno and Papagena. He was the one who suggested that the characters should stutter "Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa," in astonishment at each other.
    • While Emanuel is convincing Josepha Hofer to perform as the main character's mother instead of playing The Ingenue, some notes from the famous Queen of the Night aria plays as he's explaining that the part is written specifically for her voice. It gets even funnier when Josepha indignantly turns down the role... while singing her refusal, pitch-perfect, to the tune of the high/long notes in said aria.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Emanuel tries to explain the reason for him and Maria Anna embracing. The latter had already beaten him to the punch.
  • One-Steve Limit: Emanuel was actually born Johann Joseph Schickeneder [sic], but he's addressed as Joseph initially. Johann Friedel pops up later in the plot.
  • Pun: Eleonore tells Emanuel that he should have Josepha star in a show about a cow, calling her Josepha Heifer (instead of Hofer).
  • Quarreling Song: "Rein geschäftlich" starts with Emanuel and Eleonore at each other's throats and using all sorts of unsavory epithets for each other.
  • "Setting Off" Song: "Quartett" sees everyone ready for a new life, with Maria Anna, Johann, and Eleonore actually leaving physically.
  • Sidekick Song: "Ich? Warum?" (Me? But Why?) is Eleonore and Emanuel's sidekicks Barbara, Benedikt, and Josepha trying to push the responsibility of stopping the Schikaneders' feud onto each other, singing about how they're not suited for the task.
  • Shirtless Scene: Perhaps capitalizing on Mark Seibert's sizable fanbase, there's a brief scene of Emanuel in bed with a paramour, sans shirt.
  • Show Within a Show: Snippets of The Magic Flute aside, the audience also briefly see other productions by the troupe, such as Antony and Cleopatra.
  • Speak in Unison: Eleonore and Emanuel do this (for one long, complicated line of dialogue) while she's arguing with Johann in their theatre and he's arguing with Barbara back at the troupe.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: Schikaneder and Mozart! are Foils to each other.
    • German musical written by an American composer vs. German musical written by a German composer.
    • Mark Seibert plays a straight-laced, controlling Prince-Archbishop who believes that music is meant for the elite in Mozart, and a laid-back, charming theatre impresario whose credo is to make art that entertain and inform the masses in Schikaneder.
    • Mozart ends on a Bittersweet Ending with the composer's death and a celebration of his immortality via art. Schikaneder ends on a Happily Ever After with The Magic Flute being a rousing success, Emanuel having undergone Character Development, and Eleonore being credited as an equal creative force.
    • Mozart takes a Darker and Edgier route to the mythos, whereas Schikaneder is Lighter and Softer.
    • Wolfgang and Constanze parted because Mozart is Married to the Job. Emanuel and Eleonore parted because Eleonore could not put up with Emanuel's constant cheating.
  • Tantrum Throwing: Eleonore and Emanuel's little, ahem, spring cleaning. That is to say, a screaming argument rife with broken china, thrown chairs, and ripped pictures.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The Schikaneders' reunion starts out like this initially, in a case of Working with the Ex, until they find a mutual enemy in Marinelli, and change their focus to working on The Magic Flute instead.
  • Tenor Boy: The romantic leads, Emanuel and Johann. Though Emanuel is admittedly less boyish, he makes up for this part by being dorky in his courtship of Eleonore. He is also very idealistic and impulsive, like a boy.
  • Villain Song: "Das, was ich will" (That's What I Want) sees Marinelli gloating at the Schikaneders for their inability to stage a successful production.