Swedish critics aren't sweet to Garbo musical

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com September 20 2002 11:00 PM ET

A musical about the life of bisexual Hollywood mystery woman Greta Garbo drew unenthusiastic reviews from critics in her native Sweden on Thursday, a day after opening night for the production, which aims to succeed abroad. The producers of Garbo the Musical hope the saga of the enigmatic screen goddess, who spent more of her life in seclusion than making films, will lure people decades after her career ended.

The musical follows Garbo's life from her modest youth in Sweden through the glamorous Hollywood years to the late 1980s at breakneck pace. But critics said it was too sterile and failed to solve any of the mystery around the woman who said famously, "I want to be alone." Per Feltzin, music critic at Swedish public service SR radio, said of the play, "Very professional but predictable and not exciting." The script is written by England's Warner Brown, known for his earlier musicals Flickers and Scandal. The score is composed by Michael Reed and Jim Steinman, who has worked with rock artist Meat Loaf, singer Bonnie Tyler, and boy band Boyzone.

Many critics liked the music, varying from ragtime variations to contemporary rock, but they said only a few songs rose above mediocre. Marcus Boldeman, critic at Sweden's biggest daily, Dagens Nyheter, told Reuters the musical is conventional and has some dramaturgical problems. The musical's producers hope to take their production abroad in spring 2004, aiming to find audiences in London's West End and on Broadway in New York. But critics are skeptical about global success.

"I would be surprised if it goes on for a long time even here," said Tony Lundman, music critic at daily Svenska Dagbladet. "But that might happen if the interest in Garbo is bigger than the demand for good musicals."