Antonio Banderas and Andrew Lloyd Webber join forces

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Antonio Banderas. / EP

They will produce musical theater through Amigos Para Siempre (APS), a company that will bring the British musicals, with new adaptations and productions, to the Spanish-speaking market

Iker Cortes

“We are being born. We are cutting the umbilical cord, ”said Antonio Banderas (Málaga, 61 years old) with a laugh. In this way, the actor excused himself for not revealing the route and the calendar that Amigos Para Siempre (APS) will follow, the new company that this morning, in Madrid, has been presented by the Malaga native and the legendary musical composer Andrew Lloyd Webber (London, 74 years), through which they have proposed to breathe life into musical theater in the Spanish-speaking market with the works of the British.

Banderas says that the first contact with the composer for the gestation of this new company was while he was shooting the fifth installment of Indiana Jones in London. He called him to go to dinner and the interpreter was not surprised in the least because he has had a great friendship since he participated in 'Evita'. As the plates were finished, he realized that the author of classics like 'Cats' or 'Sunset Boulevard' was interested in something more than sharing a table with an old friend. "He wanted to tell me about the possibility of joining forces in pursuit of the production and development of musical theater in our language," explains Banderas. In this way, Really Useful Group, a company founded by the musician, will transfer to the new joint venture the scenic rights of the Spanish versions of the composer's classics, among which are 'The Phantom of the Opera', 'Sunset Boulevard' The Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard', 'Starlight Express', Jesus Christ Superstar', 'Evita', 'Cinderella' or 'School of Rock'.

APS is born, which takes its name from the song of the same name that Lloyd Webber composed for the Barcelona Olympic Games, with the intention of not staying only in Spanish territory and crossing borders bringing productions to the Latin American market and even to those places in the United States where the community of Spanish speakers is important. All of this, the two say, "with the quality parameters" of places like London's West End or New York's Broadway, that is, "seeking excellence." Not surprisingly, it is the goal that the actor set out to achieve when he took charge of the Soho theater in Malaga, where Lloyd Webber attended a performance of 'Company' that amazed him. "This does not guarantee success, but that is one of the great things and miseries of our profession," the actor comments with amusement.

That is why the company will have new translations and adaptations of the works of the British composer. "I've come across some that aren't very good and we want to look at the possibility of re-translating some old works and giving the lyricists a chance to do a good translation from the script with the new works," explains Lloyd Webber. In this sense, Banderas has strongly emphasized that the texts will be adapted to the accents and modalities of Spanish in the different countries so that the works "reach all viewers emotionally as they should." And although nothing has been decided yet, the man from Malaga has already put the name of Roser Batalla, responsible for the translations of 'A Chorus Line' and 'Company', on the table as a future lyricist: «He works with great respect for the work and even try to play with the same sounds as for the rhymes. It is very possible that she will be in charge of the adaptations to Spanish ». Next to him, Lloyd Webber has intoned the mea culpa: «I think we have not taken care of the Spanish public as much as we should and we want to bring them excellence».

They haven't said much more, but Banderas himself acknowledges that the paths that are now open to both of them are almost infinite. In the summer, they will get together to see the possibility of launching one or two productions and see what kind of theaters would be suitable for them. They are not closed to alternative spaces, such as black boxes or black boxes, in which the public stands around the scene. "It's important to take that stale flavor out of the theatre," says Banderas, who is open to the possibility of acting in one of these productions - "Although now as Che Guevara in 'Evita' I look a bit older," he says with a laugh - and especially directing. "I'm very interested in it and I want to propose something to you around 'Song and Dance', which was the first work I saw in New York in '85," he says. In fact, the company is open not only to taking "eight or nine" works by Lloyd Webber around the world, but also to the possibility of having productions by other composers, including Spanish, "who have difficulty premiering in other countries."

A revitalized theater

And although he assures that he does not give up on cinema, he is clear that "the way of seeing it has changed." He has given 'Official Competition' as an example, a film that, in his opinion six or seven years ago, would have made eight or nine million and now has barely reached a million. “People know that it will be on Netflix in a very short time and it is expected. It's a shame, but that experience of sharing a movie in a dark room surrounded by strangers is being diluted. The cinema is going to stay for the romantics and the films that raise a lot of expectations ». On the other hand, the theater, he says, "that person telling or singing a story to another group of people, revives as an unchangeable fact", oblivious to the changes in the cinema, in the platforms and the technological revolutions. That means that "the theatrical fact is revalued because it has something of truth that makes, curiously, in times of crisis the theaters are filled rather than empty."

And there is always the possibility that a film adaptation will be horrible. This is what happened to Lloyd Webber himself who confesses that the latest adaptation of 'Cats' to the big screen horrified him. "I hate her. I bought a dog », he has affirmed causing the laughter of the journalists. The composer has told an anecdote and it is that in an American airline they allow dogs to go into the cabin if the passenger has anxiety about traveling by plane and brings a medical certificate. Lloyd Webber tells that he requested to travel with a dog and as a reason he stated that he had just seen the movie 'Cats'. "If it's because of that, he can go up with the dog without medical justification," he says they answered.

A technical school in Malaga

Antonio Banderas has taken advantage of his visit to Madrid to say that from the Teatro Soho they plan to open a school for technicians in Malaga. "There is a lot of unemployment in the country and yet it is incredibly difficult to find sound technicians, light designers, set designers, costume designers, makeup artists, hairdressers, managers or producers," he laments. And he goes further: «In Malaga alone there are 1,200 students and they all want to be actors, singers or dancers, but someone has to tell them that this is not going to be possible, that there is not room for all of them. The good news is that we need staff in all those disciplines. We are going to attract huge talent traffic.”

To do this, the man from Malaga has acquired some 8,000 square meter roofed warehouses where there will be "two black boxes, many rehearsal and training places, a huge theater where we aspire to have 2,000 seats for concerts by our symphony orchestra and other things, and a building with classrooms.

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