“Soldier of Orange – The Musical” taking audiences to the front lines of WWII

Photo credit: Joris van Bennekom

The longest running show in the history of Dutch musical theatre, “Soldaat van Oranje – De Musical” (Soldier of Orange – The Musical) adapted by Edwin de Vries has been a smash hit in the Netherlands since October 2010, breaking the attendance record of  “The Phantom of the Opera”,  selling out every show (7 performances a week).  The Dutch musical takes place at a special theatre on the former military airport of Valkenburg.  TheaterHangaar was purpose-built for the production, with the spectacle taking place in an actual old hangar.

Based on the WWII memories of resistance hero and a Dutch RAF pilot  Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema, the story was previously made into a 1977 movie by famed Dutch director Paul Verhoeven and starred Rutger Hauer.  The musical is a character study about Dutch students and how their lives are torn apart by the Nazi invasion of Holland in 1940.  The hero of the story Hazelhoff decides to fight for the Resistance in this exciting war drama musical. The story covers the period from Germany’s invasion of the Netherlands in 1940 to its liberation in 1945.; friendship betrayed, love lost and new paths explored.

Photo credit: Joris van Bennekom

What sets “Soldier of Orange” apart from other musicals is the rotating auditorium in the center of the venue that houses 1100 people.  The auditorium is placed on a turntable and the audience rotates from scenery to scenery, accompanied by 180 degree projections of historical WWII footage on panel screens around the auditorium. Both the auditorium and the screens are motorized and automated.

Almost every scenery has its own set, and every set is breathtaking.  One high point that demonstrates the perfect blending of story with set is when Hazelhoff stands at the shore lamenting the departure of the then Monarch, Queen Wilhelmina, to England with the Germans bombing Rotterdam overhead. The audience is transported to the location and feels the full scale of emotions. The climax of the show ends with Hazelhoff flying the Queen back to the Netherlands in May 1945. The runway of the airport is here part of the set and an actual plane is in full view. With the night air blowing and the engines roaring, the experience is beyond what any other musical can offer.

“Soldier of Orange” is a truly exhilarating musical with a distinctive Dutch flavor.  Performances of the musical will run through July 2016 at the TheaterHangaar in Katwijk.  For more information, visit www.soldaatvanoranje.nl

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