“Kommersant. Weekend” magazine
Author: Roman Dolzhanskiy

Musical in the style of NEP


The title “Embezzlers” doesn’t say much even to the most tempted theatregoers today. Yet, this story was created by a famous Soviet writer and playwright Valentin Kataev, soon after it was published it was brough to stage not just anywhere but at the famous MAT theatre where it was directed by Gorchakov. The idea for this story came to Kataev’s mind in the winter of 1925 when the country decided to fight the embezzlement and plunder and laugh at commoners who wanted to live a better life. The story “grew” from worker reporters’ materials that were sent to satirical magazines the writer collaborated with. A screen version of “Embezzlers” was filmed later.

Back then, in the middle of 20s, it was a modern – satirical and adventurous – play. Two main characters, accountant Prokhorov and cashier Vanechka, steal the treasury money and run away. They travel around the country looking for luxurious life and, of course, end up being dragged into a whirlpool of unusual events. Gradually the story gets more fantastical – there are NEP inns there, and, on one hand, the desire of the characters to see the high society of the lost Empire – the generals and the nobles, and on the other hand – festivities with the merry and drunk village men in the cashier’s homeland. Of course, the merry adventurous story is seasoned with a lyrical plot – but at the end the vice gets punished: the embezzlers go to prison for five years.

Firstly, Mikhail Shvydkoi’s Moscow Musical Theatre keeps betting on the domestic product with its newly born show “You can’t choose times”. Secondly, the theatre follows the trend of going back to the themes and texts of 1920-s. This trend has been fading and then coming back recently. Now it is time for a new wave of interest – in any case, the season started with the new show at the Theatre of Nations – the first Soviet operetta “Grooms” by Isaac Dunaevsky.

“The plot of “Embezzlers” fits perfectly for the musical genre’s requirements – it’s got a story, an intrigue, bright characters, dynamics and various styles”, - says the author of libretto and the new show’s director Alexander Shavrin. He thinks that the composer Maxim Leonidov managed to stylize the music extremely delicately and show the spirit of the time period where the events take place. Leonidov himself is sure that “no other genre can depict the disharmony of our time”.

Maxim Leonidov didn’t just compose the music, he also plays the main character – in turns with Alexei Kortnev. Other parts are played by young but already famous actors – Ksenia Larina, Anna Guchenkova, Stanislav Belyaev, Artem Lyskov. The show is choreographed by Egor Druzhinin and Natalia Terekhova, art-director – Olga Shagalina, lighting designer – Sergei Skornetskiy. Their team effort will determine how relevant this old story can be and what will be the ratio between pure entertainment and useful lessons.