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Artem Lyskov: The musical «Embezzlers» became a turning point in my career

Artem Lyskov is a theatre, film and musical actor. He is perhaps the only actor in our country who trained for this genre in its motherland, in New York, and acted on Broadway. And two years later he came back to Moscow to achieve results in his own country. The next day after coming back to Russia Lyskov went to audition for the new Russian musical “Embezzlers”. And… he succeeded: it is already the third season on the stage of Moscow Musical Theatre where Artem Lyskov is playing a charming but naïve cashier Vanechka Klukvin who is wasting the trasury money with his boss, the accountant Philipp Stepanovich Prokhorov (Maxim Leonidov).

- Artem, do you remember how musicals appeared in your life? When did you first encounter this genre?

- Back at home in Vologda I saw a TV program about the new musical “12 chairs” and I was impressed by how skillfully the actors were moving, acting, singing, tap dancing. And when I first started going to Moscow for the entry exams at the theatre university in 2004, at first opportunity I went to the theatre to see the musical. The genre of musical theatre in Moscow was at its infancy back then and we were not taught this genre at the Shchukin University where I was studying. I thought I would be working at a repertory theatre but everything changed in 2007 when the American Embassy organized «Broadway school» where coaches from Broadway were teaching us to be musical theatre actors. After the casting only 25 people got in and I was one of them. We had classes every day for three weeks and in the end we made a final show where we demonstrated everything we'd learned. That was when I realized that doing musical theatre was my dream. I can say that school was fateful for the Lee Strasberg Institute and the whole New York adventure came into my life after it…

- How did you find yourself auditioning for “Embezzlers”?

- After graduating from the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York I started auditioning at different castings and as a result I got one of the main parts in a real Broadway musical “The ThreePenny Opera” by Kurt Weill. I was living in America with my student visa and I didn’t have the right to work officially, but the actors’ union supported me and I got the opportunity to do 60 shows. After that I had to face the choice: to stay in the USA and do all the documentation work or come back to Russia. I returned to Moscow for a couple of weeks to think about it. And the next day I found out about the casting for a new project “Embezzlers” at the Moscow Musical Theatre: I sent an application and was invited to the first round. I arrived in good mood, sang a song, danced and I felt they were interested in me. Then the second and third rounds… and I was cast in the show. It was simultaneously good and bad news because I had to make a decision about my American life. I came back to New York again, but I already knew I was going to stay in Moscow. That’s how I was cast in “Embezzlers” that became a turning point of my career. It wasn’t just a random project, it’s one of the symbolic ones. It's special to me because we were doing that show from scratch and we were growing up together with our characters. The Vanechka the audience sees was being created by me during rehearsals: from a head turn to the movements and manner of speech.

- Turns out, Maxim Leonidov is not only a musician, but also an actor and he plays the main character in «Embezzlers». Tell us about working with him.

- Maxim is such an amazing actor that working with him is a delight. It's always a pleasure for me to share a stage with him! He feels this genre which is very important in musicals. «Embezzlers» becamse a new stage in Maxim Leonidov's career, too. Besides playing the main character, the accountant Philipp Stepanovich Prokhorov, he is also the composer – he wrote all the songs for our musical and it was his debut as a musical theatre author. He was noticed because of «Embezzlers» and he started receiving offers for other shows. By now he has been in several projects as an actor and a composer! It makes me really happy!

- You had been on Broadway and the moment you came back to Russia you got the part in a completely Russian musical. What are the differences and similarities between American and Russian musicals?

- There is no specific definition of a «Russian musical». It is more likely a combination of the foreign school and the repertory style. «Embezzlers» is a very Russian show because it was made entirely by Russian people, everything in it is native! Starting with the play of the same name by Valentin Kataev that was the base for the script and ending with its musical adaptation with Maxim Leonidov’s music and Aleksander Shavrin’s dialogs. Working on a project like this is a joy.

- “Embezzlers” is a very relevant word these days, don’t you think?

- It’s true! When we were working on the show it was a forgotten word that wasn’t used very often. But now, especially in the current financial situation, it is widely used.

- Musical theatre is a difficult genre where one has to sing, move and act at the same time. What aspect is the most difficult for you?

- I wouldn't say I face any difficulties. This genre is so dear to me that everything about it brings me joy. A musical actor must be able to combine dancing, singing and acting on a high level. That is the magic of musical theatre and its actor.

- There are many premieres with you in them expected this year, a feature-length film «ChB» by Evgeny Shelyakin is one of them. Tell us a little bit about that movie and about where else we can see you this year.

- There are going to be many premieres, indeed. Besides continuing to act in «Embezzlers» and «Life is beautiful» I also get parts in movies. I'm eagerly awaiting the Channel One premieres «Elder sister» and «Rehearsal of life», the TNT premiere «Betrayals» where I act alongside Elena Lyadova, and I've also got a big part in the NTV project «Beekeeper 2: The fugitive». The most awaited premiere is «ChB», the movie that comes out on March 19. This film is unique in many ways – it's a comedy about subjects that are not usually joked about. It raises issues of xenophobia and nationalism. The movie consists of short stories and it’s one of the first big screen films in my career – that’s why I’m nervous about it!