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Nord-Ost to Be Reborn Outside Moscow

Nord-OstNord-Ost, the first Russian musical, was not killed by the terrorists who took 923 people hostage at the Dubrovka Theatre during a performance a year ago. At present, work is underway to put together a travelling version of the musical to tour cities and countries.

The "mobile Nord-Ost" will be on the same scale as the original version. New sets are being finished, including the unique airplane that lands on stage at the end of the performance. Echoing its major theme central story about the fates of the protagonists who explored the Arctic in the 1920s-30s, the musical is rising again as a symbol of Man conquering the North Pole and violence at the same time.

However, Nord-Ost is unlikely to return to Moscow, at least not to the Dubrovka Theatre where Chechen terrorists took the audience of 923 people hostage, 130 of whom died. Memories of the events are still fresh. The cast had the immediate powerful impulse to restore Nord-Ost in its original form, without changing a single word or move, in spite of the death and mourning. Their enthusiasm was so great that the musical was, indeed, restored.

But it became clear as time passed, that the tragedy would never be erased and that the hall where people died, the stage from which the terrorists had shot at the public, now carried its own dark energy. New spectators had difficulty catching on to the buoyant tone of the performance; many wept at when they were supposed to be laughing. Fewer and fewer tickets were sold.

The theatre drama unfolded against a background of endless lawsuits filed by Muscovites against City Hall demanding compensation for the death of their loved ones. Million-ruble suits remained unsatisfied, and it was the theatre that the frustrated suitors started picketing carrying slogans against the city authorities and the musical, too.

The public did not feel good about having to pass angry protestors on their way inside the theatre. Many returned their tickets or simply made U-turns and drove away. The musical was eventually closed, and the stage became empty once again.

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, a modest monument to the victims was erected in front of the Dubrovka Theatre, and a plaque with the names of the hostages who died was placed on the wall of the building.

Several days later, on the anniversary of the operation to free the hostages, a memorial service was held in front of the theatre.

It seemed that the idea of restoring the musical had been completely abandoned. However, art is perhaps the only force that can prevail over evil: Nord-Ost is being reborn.

The preliminary musical sketches for the restored show, its concert version, have already been tested in Poland and the Baltic countries to great acclaim. It seems like the dark energy dissolves outside Moscow, and the public regains the ability to enjoy music and dancing without feeling the pain of the tragedy.

Anatoly Korolev, RIAN

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