Desert songs

New musical 'The Last Horseman' premieres in Madrid

Miquel Fernández (left) plays the role of a bedouin in search of his dream horse.
Miquel Fernández (left) plays the role of a bedouin in search of his dream horse.JAIME VILLANUEVA

Dancing in the desert, a boat docked in Victorian London, a young bedouin looking to fulfill his destiny -- El último jinete (to be named The Last Horseman in its English version) is a poetic adventure of the kind they used to make. The production is a rare thing these days -- a completely original stage musical -- and tells the story of a bedouin who has nothing but a dream: to find the horse on which to ride into battle and glory. It can't be just any horse, however: according to desert legend there is only one horse for each rider and only by forming this bond can the circle be completed.

"It is a risky venture, because everything is totally new," says Albert Boadella, artistic director of Madrid's Canal theaters, where the production received its world premiere last week. "And it is an honor for it to premiere here."

Produced by Andrés Vicente Gómez -- best known for his work as a producer on movies such as Bigas Luna's Jamón, jamón and Santiago Segura's Torrente, el brazo tonto de la ley -- and directed by Víctor Conde, it features a cast of top Spanish musical performers: Miquel Fernández, Julia Möller, Marta Ribera, Toni Viñals and Carlos Solano. The book is by writer, screenwriter and film director Ray Loriga. "I started this journey with Ray," explains Gómez, who is dipping his toe into theater for the first time. "I told him about the project and in a few hours he had put together a story."

To flesh it out, Loriga headed off to the desert to immerse himself in bedouin customs and literature. "It's the only way of writing about something you don't know anything about," he explains. "What's more, the story couldn't be more relevant. We have chased our dream to the end."

The show has a budget of nine million euros, financed by Middle Eastern businessmen. "The musical was a commission," says Gómez. "Those investors were charmed by the [Steven Spielberg] film War Horse and asked me to create a show in which the Arabian horse was the star."

They originally wanted it to premiere in London's West End, but Gómez managed to convince them to unveil it in Spain before traveling to Britain in 2013.

The production has also featured the involvement of Gibraltarian songwriter Albert Hammond -- author of hits such as It Never Rains in Southern California and father of Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr. -- and Oscar-winning costume designer Yvonne Blake. Both have admitted it was a dream come true to take part in a musical for the first time.

El último jinete. Until January 6 at Teatros del Canal, C/ Cea Bermúdez 1, Madrid.

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