The Netherlands’ longest running musical, Soldier of Orange, goes international

Photo: Joris van Bennekom
Photo: Joris van Bennekom

An international version of the longest-running Dutch musical, Soldaat van Oranje will premier in London next year, seven years after a move to Britain was first mooted.

The musical is based on the true story of resistance hero Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema, who was a student at Leiden University when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands. He went underground and fled to England, where he carried out numerous missions in the service of the Dutch monarchy in exile.

British scenario writer Jeremy Brock, who was partly responsible for the hit British hospital drama Casualty, has been drafted in for the script. ‘I passionately believe in that all great drama draws universal themes from particular narratives,’ Brock, who has seen the show five times, told

‘The Soldier story is, with careful nuancing, a perfect story for a modern British audience: it’s about love, loyalty, self-sacrifice and whether, under pressure, any one of us would stand on the sidelines or make the bravest decision in the name of love or country.’

In the Netherlands the musical plays in a rotating 1,100 seat auditorium in a converted aircraft hanger on a Dutch military base. The scenes include a seascape, complete with water, and an aircraft which taxis to a stop.

A special theatre for the the ‘whole Soldier experience’ is being built in London’s Royal Dock where the show will be staged.

So far, more than 2.8 million people have seen the show in the Netherlands, which premiered in October 2010.

‘There is an enormous amount of intellectual snobbishness about musicals,’ Brock said. ‘But the show in the Netherlands has been seen by more than 2.8 million people and some of them have seen it four or five times.’

‘People want a story with themes they recognise and Soldier is brilliantly presented entertainment. This is experience theatre.’

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