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But Now We See

October 28, 2014

But Now We See

Reviewed by Kenneth Lyen

 

Raffles Hall Musical Production's "But Now We See" burst upon the University Cultural Centre stage on Saturday 18th October 2014. 

What are the objectives of staging an original musical? If it is to stimulate creativity, uncover hidden talent, foster teamwork, camaraderie and leadership, then last night's Raffles Hall musical, "But Now We See" succeeds admirably. It is exciting to watch so many talented individuals working together to produce a polished well-rehearsed highly original musical. 

Musical theatre is probably the most demanding team art form. It embraces many disparate elements, each a complete art form in itself. For example, it encompasses story-telling, playwriting, acting, singing, dancing, choreography, set design, costume design, lighting, sound design, program booklet writing, marketing, publicity, fund-raising, etc. Each and every element must work together to form a cohesive whole. When that happen, a musical can reach for the stars. Unfortunately, if any one of its major components fails, it can sometimes drag the entire work down.

I have often suffered the barbs of innumerable critics, so I know what it feels like to be at the receiving end of criticisms. It is inevitable that the most hypersensitive person is the one who is being written about. So before I dwell on what I perceive to be areas that can be improved upon, let me tell you what I like about "But Now We See".

The overall performance was excellent. The producers, Tan Zhen Wei, Chan Jane Vin and Lek Chin Meng, had assembled a wonderful and cohesive team. This is no mean feat, considering the massive scale of this production. The directors, Abel Siow, Michelle Koh and Prashanth Prakash, did an admirable job interpreting the complicated script, and the final scene where the shepherd is told of her ward Thebeson's death is particularly moving. The sets were well-designed and appropriate to the story, and kudos goes to Gavin Prasetyo Raharjo and Sherin Koh Hsin Yi. The costumes were excellent, and they were led by Fung Wing Sang and Wan Kai Mi. 

The music was composed by “Dare” Darryl Lim and Tan Choong Hou. It captures the overall mood and emotions of the show very well. This was helped enormously by the arrangers Karlius Quek, Eveline Patricia Kartawijaya, Marius Andrian Tjandrawinarto, and Eyu Xue Yi. The orchestra was another phenomenal showpiece of the musical. The choral directors also created an expressive atmosphere, thanks to Ng Kai Jun, Sherman Yuen Sheung Man and Cheng Zhi Yuan. Dance was a major component of this musical, and was imaginatively-choreographed by Shalom Lau Li Yin, Nicholas Wong, and Li Wei Neng.

The cast portrayed the characters well, and I was impressed by their singing and acting. They included Kevan Png Yeow Wei, Tan Yilong, Bernice Leow Li Hsia, Teo Hwee Sze, Jesline Tang Chia Ling, Tay Yu Rong, and Lee Jia Sheng. They are indeed the stars of the show. 

Are there any criticisms about the show? Let me preface my remarks by talking more generally.

Story-telling is one of the major elements of a musical. "But what about Cats?" you might ask. Sure, Andrew Lloyd Webber's “Cats” has an almost non-existent storyline. However, the other components are so brilliant that they compensate for the miserable non-story. The dancing, the music, and the set design are so stunning, that you walk out of the theatre feeling… well… great.

It has often been said that a musical should only have one major theme that runs right throughout. If it is too complex, the audience is easily lost. Complexity is not a virtue in musical theatre. Simplicity is.

I’m sorry to say that I did not quite follow all the intricacies of the plot.

However, overall, I think that this musical has several plus points. It is highly original. It evokes an even darker rendition of a Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School. It is well produced and performed. The organization, the teamwork, and the friendships forged, are all to be complimented. The final scenes at the end of the musical are very touching and one almost felt like crying.

So congratulations to Raffles Hall for another fantastic musical!

I look forward to seeing your next production!

Kenneth Lyen

19 Oct 2014

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