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Fun @ Short & Sweet Musical KL

I had a great time last night finally seeing the production of my mini-musical, “A Woman at War.”  Vivian Chan and Boon-Kit gave wonderfully emotional performances as Johnny and Sara, a young couple separated during World War II.

The direction and musical direction by husband and wife team Alvin Looi and Karynn Tan stayed true to the emotional story, and highlighted the events beautifully with a wonderful and powerful back-up ensemble.

I feel so privileged to have such a group performing my work. Their dedication and hard-work paid off, regardless of what the judges ultimately decide. I get to watch it again tonight!

There I am! They called the writer down to take a bow with the wonderful cast and crew.2014-09-26 21.49.18



There we all are. The placard outside the theatre.2014-09-26 20.11.23

Here’s the whole cast plus the great musicians.2014-09-26 20.11.38 The cast taking a bow.2014-09-26 21.48.57 Here’s the whole cast, crew, and composers.2014-09-26 21.57.37


One more show tonight. We won’t know until next week whether it will make the gala night. Time will tell. Either way, awesome show by a lot of talented performers.

A Woman at War: The Musical

I’m very excited about my 10-minute musical called “A Woman at War” being produced for the KL Short & Sweet Musical Festival, September 24-27.

I’ve been in contact with the director and I’m excited about he actors he has chosen and the direction he wants to take the musical. He’s also putting together a 3-4 piece band for live accompaniment.

I have the best job of all. I get to sit back and watch. That will be fun for a change.

It will be performed for 4 nights in a row. Then, if it is chosen, it will be performed for the Gala Night on the evening of October 5.

Here’s a link for the specific Facebook page of “A Woman at War” and if you are going to be in Malaysia during that time, please make plans to stop in and see it.

A Woman at War Musical PAGE


Script & Musical selected for Short & Sweet Malaysia

I’ve been involved in the Short & Sweet Malaysia (Penang & KL) theatre festival for the past two years and this year I’m happy to be back in the fray!

My new short play, “A Pinch of Fate, A Shot of Destiny” has been selected to be part of the Short & Sweet Theatre Festival Penang in September. This is a fun little piece about a serendipitous meeting of two individuals which ends up complicating the plans of the grim reaper. It’s funny and sweet. A director (not me) will be assigned to produce it. It will be fun to see what they do with it.

In addition, my new short musical, “A Woman at War” has been shortlisted for production in Short & Sweet Musical Kuala Lumpur in October. I originally wrote this piece a few months ago, created the melodies and wrote all the lyrics. Then I gave it to my co-composer, Laura Danneker, who recorded the performance tracks and arranged it. This is a piece I really love. It has so much theatrical potential. The story is basically this: set during WWII, a young woman marries a GI right before he is shipped off to war. Then we see how she struggles to fight her own little war on the homefront as her young husband is off at war. It’s sweet and poignant, and beautifully honors what women of all generations have had to endure during wartime. I can’t wait to see how it will be produced.

I’m sure I’ll be posting more as the performance dates approach, but I wanted to spread the good news. Two of my pieces are off for production.

The “Boardwalk Melody” Story through Photos

“Boardwalk Melody” – An Original Musical

The Story in Photos:

Frederick, the fisherman, has been chasing Minnie, the ice cream lady, for years. I think she secretly has a crush on him, but she’s most definitely playing hard to get.


Benedict (blue) works in his aunt Gert’s tourist agency. Gert has hired two girl-crazy teens for the summer. She most definitely regrets it. Rosie (blue) also works there, but the term “work” must be used loosely because she wants nothing more than to be Benedict’s girlfriend. Benedict is not amused.


Enter Amelia, and her two disciples. She rents a space next to the tourist agency for the intention of opening a revolutionary swimwear store. The prospect of such a shop gets Perry and Tony quite excited.


Amelia’s conservative feminism comes into an immediate clash with Benedict – prompting him to sing a song accusing her of being a follower of Chairman Mao. Amelia sings in reply that he an ego as big as Lincoln of Rushmore. (It’s a fun song, really.)


When Frederick sees Amelia and Benedict fighting, he gets an idea. He bets Minnie that he can make those two fall in love. They make a wager where if Frederick wins, Minnie agrees to go on a real date with him. If he loses, he’s never allowed to tie his boat on this pier again. The game is on. Let the plotting and scheming begin. JStef-17Apr2014-7154


But every show needs a villain, so in walks billionaire developer Cornelius Summers who intends to raze the shops on the boardwalk and build a casino. Margaret, his fiance and soon to be 6th wife comes in tow. And there might even be a strange connection with Amelia here. Could she really be in on his scheme too?JStef-17Apr2014-7121

Cornelius and his future casino girls perhaps?JStef-17Apr2014-7114

Of course, we have some wonderful dancers who just make everything amazingly amazing. JStef-17Apr2014-7178


Fifteen original songs. Seven choreographed dance numbers. Nineteen amazing young actors.

“Boardwalk Melody – An Original Musical.”

Opens Friday May 23 @ Penang Performing Arts Centre.

Boardwalk Melody: What the actors are saying. (Part 1)

A month from now, my brand-new musical that I wrote with my students will be debuting at the Penang Performing Arts Centre for three shows.

We’ve been rehearsing hard since January, and now we’ll be kicking it up a notch to get ready for the show. I am extremely excited about it and very proud of what my young actors are putting together. I asked them this week what they thought the audience would enjoy about the performance. Here’s what some of them said:

“Feel-good vibes that come with a message; we highlight the necessity for rethinking the social perception of equality that really isn’t all that equal.”

“The audience will love the energy, suspense and romance from our production.”

“The audience will like the dancing and singing involved in this production because it is once in a few years where a musical production is made. They will also like the love connections happening all at once.”

“I think the audience will enjoy the dialogue because some of it is funny.”

“The audience will enjoy the various styles of dance routines, along with the humor that certain characters bring to the plot.”

“The humorous scenes and the touching scenes that reflect our lives.”

“The music, the humor, and (hopefully) the acting.”

“I’m sure the audience is looking forward to watching the dance routines and listening to the music.”


Tickets are on sale now at the penangpac box office. If you are going to be in town, please come check it out. May 23-24.

boardwalk melody flyer 1


“Boardwalk Melody: The Musical” – Here we go!

I’m privileged to work with an amazing group of high school kids who love the dramatic arts. Thursday, we start the production phase of our original, full-length musical “Boardwalk Melody.”

The writing phase ended in December. Well, I should make a few qualifications. The book part of the musical if finished; I wrote that with a group of five student writers. The musical portion of it still has a ways to go. We have recorded vocal samples of all the original songs, but we still need to record them into performance tracks for practice. Then, we need to make the musical scores so we can have live music. We have about another 6 weeks to get this all done.

Thursday, we have our first cast read-through – always a fun time, and then next week we start rehearsals for dancing, singing, and acting.

We have three shows booked at PenangPAC in May for our debut.

Style-wise, I wanted to create a musical that would hearken back to the golden area of musicals. The music has some classic show-tunes and fun, jazzy numbers. No rock.

The story is fun, and extremely funny. We have some really great, well-developed characters and a neatly wrapped ending.

I purposefully wanted a feel-good musical. And we did it. Can’t wait to get started.

Then next year we’ll go dark and tragic, perhaps.

Much more on this later!

Boardwalk Melody

Boardwalk Melody – The Musical is Finished!

I gathered my student writing team together one last time to do a final read-through on the book for our full-length, original musical that we will be performing in May.

Title: Boardwalk Melody

Style: Throwback!

We wanted to re-create the world of old-school musicals even though the setting is modern day. Here’s a brief synopsis:

A cynical, man-hating woman opens a new type of swimwear shop on the boardwalk of Summersville. Her plans to revolutionize the swimsuit industry (by designing suits that cover-up women) creates havoc to the summer dreams of the young men who work next door in the tourist shop. 

We have a delightful selection of 15 original songs ranging in style from showtunes, to blues, to jazzy-upbeat numbers, to some stirring ballads.

The best part is that we cast the entire show this week – incredibly talented cast, might I add. We have 12 actors/singers with 2 understudies and 6 dancers. I just signed up a musical director today (since we want to have live music!) and, with our choreographer and vocal director, we are ready to go.

This will be the biggest production I have ever done. Challenging? Yes. But I can’t wait to get at it come mid-January.

Boardwalk Melody is the 11th major, full-length dramatic production I’ve written in the last seven years. Wow! Where has the time gone. What fun it has been!

Anyone going to be in Penang in May?

Our new Book Musical!

A book musical is a musical that mixes drama and music into one coherent story. The music is used to express the feelings, desires, and hopes in the context of the story. A book musical is usually divided into three parts: the music, the lyrics, and the book (dramatic script).

We (that being me and a group of young writers) are in the final stages of putting the finishing touches on the book part of our book musical.

The music part still has a long way to go. All of the songs are written, just not scored and recorded. All of the lyrics are basically written, but need polished.

It’s been a great experience trying to create a classical-style musical from scratch. I’ve written some musical drama pieces before, but this was different. I wanted it to have a 1950s feel, but be still set in the modern era. I think we’ve done that. Our musical is set in a fictional ocean town of Summersville. It follows the exploits of a young man, Benedict, who has been stuck working in his aunt’s tourist shop for far too long. A conservative-feminist, Amelia, (I think I made this up) moves in next door to sell a new kind of swimwear which riles up the macho young college boys who also work in the tourist shop. Then we added (with a slight nod to Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”) a side bet between Frederick the fisherman and Minnie the ice cream lady. Frederick bets that he can get Amelia to fall in love with Benedict, and if he is right, he finally gets a date with Minnie, whom he has been chasing for thirty years.

Fun songs. Witty language. Awkward situations. It’s going to add up to be a blast when we put it all together.

We have early auditions coming up on December 4-5, final read-through with the writers on Dec 7, and then we start rehearsals in late January for our May show.

It’s going to be a ton of fun!

Oh, I suppose I should give you the musical’s name: “Boardwalk Melodies”

RLT Players: First Three Dramatic Sketches

The new show I wrote and am directing for The RLT Players is entitled “Captured in Time & Space” with the by-line of “Defining Moments of Life.” This is an eclectic and really fun group of dramatic sketches, combining comedy, musical, dance, and drama in a poignant show which highlights life itself and those moments that none of us will every forget. I’ve created Sketch Fact Sheets which give you a glimpse of what each one is about. Below are the first three. Here are details on the show itself:

Venue: Penang Performing Arts Centre

November 22, 5PM & 8PM; November 23, 3PM & 8PM.   Adult 20RM/Student 15RM – Suitable for all ages.

Sketch #1: Black & White

This is a lyrical, rhythmic dance. Done a capella. Choreographed by Rachel Chand.

black and white

Sketch #2: The Loudest Child at Church

Jennifer gets crazy and wild in this one. Really funny and, eventually, meaningful.

loudest child

Sketch #3: No in Spite of Itself

This is the Short & Sweet award-winning sketch winning “Best Script” at Penang SS Festival in September this year. There are many different meanings of the word ‘no’.

No In Spite of Itself

Sketches 4-6 coming soon!

Thank you to Michael Deeb for his awesome photography!



I write musicals – yeah, right

I’m not a musician. I have very limited range on a guitar  – my only instrument –  but I’ve always loved creating songs. I remember back in high school when I mowed grass a lot, I would just create all kinds of tunes and songs in my head. Sometimes I’d remember them and write them down. Usually, they rattled in my brain until the mower stopped its rattling and then they’d be gone.

When I started writing plays a few years back, I wrote some songs for some of them and then turned them over to the real musicians to bring them to fruition.  A favorite of mine was the musical called “A Tad of Trouble” which really has some catchy tunes in it.

Two years ago, I co-founded a drama group called the RLT Players (Road Less Traveled).  We do skits and short plays of a variety of genres – all original – and each year I like to write a musical (10 minutes or less) to the mix just because musicals are fun. And yes, I am a man. But musicals are still awesome.

Anyways, two years ago I wrote “Walk” – a short musical about the different types of walks that people have in their lives. I prerecorded the melodies and then tapped someone who actually had musical talent to come alongside and record a track on Garage Band so our troupe could perform it.  It went over well, so I decided to try again last year.

I wrote Disconnect: The Musical about our crazy on-line connected world. It was a lot of fun, and one of our RLT Players – Shion Beak – who can play every instrument and who is amazing at Garage Band too – came up with some awesome acompainment tracks so that we could stage it.  It was a hit when it was performed last November at PenangPAC during our 4 performances.

SWe finished it in June. Submitted it before July 1, and today I received this email:

Dear S+S Musical Composer & Lyricist,

Congratulations!   Thanks for registering S+S Musical 2013. I am here to inform that your musical “Captured in Time and Space” has been selected for S+S Musical 2013.

Very cool!  So I’ll be flying to KL in September to watch our musical come to life.

Later this week, I’ll give a fuller explanation as to what “Captured in Time & Space” is all about.

But for now, I must admit, I actually do write musicals.