A Week of Musicals

Boy, I miss live theatre! It must really be coming to a head within me because this has been a week of musicals for me.

Yes, I’m one of those rare men who LOVE musicals. The music, the singing, the storyline, the choreography, the dazzling sets, the mood-shifting lights. THE SPECTACLE! and how it affects you. Love everything about musicals.

In the past week, I’ve watched OKLAHOMA (the 1999 Hugh Jackman live London version), Carousel (the Live from Lincoln Center version), and the West End version of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. I loved them all for different reasons, But let me just say that An American in Paris was absolutely stunning. The choreography and set pieces, let alone the flawless performances, made it one of the best produced musicals I’ve ever seen. Truly spectacular. And Gershwin’s music is great. I would love to see it live!

But this wasn’t the end of my musicals for the week. I even watched that Netflix Dolly Parton musical that I can’t remember the name of. Yeah, I know, it’s not going to knock any of those blockbusters listed above off their pedestals, but hey. It was Christmas. There was singing. There was a storyline. There was choreography. So ’tis the season!

Now in my earbuds, I’m listening through the 1992 recording of The King & I featuring Julie Andrews, Ben Kingsley, and Lea Salonga. There’s a reason. I’m already plotting my first post-Covid musical, and I want to go back to one of the classics . I’m pondering how The King & I might play out in my particular setting. It’ s an interesting option, which I’m seriously considering.

What’s next for my viewing pleasure? I think I’ll keep working through the Rodgers and Hammerstein collection. Sounds like a plan.

How about you? What’s your favorite classic musical from Broadway’s golden era?

And what musical would you like to see first when the craziness of 2020 is finally finished?

Finished Drama: “Tales of Wonder”

I’ve been writing for my drama group The RLT Players since 2011, so we are approaching our fifth original show. That in itself seems amazing. It’s been an awesome ride as we’ve performed before hundreds if not thousands of individuals, bringing our unique brand of drama to the stage. We perform short dramatic sketches, centered around a theme, usually with some sort of morale. It’s drama with a purpose, and in the middle of so much modern drama which seems to have no purpose whatsoever, the response to what we produce has been overwhelming. We focus on all kinds of topics from family, to social issues, to economic theory, to religion, to good-old-fashioned wholesome fun. It’s really been the most rewarding experience I’ve had in connection with the theatre.

Well, the new show if finally finished. I’ve been writing it over the past couple of months. It’s our first and perhaps last Christmas show ever entitled “Tales of Wonder.” I approached the writing of this show trying to capture the essence of wonder that I felt about Christmas as a child. I want the audience to walk away in the Christmas spirit, with a smile on their face and charity in their soul. It’s a mix of the secular and the sacred, as any good Christmas show should be. This coming Monday we’ll have our first read-through with the actors, but before I do that, I wanted to highlight the 9 different dramatic sketches which will be part of the show. (in random order)

  1. National Toy Day – this is a fun satire about Congress declaring December 25 as National Toy Day.
  2. Jolly Old St. Hick – a comedy about a sophisticated urban couple whose car breaks down in the deep countryside  on Christmas Eve. A country bumpkin teaches them the true meaning of Christmas
  3. The Last Shepherd: A Musical – this is a short musical about the last living shepherd who witnessed the birth of Jesus.
  4. The Christmas Banquet – about a man who is supposed to invite every person in the world to the Christmas Banquet, but has problems inviting those who are different than him
  5. The Family Homecoming – a comedy about a rich person’s butler, who schemes to bring his employer’s family back  home at Christmas
  6. Tree Talk – a group of Christmas ornaments are all in an uproar when Candy Can realizes that she is going to be eaten at Christmas
  7. Christmas in the Trenches 1914 – Based on the true story of the British and German troops who  set aside their differences and came together to enjoy Christmas in the midst of war
  8. Season’s Greetings – a grandmother is expecting her family to visit her this year at Christmas only to receive a Christmas Card instead
  9. Tales of Wonder: A Drama Medley – this one, which gives the entire show its name, is a collection of three skits which attempt to illustrate the wonder and awe that Christmas gives to Children. All of the skits are wrapped around a beautiful medly called “Arise and Touch the Dawn.” Skit 1: Snow Fort – about boys and girls ready to attack each other with snow balls Skit 2: Santa Daddy – about a father who is caught by his daughter putting gifts under the tree. Skit 3: You Gotta Get Up – about two kids who wake up their parents early on Christmas morning

These were really fun to write. I hope I did Christmas justice. I can’t wait to start working on them. They’ll be performed at the Penang Performing Arts Centre on December 3-5.

A Sneak Peak Video at Our New Musical

A behind the scenes mini-preview of our new musical “A Tad of Trouble.” This is one of the closing numbers of act one. Our rehearsals take place in our chapel because it’s the largest place on campus for us. We won’t get to rehearse on the actual stage at Penangpac until May 18 – the day before the show! Yikes! But we make do.

In this short clip, we see Tad (David Beak) just having received the gift of song by his guardian angel Olivia. We also have the cool dancing angels in the background. Plus our vocal director trying to get some ooomph into the back-up singers. Our choreographer is in the foreground. I’m hanging in the tech room. If you are in town, please come see the final production on May 19 & May 23.

The song in the video is called “When We are Given a Second Chance.”  I wrote it back in 2008, and the singer of it in this video updated and recorded the version you are hearing in the video. It’s a really nice melody of songs which brings Act 1 to its conclusion. I can’t wait to see it on the big stage under the theatrical lights!




Zander’s Monologue

In May, I’m directing a re-staging of our “smash-hit” comedy-drama-musical “A Tad of Trouble” at the Penang Performing Arts Centre. There’s a lot to like about this musical. Strong characters, a unique premise, and just lots of fun! Zander is one of the guardian angels in the play and at the beginning of act two, right after intermission, he lays out his ideas in a philosophical manner. It’s a true summary of the entire storyline and what the guardian angels are up against each and ever day. I’m happy to present “Zander’s Monologue” from “A Tad of Trouble”.  For full effect, read it very dramatically!

What is the nature of man? Is it evil like exhibit A: Obediah Clementine, our friendly fiend. He’d sell his own mother. And actually I think he did that a while back. Shameful, I know, but I do believe he got a fine pair of leather sandals in exchange.

Or is the nature of man more like exhibit B: Thadeus Phineas. Slightly rotten at the core with a glimmer of goodness around the edges. Honestly, Tad wants to do good, but he also is just as likely pull the hair of a little girl or snatch his teacher’s golden broach. Or is the heart of man pure and true like exhibit C: ah … Hey, what happened we have no exhibit c’s anymore? So what does that mean? Are there only 2 colors anymore, only black or gray? Is the heart of man black as Obediah’s soul – if indeed he has one? Or is it merely gray – as dull and gray as Tad’s attempt at righteousness? Who shall lift them from this depravity?

What a pathetic choice! Certainly not Obediah. So that leaves us with Tad. Shall the singing boy with weak convictions and weaker vocal chords be able to muster any hopeful sounds raising above a whimper? Or shall all of mankind sink in despair and the gates of hell itself will not be able to hold the weight of the guilt, the shame, the downright nastiness of….

“A Tad of Trouble” – Less than two months away!

Below is the first flyer for our new production of our old musical play, “A Tad  of Trouble.” This one keeps the original artwork done by Sophie Shin back in 2009. The picture is of the mute boy, Tad, being symbolically muted by the crooked traveling salesman, Obediah. It’s a really fun story with some great original songs. It’s been greatly expanded since it’s first run in 2009. It’s now a full-fledged musical with a cast of 29 including singers and dancers. It’s going to be a ton of fun, but it’s also going to be a lot of work.  But you know what they say, when you love it, it’s not really work.

The countdown is on. Less than two months.

a tad of trouble flyer 1

“A Woman at War” at Gala/Finals Night! A Thank You to Everyone

My mini-musical “A Woman at War”, I found out late last night, made it to the gala/finals night at Short & Sweet Musical KL this evening, Oct 5, at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre. As this post goes live, the show will just be starting. Break a leg, everyone!

I had very little to do with getting the show to this point. After all, I’m just the writer and composer – and the composition I wrote was just a frame of a house in which my co-composer, Laura Danneker, came along and added all the wiring, plumbing, and windows in order to turn it into a solid structure.

This team of theatre arts enthusiasts came along and turned our solid structure into a beautiful home. I am very grateful.

I submitted our work to the S&S assessors this past summer and the musical was short-listed for production. They asked if I had anyone in mind who wanted to produce it. I didn’t. And since I live in Penang and the show in is KL, I knew I wouldn’t be involved with the actual process of putting this together. They asked if husband-wife team Alvin Looi and Karynn Tan could do it. I agreed. I had never met either of them before. They, themselves, had written another musical for the show but were not producing it. They also had never directed a musical before, but had both been involved in the theatre scene over the last couple years

After I have seen the hard-work and passion they have put into “A Woman at War”, I am extremely glad that they are the ones who decided to produce it. They:

  • rearranged the songs to suit their production
  • they found two talented leads (wonderful Vivian Chan and Boon-Kit)
  • they found four musicians, some of whom had to be driven home an hour of their way after rehearsals
  • Alvin received permission from his place of employment to have rehearsal there. (Thank you!)
  • They bought vocal lessons for the two leads who hadn’t had a lot of singing experience
  • They found an awesome and talented ensemble to back up the vocals and add a lot of substance to the piece
  • They remained completely faithful to the vision I had for the piece. They approached it with care and trusted the lyrics to bring out the emotional bond with the audience.
  • And then when the lead male (Boon-Kit) had an emergency appendectomy the morning before the final performance, Alvin stepped in to do Boon-Kit’s role because “the show must go on!” And with very little rehearsal with Vivian, Alvin nailed the performance.

All of this to say THANK YOU to Alvin and Karynn for their amazing dedication to my piece. I feel tremendously honored.

Now to the cast: Vivian and Book-Kit’s emotional performances were stunning. It said it all when I looked at the women around me at the end of the performance and when I saw them wiping tears from their eyes, I knew they had achieved my vision for the piece.

And the ensemble: so much talent that made the soaring pieces soar and the quiet pieces speak whispers of emotion.

And the musicians: the live music added so much verve to the production.

I thank you all for all of your had work and passion for my piece. I wish I could have been more directly involved and had had the chance to get to know you all better.

Perhaps we can work together more in the future.

So it matters not what happens tonight when they hand out the awards, because performing arts is all about the experience and having a small opportunity to affect the audience. In that, you are all winners!

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An Indie-Author-Drama-Director Wannabe

I love writing.

No secret there. I love crafting stories, but I also love writing plays.

And then I love producing those plays and bringing them to the stage.

I have no business being a drama director. I have had no formal training in theatre and don’t pretend to know much.

But experience is quite a good teacher.

I have had the distinct privilege to find myself in a position where I not only get to write plays and musicals and whatever I like, but I, simply by the fact that I was in the right place at the right time and said “yes”, also get to bring them to light with a wonderful group of talented actors.

They deserve better than me; that’s for sure.

But I’ve never let a lack of credentials stop me from doing what I love. And as I have said, there is something to be said for experience.

I am now only three weeks away from producing and directing my eleventh full-length theatrical production which I have either written or co-written.

My, how we improve! And learn. And grow. And make mistakes.

But it is the process which makes it all worth it. It’s the smiling faces on the actors, the laughs we elicit from each other during rehearsal, and ultimately the buzz that I hear from them when I crack the curtain and check in on them during intermission. There truly is nothing like the theatre to stand your nerves on end and to elicit emotional responses which you never would have expected.

Theatre is a mirror into our lives, and I cherish every minute I get to spend writing, producing, and rehearsing with this amazing group of kids.

There is a long way yet for me to go, but I’m so happy how far I’ve already come. I never want to stop learning, and I hope no matter where I go from here in the future that the theatre will always be apart of my life.

Twenty-two days until the world premiere of “Boardwalk Melody: An Original Musical.”

I simply can’t wait.

boardwalk melody flyer 1

I’m a Man. I Like Musicals.

What is it about musicals that frighten men?

Does their masculinity somehow come into question as soon as an actor breaks out of character into a lush baritone?

Well, here’s something shocking: I love musicals. I can even name a whole slew of them right off my tongue that I recommend:

Holiday Inn (especially appropriate this time of year), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (just watched it again yesterday), The King & I, Annie Get Your Gun, Singing in the Rain, My Fair Lady (Watched it again a couple days ago), Mary Poppins (perfection!), …

All right. I could go one, but you get the picture. I’ve heard people say that they hate musicals because they are so unrealistic. Exactly. That’s one of the reasons I love musicals. A song comes on when mere sentiment isn’t enough anymore. That’s the best thing about music. It’s emotional. It allows a film to explore emotional elements and human avenues in different ways than a simple drama. Musicals can bring the emotional level to new heights. That’s what I loved about Les Miserables.

Musicals also allow all kinds of wonderful silliness to happen. Just picture the wonderful chimney sweep song in Mary Poppins. It’s joy on a broomstick.

Perhaps men need to grow up a bit and admit that it’s all right to allow yourself to be sniveling emotional wreck every once in a while. What shows your manhood more: cheering two men tackling each other at the fifty yard line or having a man step out from the crowd, tap his toe on the wood floor, reach for his girl, and sing her a serenade? Which takes more guts? Which ultimately has more meaning?

Boys grow up tackling each other, picking fights, and showing who is the toughest in the neighborhood. But let me see that same cocky kid whip off some coherent line in front of a girl that he is attracted to; well, you know he’ll be shaking in his shoes. It’s the real men who step up, awaken their vocal chords, swallow hard, look the girl in the eye, and belt out a sweet towering note of love. That’s vulnerability. That’s humanness.

So I will contend from now until eternity that real men are not afraid to like musicals.

Or at least that is my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.