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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

Marrying Me: Don't wait for love

Posted: 19 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

Marrying Me is a musical love story raring to challenge conventions.

Hilarious comedy and poignant drama come together in Marrying Me, A New Musical – a whimsical production about an unconventional wedding.

The American comedian Eddie Cantor once said that a wedding was like a funeral, except you got to smell your own flowers.

Okay, this is a bit of a morbid take on matrimony: tying the knot has its benefits, after all. Marriage encourages many timeless values, such as patience, compromise, compassion and understanding. Admittedly, these are all traits you wouldn't need if you had just stayed single, but better to get hitched than end up alone, right?

Not so, according to the characters of Marrying Me. The musical is a love story with a difference: the tale of a woman who discovers that despite what fairy tales tell you, happiness is not always found in the handsome prince who sweeps you off your feet. Rather, one must learn to love oneself before one can give or receive love from others.

Featuring beautiful melodies, clever lyrics, laugh-loud humour and a quintessentially Malaysian story, the show is rib-tickling and heart-warming all at once.

Marrying Me features an all-star creative team, with book by Mark Beau de Silva, lyrics by Ella Rose Chary, and music composition by Onn San.

The show, which ends its Kuala Lumpur run this weekend, is directed by Christopher Ling, with a cast comprising Stephanie Van Driesen, Sandra Sodhy, Tony Leo Selvaraj, Chang Fang Chyi, Joel Wong, Benjamin Lin, Aaron Lo, Abdul Muhaimin, Ho Lee Ching and Tan Yi Qing.

The musical spins the story of Stephanie, a liberated single 30-year-old who leads an NGO for abused women: the Society of Consolidated Women's League (SCOWL). With everyone around her tying the knot, Stephanie just wants to live on her own terms, but her mother and meddling aunt have other ideas.

After her mother fakes an illness and makes a "dying wish" to see her married, Stephanie turns to Tony, an old flame. But is the both of them coming together truly a good idea? In a twist of fate, Stephanie ends up doing something truly unconventional: marrying herself!

Marrying Me's strongest point is how incredibly relatable it was: the musical is full of local flavour, from lahs and hahs to references to eating at Jalan Alor and buying products from Amway. It even had an entire song about kopi O!

Marrying Me's music spread – all melodic and catchy – balances well with the show's witty lyrics.

The many references to local Malaysian culture is an admirable feat, given the lyricist is an American!

Highlights, then? The group number That's What's Normal and the show's soaring theme song Marrying Me. Also wonderful is the villain song Win Win: what do you say about a number featuring, among other things, a woman who gets a BMW after threatening suicide?

What is most admirable about Marrying Me, however, is its humour and heart. Billed as a screwball comedy, the show definitely delivers on the laughs (although some of the slapstick antics can be a bit over-the-top): yet it also explores dark themes such as domestic violence, marital exploitation and societal pressure.

Marrying Me handles everything effectively, never trivialising its story with too much comedy or suffocating it with too much drama.

Acting is generally solid. Van Driesen plays the role of Stephanie well, proving to be engaging whether belting her heart out in a powerful ballad like Superhero, or cajoling audience members to sing along to the ridiculously laid-back and catchy Solo Honeymoon.

Sodhy also plays up her role well as Sandra, who is Stephanie's mother. She portrays her character as sweet and exasperating at the same time (like most mothers!), while Selvaraj infuses his role with a delightful charm. Lin, on the other hand, receives many of the biggest laughs of the show with his portrayal of Stephanie's best friend, the flamboyant Leroy.

Almost stealing the show, however, is Chang, who plays Auntie Gertrude, the show's villain. Whether singing or strutting onstage with a delectable air of superiority, her stern and unrelenting character is always a delight to watch, a lady Hitler with a business suit and perm.

While well-crafted, Marrying Me is not perfect. Stephanie's story is told quite well, but Tony's is slightly under-developed. A development that he is afraid of "becoming a monster" also appears a bit contrived. Sounds like a last-minute plot rethink here. The character of Ah Hee, Gertrude's younger brother also seems mostly superfluous, important only for comic relief (in a play already full of wacky roles!).

All in all, Marrying Me remains a strong production – despite all the romances depicted throughout ending poorly. Trust the lovable characters, generous doses of hilarity and solid music to delight most audiences.

Marrying Me, A New Musical runs daily at KLPac, Sentul Park, Jalan Strachan, off Jalan Ipoh in Kuala Lumpur till Dec 22. Tickets are priced at RM53 (adults) and RM33 (students, TAS card holders). Visit www.ticketpro.com.my or call 03-4047 9000 to book tickets.

Yuletide swing

Posted: 19 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

The choir of The Philharmonic Society of Selangor returns to stage for a bilingual Christmas concert.

IT'S that time of the year again where we reflect, rejoice and make merry. So why not put on your best voice and sing along with The Philharmonic Society of Selangor to cap the year?

The community choir last staged a Christmas production almost a decade ago, but come this weekend, the Damansara Performing Arts Centre in Petaling Jaya, Selangor will be filled with enthusiastic voices in Songs For The Season.

The choir will present a concert of seasonal delights from traditional music to contemporary crowd favourites.

From Vivaldi's soaring Gloria to the seasonal chestnut Winter Wonderland, this year's repertoire will feature an imaginative mix of Christmas carols in English and Kristang.

Kristang, which is a creole language and classified as endangered by Unesco, is mostly spoken by the Kristang community (mixed Portuguese and Asian ancestry) in Malacca.


Cheryl Teh

As Kristang is rarely heard in performances such as these, this bilingual concert is a rare treat.

"Most people enjoy singing and this time around we've made it very casual. There will be lots of audience interaction because we want them to be part of the show and get into the festive mood.

For some of the songs, we will have a screen with the lyrics on it so the audience can sing along. We'd like to expose people to many different songs," says Cheryl Teh, the society's chairman and choir director.

Members, ranging in age from 10 to 81, have been rehearsing since August to get their act together.

This community choir is made up of youngsters, stroke victims, cancer survivors and senior citizens.

Last weekend, the choir had to attend a "boot camp" to ensure all the technicalities were ironed out. It was song, and a little dance, all the way! Indeed, to add zing to the choir, dance steps and easy movements have been incorporated, making it a little more stimulating for the singers.

"The 10-year-old singer (choir member) has 55 grandmothers to dote on her!" laughs Teh.

"Because we are a community choir where anyone can join in without auditioning, I have to keep the songs simple.

"A lot of them do not know how to read notes so that's a challenge and yes, they sometimes grumble that the songs are hard but I don't pull back. In my song selection, I try to be sensitive to all races and religions."

For a number of the members, this is their first show and they are clearly excited.

Teh, who has helmed the choir since 2009, says, "Singing is an outlet for stress release. It also gives the retirees, especially the empty nesters a good chance to spend time with fellow members, make new friends and learn to be tolerant of others.

"Our society doesn't have many activities for seniors, so they tend to sit at home and while their time away. If they're not babysitting their grandkids, they may become depressed. Normally they would be watching their grandkids perform, but this time it's the other way around.

"The choir is one way for them to do something fun and my way of giving back to society. We're all volunteers but we want to build a community in harmony."

The self-funded choir received a grant from Kakiseni this year, enabling it to have added resources. There will be five shows over two days, each lasting just over an hour. Teh will be accompanied by pianist Nish Tham. So, bring your family and enjoy the concert.

"Don't forget, singing also keeps you young!" says Teh.

Songs For The Season is on Dec 21 (2.30pm, 5pm and 8.30pm) and Dec 22 (2.30pm and 5pm) at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre, Empire Damansara, Jalan PJU 8/8, Damansara Perdana, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Tickets cost RM23 and can be purchased online at www.dpac.com.my or by calling 03-4065 0001.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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