Sunday, July 27, 2008

Interview by Business Times


Pioneering production shows the way for local musical theatre

by Aaron Lye, Business Times 18 June 2005

interview by business times, ken lyen

What do you do if you lament the state of the local musical scene, but don’t necessarily have the funds that would be needed to make a difference? Well if you’re composer Ken Lyen, you get together with a group of like-minded people and do something about it.

The result is a joint production called Five Foot Broadway - A Festival of New Musicals by UAN, The Next Stage Performing Arts Academy, and The Musical Theatre Society. It is an unorthodox “grassroots, no-frills approach to musicals” that seems to be part of a growing trend around the world.

Said Ken Lyen, “We were discussing the poverty of Singapore musicals, and we felt we needed to jumpstart the creation of new productions. The idea for a mini-festival of musicals came about because it’s been done in New York, London, and Cardiff. We felt that Singapore could do the same.

“It’s something that has appeared suddenly in the world. It’s becoming impossible to finance larger musicals, and that has killed off new musicals in a sense. People, instead, do revivals of the ‘safe’ musicals. We want to provide a wider choice.”

And a wider choice there certainly is. Five Foot Broadway incorporates five new, locally-produced musicals that resulted from an equally unusual creative process. Without the funding usually required for such productions, Ken Lyen got in touch with a team of scriptwriters, mostly through a contact who had participated in Theatreworks’ Writer’s Lab, and “married” them to a circle of composers he was acquainted with.

The musicals that eventually made it through the process come from names both familiar and unfamiliar in local theatre circles.

Among the productions is Lost in Transit (by Stella Kon, Desmond Moey, Adrian Tan and Sara Wee) - a production about a country girl lured to the city by dreams of becoming a singer, only to become ensnared in the underworld of vice. Boom Baby Boom, a comedy (by Andrew Leong, Ken Lyen, Lynn Yang, Peggy Ferroa and August Lum) about the “ultimate” weapon to solve the nation’s woes of falling birth rates.

For younger audiences, there’s also Dragon Tales (by Ng Swee San, Bang Wenfu, and Peggy Ferroa), which retells the story of the Chinese zodiac, with the animals unhappy over the outcome of the race and demanding a rematch.

Those looking for something a little more romantic have Heartstrings (Jack Tan, Sean Wong, Paul Hannon and August Lum) and Don’t Say I Do (Justin Kan, Paul Hannon, Kevin Fok) to look forward to.

Said Ken Lyen: “People coming to this production will see musical theatre produced in the raw. They’ll be seeing the creative process, and I think what I would like them to take away is that there’s a lot of talent in Singapore, and that there’s volunteerism - no one’s getting paid for this - and wonderful camaraderie among a lot of selfless people who are passionate about musical theatre.”

Five Foot Broadway: June 24-26, 2005, at 8 pm at the Play Den. For limited free tickets, please call 97907545 or email to reserve.

interview with business times, sara wee

Sara Wee in “Lost in Transit”, The Arts House, June 2005.

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