Fol­low the Light Christ­mas mu­si­cal

Rein­ven­tion and the Christ­mas story seem to go hand-in-hand, at least in the per­form­ing arts.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - Fol­low The Light runs from Dec 2-19 at PJ Live Arts, Jaya One, PJ, Se­lan­gor; Tues­days to Satur­days at 8.30pm, with ad­di­tional 3pm show on Satur­days and Sun­days. Tick­ets are priced at RM75 and RM55 for adults, and RM55 for stu­dents, se­nior cit­i­zens and the

THIS year-end, a di­verse cast of per­form­ers will present their Malaysian take on one of the most fa­mous sto­ries in the world.

Di­rected by Colin Kir­ton, Fol­low The Light is touted as an orig­i­nal Malaysian mu­si­cal with script, mu­sic and lyrics by Nick Choo.

The play which opens this Thurs­day at Jaya One, Petaling Jaya, Se­lan­gor, retells the story of Christ­mas through gen­res rang­ing from pop to rock, funk, R&B, hip hop, jazz, gospel and emo­tive bal­lad.

The ac­tors com­prise es­tab­lished per­form­ing artistes as well as new­com­ers, with award-win­ning singer Juwita Suwito play­ing Mary.

Singer-mu­si­cian Aaron Khaled, a ris­ing per­son­al­ity in the per­form­ing arts scene, plays Joe, the car­pen­ter who will take the blame for Mary’s un­ex­pected preg­nancy.

Break­ing the news to them is An­gel Gabe, played by Amer­i­can stage di­rec­tor and per­former Tim Howe.

The shep­herds will be played by singer/ vo­cal coach Zalina Lee, for­mer Malaysian Idol fi­nal­ist Rydee Anna Ab­dul and new­comer Adrien Zaf­fri. The wise men (the ones bear­ing the prophetic words on Mary and Joe’s child) com­prise AIM award-win­ning R&B artiste Liang, stage and TV ac­tor Xavier Wong, and singer-song­writer Tony Leo Sel­varaj. The An­gels are es­tab­lished mu­si­cal the­atre per­form­ers Suzan Manen, An­rie Too, Song-fan Seah and Ni­cole Ann Thomas.

The pro­duc­tion team is also boosted by the ef­forts of light­ing de­signer Ee Chee Wei ( Sid­dharta The Mu­si­cal, Cuckoo Birds), cos­tume de­signer Do­minique Devor­sine ( Is­mail – The Last Days, An­i­mal Farm) and set de­signer Fang Chyi (Okiku).

Fol­low The Light is pro­duced by Kir­ton and Choo’s newly-es­tab­lished pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies, Kir­ton Call Pro­duc­tions and Nick Knack Pro­duc­tions, re­spec­tively, and is sup­ported by Tup­per­ware Brands.

While still a stu­dent in Perth, Aus­tralia, Choo staged an ear­lier ver­sion of the play in 2005 as a uni­ver­sity-level pro­duc­tion. On his re­turn to Malaysia the fol­low­ing year, he ap­proached Kir­ton to di­rect the lo­cal pro­duc­tion.

“It’s taken us over four years to get here, so this is quite a his­toric event for us,” said Kir­ton in a press re­lease. On and off over the past few years, Kir­ton pro­vided feed­back to Choo, who worked tire­lessly on tight­en­ing the script, as well as writ­ing en­tirely new songs. Com­pared to the 2005 ma­te­rial, this year’s ver­sion prom­ises to be sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved.

Though based on Christ­mas, Choo and Kir­ton gave the as­sur­ance that this is not yet an­other “church pro­duc­tion”. Choo said that the show will nei­ther be preachy nor evan­ge­lis­tic. To that end, cre­ative li­cence has been em­ployed to re­con­tex­tu­alise the char­ac­ters and plot, and to in­cor­po­rate “a lot of fun and self-dep­re­cat­ing hu­mour”. Au­di­ences ex­pect­ing a sam­bal bela­can-flavoured Christ­mas mu­si­cal should be pretty pleased. Some of this cre­ative li­cence in­cludes pro­vid­ing back­ground sto­ries to the Shep­herds and the Wise Men.

“Our shep­herds are three dis­grun­tled sib­lings – two bossy older sis­ters and a younger brother – who crave more to life than the monotony of watch­ing sheep,” Choo says.

“The Wise Men are three best friends who have grown up im­pov­er­ished in the ghet­tos, and they’ve de­cided that it’s fi­nally time for them to find their way and claim some fame and pros­per­ity for them­selves.

“It’s some­thing that they’ve al­ways been fight­ing over – which one among them is go­ing to be the great­est – but through this ex­pe­ri­ence they learn that it’s not about them – and that giv­ing is far more re­ward­ing than get­ting,’’ said Choo.

Kir­ton adds: “Re­ally, above and be­yond the Christ­mas story, it’s a story about re­la­tion­ships. What hap­pens when a young cou­ple sud­denly has to cope with hav­ing a baby in their lives and deal with so­cial stigma at the same time?

“How do you deal with sib­ling ri­valry, or com­pe­ti­tion be­tween best friends? Then there are the themes of sig­nif­i­cance, about try­ing to find your place in life and re­al­is­ing there might be a big­ger pur­pose out there.”

Cog­nisant of the less-than-rosy re­al­ity of Malaysia’s so­cial land­scape, Choo and Kir­ton hope that Fol­low The Light would be able to il­lu­mi­nate the dark and twisted cor­ners sur­round­ing re­li­gion in this coun­try.

To this end, the cast and crew have set a very high bar for them­selves: to make a pow­er­ful state­ment that Malaysians of all back­grounds can still come to­gether to ap­pre­ci­ate val­ues such as love, com­pas­sion, for­give­ness – the com­mon thread that binds us all to­gether.

Mod­ern take:

Nick Choo (in white) and Colin Kir­ton as­sert that Fol­lowTheLight will not be preachy or evan­ge­lis­tic in any way. (Inset) Aaron Khaled.

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