Love is in the air

Love Story – The Mu­si­cal is com­ing to Malaysia. Get your tis­sues ready.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Showbiz - By SETO KIT YAN en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my

ONE of the most ro­man­tic sto­ries ever writ­ten gets a lo­cal twist this week­end, when Malaysia’s very own ver­sion of the award-win­ning

Love Story – The Mu­si­cal plays at the Kuala Lumpur Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre (KLPac).

A mu­si­cal writ­ten by Stephen Clark based on a best-sell­ing novel by Erich Se­gal, the story re­volves around law stu­dent Oliver Bar­rett IV and mu­sic stu­dent Jenny Cav­il­leri, who fall in love at first sight and get mar­ried de­spite ob­jec­tions from Oliver’s fa­ther. Their happy life soon takes a down­turn when they dis­cover that Jenny has a ter­mi­nal ill­ness.

The movie ver­sion of Love Story was re­leased in 1970, and is con­sid­ered one of the most ro­man­tic films of all time. It was nom­i­nated for seven Acad­emy Awards in 1971, in­clud­ing Best Pic­ture, though it only won the Os­car for Best Mu­sic, Orig­i­nal Score.

The Malaysian ver­sion of the mu­si­cal is staged by Dama Asia and pro­duced by Khor Seng Chew and di­rected by Pun Kai Loon.

“We are not telling a tragic love story with this mu­si­cal. We are cel­e­brat­ing the af­fir­ma­tion of love. It is a good show to cel­e­brate love with the whole fam­ily. The mu­sic and songs are so lovely. I think it will be a crowd pleaser,” said Pun dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view to­gether with mem­bers of his cast.

Pun first saw the mu­si­cal at its world pre­miere in Bri­tain in 2011, and felt that it would be very rel­e­vant to lo­cal au­di­ences as well.

In the lo­cal ver­sion, Oliver and Jen­nifer are por­trayed by Joshua Gui and Michelle Tan, who went through six weeks of re­hearsals, start­ing around mid-April.

The pair first met in 2011 on In Per­fect Har­mony, a colour­ful mu­si­cal pre­sented by The Star in con­junc­tion with their 40th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion. Love Story – The Mu­si­cal is their sixth col­lab­o­ra­tion in a stage pro­duc­tion, and they are both tak­ing on lead­ing roles for the first time.

Love Story – The Mu­si­cal has16 songs in to­tal, half of which are duets and en­sem­bles. Both Gui and Tan are glad to be singing fully in English this time, and laughed as they shared mem­o­ries of their first col­lab­o­ra­tion, in which Gui sang a Hindi song and Tan, a Korean one.

Play­ing the lawyer-in-train­ing who gives up his in­her­i­tance for his lady love, Gui says the mu­si­cal is “not just about the ro­mance be­tween the two main char­ac­ters”.

“It’s also about the peo­ple sur­round­ing them and the dif­fer­ences be­tween the two fam­i­lies,” added Gui, who teaches singing and has his own com­pany called KrossJenre En­ter­tain­ment, which cu­rates en­ter­tain­ment projects for var­i­ous plat­forms.

As the gifted pi­anist who gives up her ca­reer to sup­port her beloved, Tan has two solo num­bers and has to play the pi­ano as well.

“There are three scenes of Jenny play­ing the pi­ano; one at the recital hall, an­other is the fan­tasy scene, and fi­nally, to­wards the end when she gets very ill,” says Tan, who teaches per­for­mance coach­ing and will be serv­ing as as­sis­tant di­rec­tor for Fame The Mu­si­cal, which will be staged in KLPac in July.

Vet­eran ac­tor Chacko Vadaketh, who plays Jenny’s fa­ther Phil, de­scribed his char­ac­ter as “quite a lov­able, jovial Ital­ian-Amer­i­can baker”.

“But his pas­sion is his daugh­ter. So he gets very up­set be­cause she is mar­ry­ing Oliver and is sac­ri­fic­ing her ca­reer for his. He and his late wife had put all their sav­ings into Jenny’s ca­reer, as she is a gifted pi­anist,” he said.

Lo­cal ac­tor Tan Liyang, who plays Oliver’s best friend Jonathan Smith, says the story may seem like a tragedy, but it is not a sad story.

“You will feel that the love still car­ries on. Even though Jenny has passed on, the love is still there,” shares Tan, who was last seen in his first English play Thun­der­storm and is also ac­tive in the lo­cal Chi­nese lan­guage film scene – he was rcently in the Malaysian re­make of China’s sleeper hit Good­bye Mr Loser.

A den­tist by day, Choo Wil Liam plays Ti­mothy, a doc­tor who also dou­bles as the pas­tor who pre­sides over the wed­ding of Jen­nifer and Oliver.

“There are two doc­tors in the mu­si­cal. I am the one prac­tis­ing sports medicine so I ap­pear when Oliver hurts him­self play­ing ice hockey,” says Choo, who is glad to be singing in English this time, as he had to sing in Man­darin dur­ing his pre­vi­ous mu­si­cal pro­ject.

There are 12 cast mem­bers and 17 scenes in to­tal, and cos­tume de­signer Do­minique Devor­sine says all the char­ac­ters, in par­tic­u­lar the two leads, have mul­ti­ple cos­tume changes through­out the show.

“We have pre­pared a change for ev­ery scene, and the chal­lenge here is that the two leads will be on stage all the time, so we have to work out the lo­gis­tics. The rest of the cast will have five to six changes, ac­cord­ing to their roles,” she says, adding that they will ac­tu­ally be wear­ing win­ter clothes dur­ing win­ter scenes.

Pun feels that what makes the Malaysian stag­ing of Love Story dif­fer­ent is the ad­di­tion of some chore­og­ra­phy as well as the tech­ni­cal as­pects of set pro­duc­tion and scene changes. This will also be the first time that Love Story – The Mu­si­cal is be­ing staged in Asia. “It has never been shown in the East, so this will be a Asian pre­miere!” he said.

Love Story: The Mu­si­cal is a two-hour show with sub­ti­tles in Man­darin. It is set to play at Pen­tas 1, Kuala Lumpur Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre (KLPAC, Sen­tul Park, Jalan Stra­chan, off Jalan Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur) from June 10 to 18. Show­time is 8.30pm with mati­nee shows start­ing 3pm. Tick­ets are priced at RM65 to RM285. To pur­chase. con­tact KLPac (www.klpac.org / 03-4047 9000) or Tick­etPro (www.tick­etpro. com.my / 03-7880 7999). For more de­tails, visit Dama Asia (www.damaorches­tra.com / 03-6201 9108).

This will be the first time Tan and Gui are play­ing the lead­ing roles in a show. — NORAFIFI EHSAN/The Star

Photo: AP

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