Tag Archives: Marrying Me

Review: Marrying Me

Tying the Knot? … Not!

By Khoo Wei Cyn

Images courtesy of PenTAS

Everyone has their own notions on what a complete and well-lived life comprises. For most of the older generation, their notion is centred on marriage, which, in part, is the product of our survival instincts for ensuring the continuity of our genetic line. Produced by The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) and Performing Arts Centre of Penang (penangpac), Marrying Me: A New Musical, directed by Christopher Ling, addresses this concept through script, dance and song for four days; from 5-8 December at stage 2, penangpac and 12-22 December at pentas 2, klpac.

Be sure to get your ticket today!
Be sure to get your ticket today!

In the musical, Stephanie (the main character) rebels against tradition and stigma to live a life she wants; freedom from all the problems that come when the “going gets tough” in a marriage. Her idea of normalcy clashes with that of her mother’s (Sandra). For Sandra, the desire to live as a woman in a matriarchal role and having a happy marriage is the normal path where as Stephanie, the NGO fighter for women’s rights, has seen the reality of marriages gone sour. To Stephanie, that reality is normalcy, and she wants to protect herself from that situation by being independent and self-sufficient.

More and more details about Stephanie’s upbringing are revealed as the musical progresses into the second act. We learn that her mother was a victim of an abusive marriage, and Tony, the man whom Stephanie had loved dearly, reminded her of her own father. Determined to never repeat the mistake her mother made, she insists on a life of singlehood but this is thwarted by Sandra’s faked chronic illness, where she makes Stephanie promise to get married in her “dying wish”. Whether she goes on with her promise or not, that you would have to discover for yourself.

Marrying Me is certainly the musical to watch. Its upbeat, snazzy music peppered with doses of comedy and hilarity is brought to life by a spectacular lead actress and a solid cast. I loved the music and the way the lyrics were written, plus the scenes where comic relief was prevalent to break up the sombre mood reflective of Stephanie’s dilemma.

You don’t have to love singlehood to appreciate this musical; I’m sure you can draw some parallels with your experiences about marriage from it. And if you’re single, you may walk away feeling better about staying that way. But no matter who you are, I think that you will enjoy watching Marrying Me as much as I did. What’s not to love about good music, great fun and endearing characters?

*A neophyte to theatre, Khoo Wei Cyn has just survived a thespian’s adventure at Short+Sweet Theatre Malaysia 2013 in Penang. She enjoys writing, reading and appreciating art in all forms.

PenTAS Exclusive: A Chat with Stephanie Van Driesen of Marrying Me

*This is the third of a three-part feature about Marrying Me. Read the first part here and the second part here.

We have read how Christopher Ling describes this musical comedy of his and so have we heard from EllaRose Chary. How about the leading lady, the star, the heroin of Marrying Me? We wanted to know what is it like for her to work with such an international group, and how it is like playing someone else shares something in common with her.  So, for the third and final installment of the Marrying Me special, PenTAS talked to Stephanie Van Driesen.

Bitten by the acting bug when she was a just teenager, Stephanie has embarked on a long and arduous journey, all in the name of art. This singer/actor/dancer not only has a degree in musical theatre from one of Asia’s leading art schools, Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore  but she also nabbed the college’s coveted President’s Award [Source: R.AGE]. Upon graduation, she returned home to Malaysia and has since made quite the name for herself in the local performing arts scene, appearing in hit shows such as The Secret Life of Nora and Cabaret. In a week’s time, you will get to see Stephanie on stage. Before that, let’s hear what she has to say about the world the folk of Marrying Me have created.

How do you see Marrying Me?  
A musical about one woman’s journey towards self-acceptance. All throughout the musical other “voices” – that of her mother, tradition in general, her own doubt and fear – keep her from owning up to how she really feels about who she is and what she wants, so she fights against the labels people put on her, as they try to get her to fit into what they want her to be, to make them happy. But in the end she realizes the only one who can truly make her happy is herself, and she begins to own that.

What drew you to audition for this musical? 
I didn’t actually audition for the role. It was more of an invitation. I had worked with Christopher Ling before on Songs for a New World at the beginning of this year, and with Onn San on The Secret Life of Nora in 2011 as well as on his début album Epomania on which I sang. I really enjoy working with them and I admire their work so any opportunity I have to work with them I would be keen on. They both approached me with this idea of a new musical and really wanted me to be part of it. So I said yes even before I had heard the music or read the script (which was still being written at the time).

Could you tell us a bit about Stephanie? 
She starts of as quite an angry, frustrated character, she has a lot of fight in her, and she doesn’t give in. Throughout the musical it is revealed why she is as she is. She talks to herself a lot, and tries to get the audience on her side. She is someone who had changed herself earlier in order to keep moving on from her past, but now she has become stuck in the conquest to prove others wrong. We see her unravel and we see her weaknesses, and hopefully we find ourselves relating to some of what she goes through.

How did you approach the character you play?
I relate to her in some ways and in many ways I don’t. So it was a combined effort of fleshing out the character’s landscape in collaboration with the playwright’s (Mark Beau) view, Christopher Ling’s vision, and in conversations with the other actors. For me, it’s an organic process too where I like to keep adding layers to her in the scenes, finding out what she really is looking for in every moment, and bringing it all together so it makes sense. It’s still an evolving process. I take many cues from the music, which is very emotional and evocative, to help build her inner world, because very often in musicals it is in the music, i.e. songs that you discover what the character truly feels and wants.

Were there any challenges in personifying Stephanie? 
Yes. Aside from the technical aspects of getting everything down, i.e. music, script in such a short time where we had scenes and musical numbers still being written and rewritten even as rehearsals began, I had difficulty accepting her. What this means is that I as the actor had certain judgements about her and it became difficult to really step into her shoes because there are many things she does, says, or reacts to in a manner I would never in my own life, and wouldn’t want to. So the fact that I was bringing to life someone I didn’t “endorse” was hard, but I had to discover that she really is a part of me somewhere inside me, perhaps a persona that I had locked away somewhere, or shut off the way the other characters want to hush her voice. But slowly I began to accept that she had a unique voice, and I began to use her voice as an opportunity to say things I personally would never voice. I began to enjoy the release and license it provided. Actor’s privilege! What was and is still challenging is keeping the through-line of her story fresh and alive in my mind as we progress through the play, as there is a lot going on all the time from start to finish, and it has to make sense very clearly every step of the way of where she is on her journey.

Both you and the character you play share the same name. Is there anything else that you two share? 
Yes, and more than I’d like to admit at times. We both have this fighting need to be free. To be free of convention and do things our own way. In life, we often don’t allow ourselves to really challenge all that we believe in when it doesn’t work anymore, and fewer of us have the courage to really take the action required to move things along in that direction. The character and I are both free spirits caught somewhere between flying free and giving in to doubt and fear. We want to do things our way, even if others agree. And we both still need to accept ourselves more.

How was it like working with the rest of the cast of Marrying Me
Fun and crazy! I’m so glad I get along with everyone in the production. *breathes sigh of relief* It just makes the whole process more enjoyable. We crack each other up so sometimes it’s hard to keep a straight face even in more serious scenes! Of course, playing off the other actors is always the best part. We’re still finding our nuances and I’m sure we’ll discover more even on the stage once we begin the performances as the audience is also another important participant in the show. The energy of the show can change depending on the audience, too.

How was it like working with Chris? 
He is a very visual director, and so works a lot in terms of how he wants the audience to view the scenes, the characters, and what he would like the audience to come away with thinking. There is always a point he wants to emphasize in line with the story. So I think he works towards that in every scene. He also allows the actors the freedom to realize their characters and only steps in when something we choose to put into the characters isn’t working or doesn’t feel right. So you have to be an independent actor and do your homework! I really enjoy his creative use of space. On top of that he is like the gleeful spectator, and really enjoys himself in rehearsal, unless we are all over the place, which is when he doesn’t think it’s funny at all!

What kind of experience can the audience expect when they come to see Marrying Me?
I think it’s really a slice of true honest Malaysian life. Those at or above 30 years in the audience may totally relate to the pressures of getting married that families place on them, and everyone will recognize someone in the musical as someone they know in real life. The musical is also very exaggerated especially in certain musical numbers where something major is being highlighted. Hopefully the honesty still comes through even with all the fanfare. In that there is quite an absurd element, so the audience is in for a treat. It’s a musical that has everything – comedy, pathos, some tragedy, danger, etc. Also, it’s not a musical where audiences are just passive onlookers. We really want the audience to feel they are part of the goings on, and that they have a voice too that is heard and felt in the story.

Finally, what would you like to say to those coming to see Marrying Me?
Just have fun! Come with an open mind, and have a few drinks before so we’ll all look much more attractive onstage!! Haha, maybe not. But seriously, just come and enjoy a truly Malaysian musical with quite a lot of something extra. If you are a hardened nut and the story doesn’t move you, then the songs will! I think the audience will come away humming some of the tunes. I’m glad to be working on a very groundbreaking musical and I believe this musical can go far, even onto international shores. So, here’s hoping for the best, and the audience support is very much needed in order for this to take off.

So, here you have it people. Now that you have read all about Marrying Me, it’s time for you to get your tickets and join the cast and crew at penangpac from 5 – 8 December 2013!

Marrying Me takes place at stage 2, penangpac @ Straits Quay (3H-3A-1, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong, 10470 Penang) from 5 - 7 December 2013 @ 8.30pm and 8 December 2013 @ 3pm. For information on ticketing, check out penangpac.

Marrying Me takes place at stage 2, penangpac @ Straits Quay (3H-3A-1, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong, 10470 Penang) from 5 – 7 December 2013 @ 8.30pm and 8 December 2013 @ 3pm. For information on ticketing, check out penangpac.

PenTAS Exclusive: A Chat with Christopher Ling of Marrying Me

*This is the first of a three-part feature about Marrying Me by Yasmin Bathamanathan. Read the second part here and the third part here.

Being the theatre newbie that I am, I asked Christopher Ling, in quiet earnestness, what had attracted him to adapting Marrying Me into a musical. You see, I took the “Book by Mark Beau De Silva” part quite literally. So, Chris, being the awesome friend that he is, proceeded to school me in the ways of musical theatrics. “A book in a musical means the entire story and script. It does not mean a pre-existing “book” that has been adapted into a musical,” chided a well-meaning Chris over Facebook chat.

Say what? A book that is not a book but is the story and script? Sounds quite like a “book” to me. Okay, since I was aware by then that I knew next to nothing when it comes to musical theatre, I turned to my best friend – the almighty Wikipedia.

“Musical theatre is a form of theatre that combines songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance … yada yada yada … book musicals …”

Wait a minute. Book musicals? What in fresh hell is that? This is how darling Wikipedia explains it:

“Since the 20th century, the “book musical” has been defined as a musical play where songs and dances are fully integrated into a well-made story with serious dramatic goals that is able to evoke genuine emotions other than laughter.”

Hey, that’s my definition of musicals (re: not Bollywood) also! Looks like I am heading in the right direction after all. Upon further reading, Wikipedia starts filling up my musical gaps. There are three components to a book musical – the music, the lyrics and the book. Once again, the book here denotes

“… script of a musical refers to the story, character development, and dramatic structure, including the spoken dialogue and stage directions, but it can also refer to the dialogue and lyrics together, which are sometimes referred to as the libretto …”

Got it, children? Right. Now let’s move on to the musical in discussion here; Marrying Me.

The two musicals of yours that I have watched are The Last Five Years and Kiss of the Spider Woman. Why did you choose Marrying Me this time?

I wanted to direct something Malaysian in nature, something that Malaysians would connect with. It is a script that was written specifically for this show.

Did Mark already write it or did you approach him with the idea?

I invited him to write the book for my musical, which I had commissioned Onn San to write for me in April. We had just finished working on Ruby Moon in March (if you remember, Onn worked on the soundscape for that production). The idea was conceived by Onn and Mark. EllaRose Chary was brought in after a few initial meetings. The three of them worked on everything before handing over to me in late September.

Why was Ella approached? Have any of you worked with her before this?

Onn and Ella were classmates at NYU.

Ah, that makes sense. In terms of visual aesthetics, the heroine of Marrying Me does not look like the conventional one – she sports cropped hair and in the poster, she looks quite androgynous. From this I gather that Marrying Me is a musical that, in many ways, defies social conventions. This is after all a tale of a woman who refuses to lose her autonomy and independence.

You hit the nail on its head. In fact, allow me to go one step further to say that with everyone around Stephanie trying desperately to change her, she remains steadfast in what she believes is right. In doing so, she becomes the catalyst for change in everyone around her. Quite an interesting reversal of circumstances, don’t you think?

In terms of casting, what is it that you saw in Stephanie Van Driesen that told you she was the STEPHANIE? Did she crop her hair for the part? Did you “make” her do it?

No, the cropped hair was on her part. She cut her hair much earlier in late September. Stephanie has charisma and presence as an actor. The musical is technically her journey, and thus it was important for the actor to be able to ground the show. Stephanie (the character) knows what she wants. And she tenaciously sets out to get it.

And that includes escaping getting married? Or do we have to watch it to find out?

The question should be more: getting married to whom?

Oh.

The getting married happens, but the “to whom” part is the interesting thing.

Nice. If you were asked to describe Marrying Me in 3 sentences, how would you describe it?

Marrying Me is pure unadulterated musical comedy at its best. But what makes it more appealing is its distinct Malaysian flavour contained in Mark’s characters and scenarios. It is very much like the quintessential Mark Beau De  Silva play musicalised – NOT a play with music BUT a MUSICAL in its own right.

I obviously know nothing about directing a musical. Is there anything particularly tricky about it?

The balancing act between all the many departments and people I need to engage with creatively. There’s music. There’s set. There’re props. There’re costumes. There’re actors. There’re musicians. There’s follows spots … AND the buck stops with ME!

Yikes. So, as a director, which do you find trickier to direct: plays or musicals?

Musicals are definitely more challenging. So many things could go wrong at any one time. I am always kept on the edge of my seat with worry. Plays are considerably easier. All the elements are more controllable. A musical must speak to you – not only through the dialogue but through the music – sung and played by the band. The choreography must lift the production and the story we are all trying to tell. If not, it is just clutter.

I bet. Someone once explained to me how complicated the process of coming up with a 10-minute musical for Short+Sweet is. No wonder you’re all stressed and whatnot.

YUP! But Marrying is 2 hours long (with a 15 minutes interval). 1 hour for Act 1, 45 minutes for Act 2.

What was it like working with this set of cast for Marrying Me?

Marrying Me features a cast of ten actors that come from two distinct camps – experienced musical theatre performers and young actors. For Muhaimin, this is his 2nd show with me; he did Spiderwoman last year. Yi Qing, Ho Lee Ching and Aaron Lo are all from T4YP.

It is a joy to work with people like Stephanie, Sandra Sodhy, Chang Fang Chyi and Tony Leo. They bring a wealth of experience to their characters. So do Benjamin Lin and Joel Wong in the supporting roles that they are playing.

Lastly, why should people come watch Marrying Me?

A musical has the ability to move an audience like no other live performance can with its three-way combo of Drama, Song and Dance.

Thank you, Chris for sharing your time with me. All the best with Marrying Me and I’ll see you when you get here.

You’re welcome.

Marrying Me takes place at stage 2, penangpac @ Straits Quay (3H-3A-1, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong, 10470 Penang) from 5 - 7 December 2013 @ 8.30pm and 8 December 2013 @ 3pm. For information on ticketing, check out penangpac.

Marrying Me takes place at stage 2, penangpac @ Straits Quay (3H-3A-1, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong, 10470 Penang) from 5 – 7 December 2013 @ 8.30pm and 8 December 2013 @ 3pm. For information on ticketing, check out penangpac.

A PenTAS exclusive: Marrying Me – The Musical

“Still no boyfriend ah?”

Every single woman who has had this question hurled at her would understand how annoying it can be to have nosy aunties and ‘well-meaning’ relatives trying to set her up with any Abu, Ah Beng or Appu.

And “Still no boyfriend ah?” is how the publicity team behind Christopher Ling’s upcoming production, Marrying Me, starts of its pre-pre press release, which came along with a personal note stating that PenTAS was the first media to receive the preliminary information on what seems to be like a syiok-tastic musical comedy. Brownie points for Marrying Me (which I hope would eventually translate into ticket sales).

Based on a book written by Mark Beau De Silva, this production by the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) in collaboration with the Penang Performing Arts Centre (penangpac) tells the story of one Stephanie – a proud single woman. But as her will to resist marriagehood starts to fray and a looming tragedy corners her, will Stephanie change her “I don’t” to the dreaded “I do”?

We will just have to wait for Dec 5 to find out what Stephanie does when Marrying Me opens at penangpac.

MARRYING ME 

Content Advisory: PG-13: Parental guidance advised (13 years old and above)

Music Onn San

Book Mark Beau De Silva

Lyrics EllaRose Chary

Director & Production Designer Christopher Ling

Musical Director & Arranger Stephen Tok

Choreographer Lex Lakshman Balakrishnan

Featuring Stephanie Van Driesen, Sandra Sodhy, Tony Leo Selvaraj, Fang Chyi with Joel Wong, Aaron Teoh, Aaron Ho, Abdul Muhaimin, Ho Lee Ching, Tan Yi Qing

Date

5 – 7 December @ 8.30pm

8 December @ 3pm

Venue

stage 2, penangpac @ Straits Quay (3H-3A-1, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong, 10470 Penang)

Ticketing Information

RM53 (Adults)

RM33 (Students, TAS Cardholders)

Ticket Promotions: Group Bookings: Buy 10 tickets, get 1 ticket FREE

Tickets can be purchased at TicketPro or the penangpac Box Office. For reservations or more information, call penangpac at 04-8991722 / 2722

Follow Marrying Me online on Twitter and Instagram with #marryingmemusical