In today's digital age when people can just turn to Netflix for instant entertainment, one has to ask: What is the appeal of musicals? Surely, being a performance art, it's the ability of live theatre and song to move an audience — heart-strings must be pulled, spirits must be lifted, or laughs must be had. Pull off all three in one production? Bonus points and a Tony Award. So, did the latest Singapore musical, The Great Wall: One Woman's Journey, deliver on the goods?
Currently showing at the Drama Centre Theatre in the National Library Building, The Great Wall is an adaptation of the famous Chinese folktale that tells of the tragic love story between Meng Jiang Nü (played by Korean actress, Na-Young Jeon) and Fan Qi Liang (brought to life by Nathan Hartono). The couple fall in love and get married, but on the wedding day itself, Fan is taken away by soldiers to build the Great Wall for Emperor Qin Shi Huang (played by George Chan). The epic musical — a labour of love for producer Grace Low (who first gave birth to the idea in 2011) — follows Meng Jiang Nü's journey north to the Great Wall to find her husband. When Meng arrives at the wall, she learns that Fan has died and is burried underneath the wall, but her intense cries and grief causes the Great Wall to collapse and Fan's remains are uncovered.
With singer and actress Tabitha Nauser — as well as renowned theatre producer Adrian Pang — both attending as audience members on the gala opening night, I pulled them aside after the show for a candid chat and review of the musical. Now remember: Adrian staged a local production of the award-winning musical, Rent, late last year featuring Tabitha in the role as Mimi; and the sold-out run was held in the very same Drame Centre Theatre. They understand the process, they're familiar with the space, they live and breathe theatre. Literally, you couldn't ask for more qualified critics.
So what did they think about The Great Wall: One Woman's Journey? Did it move them? Was it a success? Listen to the audio review below to find out.
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The Great Wall: One Woman's Journey is running from now till 30 July at the National Library's Drama Centre. Book tickets from Sistic.