Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Georgette: the Trial by Fire

Forgot to deliver my report on what happened on the morning of Saturday March 10th, at the Esplanade. The incubationees of Musical Theatre Singapore marketed our work as 30-min presentations to the judges.

My cast did a superb 25-min presentation of my musical, Georgette, based on the life of Singapore pioneer artist Georgette Chen. This success was in spite of the fact that my really talented, ordinarily really responsible leading lady had overslept, and I had had to take over her place... yeah, I know, shit happens. I had to stand there, singing badly, trying very hard to give off neither incongruously masculine nor campily feminine signifiers while the others sang marvellously and talked about my being a "daughter" and a "woman artist" as if it were the most natural thing in the world. The love song was particularly weird.

Anyway, we performed in front of a panel of nine very finicky luminaries of the theatre world... and this was what they said.

said the musical displayed a sure grasp of the genre, and appreciated that the songs were spliced to admit an intervening voice [wtf???]. However, he wished that the piece could be less chronological, possibly beginning in medias res, and that it might explore the inner demons of Georgette.

FELINA KHONG said that while dismissive of biographical plays/musicals in general, she was surprisingly entertained by the work. It was cheeky but polished.

TAN KHENG HUA said that she was on the verge of tears during the lovesong, and found the romance very touching. She appreciated the detail in the dialogue and lyrics, and wished the musical could describe more about Georgette's life story.

IVAN HENG asked whether Georgette Chen was truly as extraordinary as I'd made her out to be. He noted that her character appeared very passive, and that the context of her life appeared very privileged. What made this woman paint?, he asked. He wanted a musical to reflect more on Singapore in the period of the 50s and 60s, and suggested that I concentrate on the why and the who of her story. He was unsure about the ending, with the ambiguous circumstances of her move to Malaya. He did say he loved how the story moved, though.

JOBINA TAN saw potential in the script, but agreed that the ending was disappointing. She wanted to see Georgette finding her voice in Singapore, and felt that the final scene was anticlimactic.

GAURAV KRIPALANI noted that he looks out for musicals with a universal appeal, and Georgette qualified. He found the period and setting, in Europe and China in the 20s and 30s, to be especially interesting. However, he felt there was no dramatic tension. He also stated he did not like the music.

DICK LEE, however, said he did like the music, and also said, "I think you're first real lyricist I've come across." He felt the romance needed to be played up, as this work really came into its own as a love story. He also felt I should not feel compelled to bring the story on to Singapore. He felt, however, the story needed to be developed.

The final judgment placed "Georgette" as the most highly recommended piece for a production. "Esther" and "Believe" tied in second place, whereas it was advised that "O Krystal Ball" and "Tuesdays with Joe" be put aside. Felina actually approached me later to tell me she'd be interested in doing an independent staging of the piece.

We'll be doing a series of "Unplugged" performances of the musicals from April 2 to 5 at the Esplanade - I'll be in contact with all of you about this soon.

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