Toy Factory opens their 2018 season on a high note, with a brand new show this March! Titled《有时月光》Sometime Moon, this epic new production is incredibly ambitious, and the 10-act musical charts a hundred years of history in the life of one of the earliest Huay Kuan (Clan Association) established in Singapore.
Sometime Moon follows the rise of the fictitious Quan Ji Huay Kuan from the moment the first settlers came to Singapore and set it up, watching as the family grows and transforms along with the Huay Kuan as it continues to renew and redefine its role over the next hundred years, and raises issues and questions of how much we ourselves remember of our roots even as we forge on endlessly into the future.
At the press conference held earlier at the Chin Kang Huay Kuan (who also happen to be celebrating their 100th anniversary), Sometime Moon director/playwright and Toy Factory Chief Artistic Director Goh Boon Teck said of the musical’s origins: “I don’t think I’m the only one who always wondered how and why exactly Huay Kuans in Singapore were started. In doing this musical I hope that audiences learn and understand how necessary Huay Kuans were in that time, gathering a group of like-minded people to help each other get through their shared trials and tribulations.”
On the title, Boon Teck continued: “Sometime Moon is actually based off a Quanzhou proverb that one’s fortunes will always change, and it happens in cycles, much like the lives you see in the musical as they continue navigating their lives over the years.”
An incredible 20 original Hokkien songs have been composed specially for the musical by veteran music composer/arranger Benny Wong. Said Benny on composing the music: “My main inspiration actually comes from films like Walt Disney animated films. For a composer, whatever the language, the aim in composing music is still the same – to find the best melody to suit the mood and occasion. I want my music to be easy to listen to, and appeal to people of all ages. Composing actually comes very easily to me nowadays, after having worked in Mediacorp and being tasked to write 15 pieces of music in a day. For Sometime Moon, only the theme song took about a day to compose, while the rest were completed in about an hour each.”
Benny continues: “The Singapore Hokkien style of speaking can sound very edgy and crude, but if you listen to how the Taiwanese speak it, it actually sounds very musical and easy to listen to. We have to be careful with the way we fit lyrics into the melody, and work our way around the more difficult to pronounce lines by stretching out the notes or adding pauses in between.”
Sometime Moon will star 8 actors playing multiple characters over the 10 acts, from patriarchal fathers all the way to sleek cats. Amongst the actors, Toy Factory has cast a mix of familiar musical stars, namely Chriz Tong, Timothy Wan, Zelda Tatiana Ng and Abby Lai, as well as new faces Derrick Tay, Joel Low, Ian Chionh and Trissie Liew. These actors have been in monthly workshops since October, and will be commencing rehearsals proper come March.
In fact, not all of the actors are well versed in Hokkien, with many of them only having encountered it only in army lingo or everyday Singlish. To prepare for the performance, the Chin Kang Huay Kuan assisted by teaching them the language with dedicated trainers, going through the proper pronunciations line by line, word for word. Said cast member Joel Low: “Each word has so many different types of pronunciations. We have to be careful here, because the slightest change in tone might make it sound a little vulgar.”
Said Derrick Tay: “In the lead up to the musical, the cast did a lot of things together, from going to the museum to research the early settlers, to even going to sing KTV together as part of the workshops – we were only allowed to sing Hokkien songs of course!”
Derrick, along with Toy Factory regular Chriz Tong even treated us to a preview of the performance by singing one of the new songs composed for it in a wonderful, catchy duet. Said Chriz on working alongside Boon Teck once again: “He’s a very free and easy, and nurturing director. He doesn’t really dictate what to do, more like a ‘you show me first’, tells you what he likes and then what to improve on. I’m always very thankful for the opportunities they keep giving me to perform!”
This is not the first time Boon Teck has worked in dialect, having rearranged popular Hokkien songs before for shows like Titoudao, but certainly the first time he’s working almost primarily in Hokkien for the script and original songs. On the future of dialect plays in Singapore, Boon Teck expressed hope for the future: “Dialect plays are marketed at people who belong to that group, and people who may be interested in the language. Hokkien is a very common language in Singapore and so frequently used, so I think it has a lot of appeal.”
He continued: “A lot of people have told me to do a Cantonese musical because so many of them watch Hong Kong dramas. I can only hope that producers continue to produce more, and perhaps then, you might be able to look forward to a Cantonese musical next time!”
Sometime Moon plays at the Victoria Theatre from 29th – 31st March. Tickets available from SISTIC