Lao Jiu: The Musical
Set in 1980s Singapore, Lao Jiu: The Musical tells the story of Lao Jiu (Ninth Son), the only son in a family of nine, and his family’s hope for a better life. An incredibly intelligent boy on track to win a prestigious scholarship, he instead finds his passion in traditional Chinese puppetry. With his family’s hopes pinned on him, will Lao Jiu follow his heart and become a puppeteer, or respect his family’s wishes and take up the scholarship instead?
Based on the late theatre doyen Kuo Pao Kun’s beloved play Lao Jiu, this award-winning musical is one of Practice’s seminal works and stands out as a shining landmark of original Singapore Chinese musical theatre, performing multiple sold-out runs in Singapore.
Directed by The Theatre Practice’s Artistic Director Kuo Jian Hong, Lao Jiu: The Musical is a universally relevant coming-of-age story about choosing between dreams and responsibilities. Deeply moving, this heart-warming musical combines a stirring score composed and written by Mandopop luminaries Eric Ng and Xiaohan, with an exciting range of puppetry techniques including traditional Chinese hand puppetry, object puppetry and shadow puppetry.
Date: 12 – 29 July 2012
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre
Festival: Kuo Pao Kun Festival 2012
Director and Dramaturg: Kuo Jian Hong
Original script: Kuo Pao Kun
Script Adaptation: Liu Xiaoyi
Composer: Eric Ng
Associate Director & Choreographer: George Chan
Arranger: Bang Wenfu
Music Director: Julian Wong
Vocal Coach: Lim Shieh Yih
Percussion Advisor (Puppet): Cheryl Ong
Set & Costume Designer: Chen Szu-Feng
Puppet Designer & Trainer: Benjamin Ho (Paper Monkey Theatre)
Lighting Designer: Dorothy Png
Sound Designer: Shah Tahir
Hair Designer: Ashley Lim
M.A.C Creative Artist: Beno Lim
Lao Jiu: Sugie
Father: Marcus Chin
Mother: Goh Guat Kian
Shi Fu: Lim Kay Siu
Senior Horse: Jeffrey Low
Junior Horse: Inch Chua
First Sister: Candice de Rozario
First Brother-in-law: Hang Qian Chou
Second Sister: Jo Tan
Second Brother-in-law: Zachary Ho
Third Sister: Hung Chit Wah
Third Brother-in-law: Lv Lin Xuan
Fourth Sister: Joanna Dong
Fourth Brother-in-law: Ric Liu
Fifth Sister: Catherine Wong
Fifth Brother-in-law: Edric Hsu
Sixth Sister: Shi Xin Hui
Sixth Sister’s Fiancé : Edward Choy
Seventh Sister : Lee Qian Yu
Seventh Sister’s Boyfriend: Tay Wei Liang
Eighth Sister: Gloria Ang Xiao Teng
Eighth Sister’s Boyfriend: Trev Neo
Grandfather (voice): Tan Peng Boon
Children: Olivia Yi-Le Hatton, Lin Yurong Sophie, Victoria Sung Yushin, Toh Keow Woon, Toh Yun Woon, Lara Wong Ren Ling
Lao Jiu is a peculiar piece of work. Though it has been staged many times, it continues to cast rippling influences every time, long after the curtains have been drawn.
The premiere of Lao Jiu in 1990 marked many beginnings – the first of many artistic collaborations between Kuo Pao Kun and Ren Baoxian (former actor of Beijing People’s Art Theatre), it also brought Master Lee Chye Ee’s traditional glove puppetry into our theatres, and introduced the Singapore audience to modern puppet-making through Somsak Kanha, the Programme Director of MAYA – a children’s theatre company in Thailand. It inadvertently planted the seeds for the burgeoning of modern puppet theatre in Singapore. The play also fostered a group of young people then, who through the rehearsal and creation process of this play decided to follow their calling and choose theatre as their career, and new theatre companies were set up.
In 2005, Lao Jiu was made into a musical for the first time by a group of enterprising theatre makers in a bid to fulfil Kuo’s wishes. In hindsight, this audacious move fueled the growth of Mandarin musical theatre here, at a time when the scene was embryonic and the task uphill.
Through the years, Lao Jiu has directed the fate of many theatre makers by making them confront what they want in life, understand the amount of pressure they are willing to take, and the sacrifices they are willing to make in order to have “their destinies within the palms of their hands”.
2012 marks the 10th anniversary of Kuo’s passing and The Theatre Practice, the company he co-founded decides to give new life to Lao Jiu. We hope to use this precious opportunity to improve upon the original musical, to make it better and more complete, and to inject more of our thoughts and ideas into it. What sets this version apart from seven years ago is the team behind it – we have a stronger artistic team, a more mature and accomplished cast, and better capability to produce and administrate. The audience are also more sophisticated and passionate than before.
Kuo Pao Kun continues to guide us with his ideals and courage, while Lao Jiu’s unceasing pursuit of his dreams will spur us on. We sincerely hope that you, too, will enjoy this performance, and that it will give you something else to think about.
High production values abound, from the nostalgic costume and set designs of Chen Szu-Feng to the delightfully inventive choreography of George Chan. Of particular note is the script: emotionally compelling, poetic and earthy (with plenty of Hokkien thrown in), it is the fine work of book writer Liu Xiaoyi and the lyricist Xiaohan.
The musical has its strengths – the ensemble as a whole is impressive, both vocally and choreographically. Amongst the relatively large ensemble, individual characters are discernible. I also applaud the increased use of Hokkien which makes the character of the Father more believable and emotionally coherent – his lullaby to his newborn son is an especially touching moment.
I hope that Lao Jiu’s developmental journey continues, as one of a handful of genuinely relevant and meaningful Singaporean musicals.