Liao Zhai Rocks!
Can once in a lifetime happen twice?
The scholar Sang Xiao falls in love with the fox spirit Ying Ning, but is deceived by the water spirit, Feng San Niang. When Sang Xiao is poisoned and cast into the underworld, Ying Ning must brave the wrath of King Yama, the king of Hell, to rescue her true love and change their destiny.
Inspired by Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio, a collection of classic Chinese stories by Qing dynasty writer Pu Songling, Liao Zhai Rocks! tells a supernatural tale of forbidden love through the explosive force and gritty rawness of rock music.
Directed by The Theatre Practice’s Artistic Director Kuo Jian Hong and helmed by Joanna Dong (Sing! China), this epic rock musical redefined the musical theatre genre in Singapore with its unexpected fusion of classic Chinese stories and a blistering score by Mandopop luminaries Eric Ng and Xiaohan.
Liao Zhai Rocks! will make its China debut in 2019 as part of the Shanghai Cultural Square’s Original Musical Festival.
Date: 25 March – 11 April 2010
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre
Playwright: Wu Xi
Composer & Arranger: Eric Ng
Lyricist: Xiao Han
Co-Director: Kuo Jian Hong & Wu Xi
Music Arranger: Bang Wenfu & Clement Yang Xi
Music Director & Conductor: Julian Wong
Vocal Director: Lim Shieh Yih
Choreographer: Low Ee Chiang
Acting Coach: Kuo Jing Hong
Concept Artist: Jiang Liheng
Set Design: Lim Keng San
The Theatre Practice Creative Team
Costume Design: Moe Kasim
Lighting Design: Lim Yu-Beng
Sound Design: Shah Tahir
Hair Design: Ashley Lim
M.A.C Creative Artist: Beno Lim
Sang Xiao: Ric Liu
Ying Ning: Joanna Dong
Feng San Niang: Celine Rosa Tan
Cheng Ban Xian: Sugie
King Yama: Huang Wenhong
Tian Zi Zai: Liu Xiaoyi
Ying Wu Huo: Xu Bin
Hell Hawker, Scholar: Andrew Lua
Scholar Ma: Yang Guoxiu
Ghost Captain: Hang Qian Chou
Ghost Soldier on the Bridge: Gordon Choy
Meng Po: Jacqueline Chow
Ghost Soldiers, Spirits, Ensemble: Isabella Chiam, Jacqueline Chow, Gordon Choy, Hang Qian Chou, Audrey Luo Baoling, Judee Tan, Catherine Wong, Yang Guoxiu
Children: Hsieh Yu Chun (Cast A), Leow Jia Le Enrico (Cast A), Olivia Yi-Le Hatton (Cast B), Leo Tan HeQin (Cast B), Lex Tan PengQin (Cast B)
Conductor: Julian Wong
Keyboardist & Rehearsal Pianist: Julian Wong
Guitarist: Chan Ka-Chi
Guitarist: Joshua Tan
Bassist: Patrick Ang
Violinist: Lim Hui
Percussionist: Din Safari
I have always suspected that Pu Song Ling (1640 – 1715) lived in a different reality from ours. How else can you explain how he conjured up such a mystical world?
In that world, fairies and spirits roamed the forests at night, while celestials and demons filled the heavens. Beings from all six realms frolic in a vibrant cacophony of life, a boisterous world of emotional interplay, and every shade was displayed in all its hedonistic glory.
In that world, humans existed too, but in an obscure corner, as lesser beings that live with a little more innocence and a little less clarity.
In essence, it was a world of possibilities. You could relish being good or evil, create havoc, battle gods, and roam the universe. An elegant stroke of writing could elevate you above the adoration of thousands. Demons and spirits could be your comrade, your enemy or even your lover as you journey through the doors of heaven and hell! And when your time was up, a quick tally would be made before you headed back out to the next life. With a potent brew of Meng Po’s soup down your throat, you were cleansed of the baggage of your previous existence and get to start life anew. For souls who had not attained enlightenment, they would be subjected to being recycled and reused in this endless cosmic wheel of existence (this is very eco-friendly).
Putting that colourful world behind, the reality of modern living pales, recumbent in the stark absence of imagination that the modern man has readily discarded for the comfort of technological advances. But how can I criticise what has won me over as well?
But the strange world of Liao Zhai beckoned, it lured me to pen this fantastical adventure on paper and the script was born.
After writing the script, Kuo Jian Hong promptly insisted that I co-directed the musical. So we find ourselves here again, battling on in The Theatre Practice’s sweltering rehearsal hall – actors work well into the night and designers create woks of wonders. We are increasingly seduced by Xiao Han’s sweet lyrics of a world where we are free to love and hate, as Eric’s rock music fills the Waterloo Street.
Repetitive rehearsals are alike to reincarnating, where every injury and mistake accumulated shaped the next rendition of your performance. But we move on fearlessly. Despite the seemingly ceaseless onslaught of mutual aggravations, I grow to like this group of actors. Carefree, and brimming with optimism, the biggest crisis is deciding where to go for supper at the end of every rehearsal!
And so we force the rusty devices of our imagination to reach that ever further place, that long departed world in order to seek pleasure in our inner sanctums. And though it is uncertain how this journey will end, there has been no doubt that it has an immensely happy one.
26 February 2010