One of the most romantic stories ever written gets a local twist: Malaysia’s very own version of the award-winning Love Story – The Musical is set to play in Kuala Lumpur.
A musical written by Stephen Clark based on a best-selling novel by Erich Segal, the story revolves around law student Oliver Barrett IV and music student Jenny Cavilleri, who fall in love at first sight and get married despite objections from Oliver’s father. Their happy life soon takes a downturn when they discover that Jenny has a terminal illness.
The movie version of Love Story was released in 1970, and is considered one of the most romantic films of all time. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1971, including Best Picture, though it only won the Oscar for Best Music, Original Score.
The Malaysian version of the musical is staged by Dama Asia and produced by Khor Seng Chew and directed by Pun Kai Loon.
“We are not telling a tragic love story with this musical. We are celebrating the affirmation of love. It is a good show to celebrate love with the whole family. The music and songs are so lovely. I think it will be a crowd pleaser,” said Pun during a recent interview together with members of his cast.
Pun first saw the musical at its world premiere in Britain in 2011, and felt that it would be very relevant to local audiences as well.
In the local version, Oliver and Jennifer are portrayed by Joshua Gui and Michelle Tan, who went through six weeks of rehearsals, starting around mid-April.
The pair first met in 2011 on In Perfect Harmony, a colourful musical presented by The Star in conjunction with their 40th anniversary celebration. Love Story – The Musical is their sixth collaboration in a stage production, and they are both taking on leading roles for the first time.
Love Story – The Musical has 16 songs in total, half of which are duets and ensembles. Both Gui and Tan are glad to be singing fully in English this time, and laughed as they shared memories of their first collaboration, in which Gui sang a Hindi song and Tan, a Korean one.
Playing the lawyer-in-training who gives up his inheritance for his lady love, Gui says the musical is “not just about the romance between the two main characters”.
“It’s also about the people surrounding them and the differences between the two families,” added Gui, who teaches singing and has his own company called KrossJenre Entertainment, which curates entertainment projects for various platforms.
As the gifted pianist who gives up her career to support her beloved, Tan has two solo numbers and has to play the piano as well.
“There are three scenes of Jenny playing the piano; one at the recital hall, another is the fantasy scene, and finally, towards the end when she gets very ill,” says Tan, who teaches performance coaching and will be serving as assistant director for Fame The Musical, which will be staged in KLPac in July.
Veteran actor Chacko Vadaketh, who plays Jenny’s father Phil, described his character as “quite a lovable, jovial Italian-American baker”.
“But his passion is his daughter. So he gets very upset because she is marrying Oliver and is sacrificing her career for his. He and his late wife had put all their savings into Jenny’s career, as she is a gifted pianist,” he said.
Local actor Tan Liyang, who plays Oliver’s best friend Jonathan Smith, says the story may seem like a tragedy, but it is not a sad story.
“You will feel that the love still carries on. Even though Jenny has passed on, the love is still there,” shares Tan, who was last seen in his first English play Thunderstorm and is also active in the local Chinese language film scene – he was rcently in the Malaysian remake of China’s sleeper hit Goodbye Mr Loser.
A dentist by day, Choo Wil Liam plays Timothy, a doctor who also doubles as the pastor who presides over the wedding of Jennifer and Oliver.
“There are two doctors in the musical. I am the one practising sports medicine so I appear when Oliver hurts himself playing ice hockey,” says Choo, who is glad to be singing in English this time, as he had to sing in Mandarin during his previous musical project.
There are 12 cast members and 17 scenes in total, and costume designer Dominique Devorsine says all the characters, in particular the two leads, have multiple costume changes throughout the show.
“We have prepared a change for every scene, and the challenge here is that the two leads will be on stage all the time, so we have to work out the logistics. The rest of the cast will have five to six changes, according to their roles,” she says, adding that they will actually be wearing winter clothes during winter scenes.
Pun feels that what makes the Malaysian staging of Love Story different is the addition of some choreography as well as the technical aspects of set production and scene changes. This will also be the first time that Love Story – The Musical is being staged in Asia. “It has never been shown in the East, so this will be a Asian premiere!” he said.
Love Story: The Musical is a two-hour show in English with subtitles in Chinese. It is set to play at Pentas 1, Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre from June 10 to 18. Tickets are priced from RM65. For more information, contact KLPac (www.klpac.org / 03-4047 9000) or TicketPro (www.ticketpro.com.my / 03-7880 7999). You can also visit Dama Asia (http://ift.tt/2s5tcMp)
or call 03-6201 9108).