By Pawit Mahasarinand
Mahidol University's College of Music stages a new version of "Eng-Chang the Musical", with music by internationally acclaimed composer Narong Prangcharoen
In early 2001, director Ekachai Uekrongtham’s touring production of “Chang and Eng: The Musical” at Thailand Cultural Centre was not only the talk of the town but also sparked an interest in musicals, both among local theatre-goers and theatre makers.
This year, when we’re watching on average a new Thai musical a month, a new musical adaptation of the lives of the first Siamese Twins “Eng-Chang the Musical” by Mahidol University’s College of Music is coming our way. And, as the title suggests, it has nothing to do with the earlier production by Singapore’s Action Theatre.
“I didn’t even watch that production”, confirms Napisi Reyes, veteran composer, librettist and director and professor at the university’s Music Theatre Department.
“At our campus, third- and fourth-year students work on special projects in which they’re involved in all aspects of a production, and six years ago one student proposed that I write and stage a musical adaptation of the Siamese twins’ stories. Now that the College of Music is in charge of the programming of the Prince Mahidol Hall, which is fully booked all year round except for April and October, we’ve decided to revive ‘Eng-Chang the Musical’ on a grander scale and so I further edited the musical book and rewrote some parts.”
“We invited world renowned composer [recipient of Guggenheim Fellowship and Silpathorn Award] Narong Prangcharoen to compose the music and he kindly accepted the invitation. Of course, he’s better known for his work in classical music for symphony orchestras and this is the first time he’s composing for a stage musical. Still, some of the songs are catchy while others are more complicated than the usual musical numbers.
“And Narong’s work has been praised by his American counterpart John Corigliano as “contemporary and accessible.
“Unlike the music heard in some Thai musicals, Narong’s music for ‘Eng-Chang’ has specific theme songs which clearly connect different parts of the musical in accordance with the book.”
Apart from the main theme “bad omen or not –who defines it?”, Napisi says the audience will be moved and touched by the love between mother and sons in addition to the Thai twins’ love for their American wives.
Napisi has also invited Chulalongkorn University’s theatre directing professor Bhanbhassa Dhubthien to stage this new musical. More widely known as Khru Ning, she received best directing award from International Association of Theatre Critic’s Thailand Centre for her work in “Chuichai Saneha” and her staging of “Cloture de l’amour” last year was highly acclaimed.
“I’ve been watching many of Khru Ning’s works and really enjoy the dramatic integrity in them and so I think she best fits this task. We’ve worked together casting the actors who are both professionals and students as some roles are too mature and difficult for students.”
The cast includes veteran crooner Thanaporn “Parn” Waekprayoon, last seen in “The Sound of Music”, Panuruj Pongpitakkul, from “The Empress Dowager”, Tachaya “Keng The Voice” Prathumwan and Fivera’s bass baritone Tulanan Norasethpisal.
That’s already enough reason for us to plan a short trip out of Bangkok.
Easy access to Salaya
“Eng-Chang the Musical” is at Prince Mahidol Hall, Mahidol University, Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, from October 16 to 18 and 23 to 25. It’s staged on Friday at 7pm, on Saturday at 1pm and 7pm and Sunday at 1pm.
It’s in Thai with an English summary provided in the programme.
Tickets cost from Bt500 to Bt3,000 at ThaiTicketMajor. Holders of Rabbit and Music Lover cards are entitled to a 20-per-cent discount.
A Salaya Link bus (wheelchair accessible) runs at regular intervals between BTS Bang Wa and the university.
Find out more at www.Music.Mahidol.ac.th, Facebook “Eng Chang the Musical 2015”, or call (089) 603 6432.