HK Singers' 2010 Production of "Oliver!"
Whenever someone who had seen the show came up to me and said, "You did a wonderful job. You must be proud of yourself," there was always a split second where my mind debated as to whether to answer it with false modesty, or to take the compliment graciously and be thankful about it. And everytime I found myself in that situation since we moved into the theatre, even before we opened, I always answered--- with pride, conviction, and gratitude--- "I am, indeed, very, very proud."
HK Singers' Oliver has been the most challenging choreographic project I have ever taken on, by far. We had 65 performers in the chorus, 40 of whom were kids; 10 principals, 2 of whom--- Oliver and Dodger--- were kids; 22 musical numbers; and barely three months to stage the entire musical at only three times a week. The biggest challenge of them all: the movement style requirement was NOT my style.
Photo by Tim Bowman
But, with Phil Whelan's string and clear artistic vision & direction; Jodi Gilchrist's invaluable guidance; the trust they both bestowed upon me to take the liberty to explore artistically and to make directorial choices; my ever-reliable dance captain, Chow; Jacqueline Gourlay Grant's patience despite the many times my dance rehearsals had to eat up her vocal rehearsal time; and the vote of confidence that the cast showed me throughout the entire process, I delivered what was asked of me. And, modesty aside, I did it brilliantly. I wouldn't have, though, if not for these wonderfully talented and inspiringly daring people. Oh, I need to mention, some of them are sometimes hard-headed as well. That was an even bigger challenge.
The success of Oliver is particularly special to me because beyond the choreography, I jumped on-board the team with a mission in my heart. Over the past nine months that I have been totally immersed with the "Community Theatre" scene in HK, I have grown to dislike the term "community theatre". I have seen so many people use the term as an excuse for mediocrity, and I found that awfully disheartening. I think that while "community theatre" means that we do not have enough money to pay our actors, artistic team, production team, stage crew and orchestra the professional fee that they deserve, it should not mean that "this is all" we are capable of. Lack of training is forgivable. It is easy to remedy. But complacency, especially because this is just "community theatre" anyway, is not.
Photo by Tim Bowman
Oliver and Mrs. Bedwin looked out of the window, and they saw a lady walking with a basket full of roses. She was selling them for two blooms for a penny. The milkmaid followed, and then the lady that sold ripe strawberries. After a beat, the knife grinder walked on asking out loud who had knives he could sharpen.
Sitting in the dark, I was an outsider looking into their world where the sky was clear, the sun shone brightly, the roses were lush and red, the strawberries were ripe, sweet and juicy, everything was perfect and melodies and harmonies existed-- not worries and troubles. I closed my eyes and allowed myself to float with the soft but poignant music coming from the pit.
"Who will buy this wonderful morning? Such a sky you never did see! Who will tie it up with a ribbon and put it in a box for me? So I can see it at my leisure-- whenever things go wrong, and I would keep it as a treasure-- to last my whole life long," Oliver sang in the background.
A tear fell. It was our closing show, and I wish I knew who could tie it up in a ribbon and put it in a box for me.