• “21 3/4: A Brandnew Musical” exudes fresh energy and talent. /Photo: Fascinating Four

As fascinating as the name suggests

Art September 25, 2017 01:00

By Pawit Mahasarinand
Special to The Nation

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A new work clearly delivers its young artists’ passion for musical theatre



MUSICAL FANS rejoice! There’s a new hit in town, and it’s not called “Si Phaendin”. In a country where people love to watch –or at least producers assume they do –stage adaptations of known stories and tales, it’s all too rare to see a poster screaming “a brand-new musical”. But that’s exactly what “21 3/4”, now on at Thong Lor Art Space (TLAS), is. 

In the form of a song cycle, “21 3/4” portrays, through newly composed and written pop songs, various characters who are on the verge of university graduation and professional life and facing such problems as frustration over career choices to young romance and unwanted pregnancy. 

“21 3/4: A Brandnew Musical” exudes fresh energy and talent. /Photo: Fascinating Four

These touching and realistic stories made me think back to when I was handing in my last paper after my final semester, and had not yet found a job, or had time to look for one. I also thought of an incident a few months later when I was doing so many different jobs in the evenings and on weekends, despite already having a full-time job, that I almost had a car accident driving home.

“Slow down, my dear: you can always borrow my money,” said my mother.

And even though this sub-genre doesn’t require a script with clear storylines, a stronger dramaturgy would shift the order of some songs, cut down the number of characters, limit the risk of this becoming a concert and at the end deliver stronger messages.

Comprising four classmates who have recently graduated from the musical theatre programme of Mahidol University’s College of Music, this unique a cappella quartet is named the Fascinating Four. They not only performed in this musical but also wrote the lyrics that fit the music by Yossral Songkiatkul. Veteran director, and their professor, Napisi Reyes made sure that one musical number flowed smoothly into the next, notwithstanding the demands of character and costume changes. The set design by TLAS artistic director Wasurachata Unaprom made smart use of the venue’s main performance space. And while at the preview earlier this month, the acoustics weren’t quite right at the start, the problems were quickly and professionally solved. 

Having performed together for a long time on both local and international stages, the four performers are true friends and a strong ensemble. Having to change their costumes and shift from one character to another, though, was a task too demanding for them and it wasn’t clear in some scenes whether we were watching the characters we’d seen earlier.

Rapturous applause at the curtain call was followed by an encore when the quartet and many members of the audience sang one of the most memorable songs from a contemporary Broadway musical – “Seasons of Love” from “Rent” – which itself is an adaptation of “La Boheme”. This work is not there yet, of course, but such a refreshing evening where passion is shared with the audience is a real pleasure. 

Like the story itself, “21 3/4” is also a bridge linking academia and conservatory to the real professional world – and other institutions need to consider as well to make sure that what the young minds are studying is always connected to what professional artists are practising.

 

STILL SINGING

Fascinating Four’s “21 3/4” continues tonight, and Thursday to Monday at Thong Lor Art Space, a three-minute walk from BTS Thong Lor station. 

It’s in Thai with no translation. Show time Monday to Saturday is 7.30pm with a 2.30pm matinee on Saturday and Sunday.

Tickets are Bt650 (Bt500 for students), at (083) 371 6836. 

Find out more at Facebook.com/FascinatingFour.