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Just So

January 28, 2010

Event: Just So (as part of SMU’s 10th Arts Festival)
Venue: Victoria Theatre
Run: 22nd Jan – 23rd Jan 2010

I recently attended the musical “Just So”, staged at the Victoria Theatre by the students from SMU as part of the school’s 10th Arts Festival 2010.

I’d never heard of the musical “Just So” before, but because my friend was one of the musicians in the band, and because it’s currently my goal to be exposed to as much musical theatre as possible, I gave it a shot.

First, the plus points.

I’d have to highly commend the entire cast and crew for putting up such a fine show.

I thought the talent on display was just astounding.

SMU can certainly boast of a number of fine musical theatre performers in their own right.

I was truly impressed by the quality of acting and singing on display.

Special mention must go to Ann Summers Lek, who played “Kolokolo Bird”, and Tay Zhenqian, whose introductory song as the “Rhino” (“Thick Skin”) was worth the price of admission alone.

The band, led by Elaine Chan, was faultless as well.

The only issue I had with the musical was the book itself.

(But this is no fault of anyone in SMU, simply because the musical was not written by them. It was written by Anthony Drewe and George Stiles in 1984, and was based on the “Just So Stories” by Rudyard Kipling.)

I don’t know about the rest of the audience, but I struggled to even grasp the main thrust of the story, and I found myself lost for the entire duration of the show…and as a result, I had absolutely no emotional involvement in the story whatsoever.

I just didn’t get what the plot was supposed to be all about.

It all seemed very weird and confusing.

Which is the number one thing a musical cannot afford to do – a musical cannot afford to have the audience become indifferent to the story, because no one will fully enjoy a musical in which he or she cannot get emotionally involved with the characters.

That’s the easiest way to lose an audience.

I thought the first one-third of “Just So” was terribly confusing and nebulous, and at times it just seemed like it was about two characters going on some sort of strange adventure, meeting new characters along the way, and doing the obligatory song-and-dance at every scene.

I mean, the songs were okay I guess (though very few tunes actually stood out for me), but there were many instances whereby it seemed like they launched into a song just for the sake of launching into a song.

(Another no-no for musical theatre, in my opinion.)

I think the best way is to ease into a song, and make the transition into a song seem like the most natural thing to do…and not talk half-way and then suddenly start singing and dancing.

It was a bit too contrived, I felt.

I must say though, that a lot of the lyrics were excellent.

I remember many instances whereby I heard some of the rhymes and I just shook my head and went “Wow, that’s amazing stuff right there.”

All in all, I was highly disappointed with the show, not because of anything the SMU students did.

I thought they did a fantastic job in the production, staging and presentation.

It’s just a pity I felt the book let them down.

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