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“Never/Land” – The SMU Law Musical 2012

October 3, 2012

Event: “Never/Land” by SMU School of Law
Venue: Faith Centre for Performing Arts (ACJC)
Run: 28th & 29th Sept 2012

Come Away With Me

After a one-year hiatus, the SMU Law Musical makes a return with a brand new original musical entitled “Never/Land”, which as you might guess is based on the well-loved Peter Pan fable.

Many thanks to composer-lyricist-librettist-director extraordinaire Samuel Ng for so kindly alerting us to this year’s production, if not for which we wouldn’t even have known about it.

It’s amazing how it’s been more than two years since I attended the previous SMU Law Musical “The Little Mermaid”, and although I only managed to catch the first act of that one, I still remember bits of it quite clearly.

“Never/Land” is held in celebration of the 5th anniversary of the SMU School of Law, and although it is staged at the same venue as the previous musical in 2010, I was thankful to be able to get stall seats this time round.

New original musicals are extremely hard to come by, and I always relish the opportunity to witness the performance of such shows in Singapore, whatever the scale or context.

“Never/Land” may seem like just your varsity production held at an “off-Broadway” type venue in the form the ACJC Faith CPA, but, as with the last show in 2010, it scores mightily in terms of the quality of information provided in its programme booklet.

I praised the production team the last time round for this, and I’d have to commend them once again for taking the time and effort to attach an appendix booklet containing the lyrics to every single song in the musical.

“Never/Land” is pretty much your Peter Pan story, although the writers took great pains to adapt it to a local context (much like your typical Wild Rice panto), with the introduction of distinctly local elements such as the MRT, local colloquialism, and even a Chinese wayang bit at the close of the first act.

Attempts were also clearly made to delight the largely law-trained audience with the inclusion of little lawyer in-jokes and references throughout the libretto.

The general tone of the musical was somewhat reminiscent of the 2010 one, in the sense that it took a fairy-tale plot and gave it a whimsical local twist, while peppering the script with plenty of local current affairs references and digs, such as foldable bikes, rapid urbanisation, the Marina Bay Sands IR, Gardens by the Bay, Sticker Lady, MRT train breakdowns and so on.

At times you could almost sense that a point was being made, but most of the time it felt like the reference was more gimmicky than functional, thrown in merely for the sake of entertainment.

Standout performers for me include Yap Shikaye as “Tinkerbell”, who, despite her slight build carried herself remarkably well and had a wonderful singing voice to boot, and Mark Alphonsus Lee as “Hook”, who played the villain role with as much conviction and nuance as one could ask for.

The musical was a full-length one which lasted around two hours and forty-five minutes, although book-wise, I found it hard to establish the emotional core of the show.

Who exactly was the protagonist here?

It seemed at first to be Wendy, but as the story progressed it seemed like the other main characters Tinkerbell, Hook and Peter Pan also came heavily into play as the audience starts to lose its focus on Wendy’s emotional journey.

SMU School of Law and the SMU Law Revue have to be lauded for their efforts in putting up their third musical production in four years, after “Assault & Flattery” in 2009 and “The Little Mermaid” two years ago.

It’s never easy staging an original musical, and they are blessed with some serious talent on their hands in many respects.

Part of me does wish, however, that in their future musical productions they may consider subject matter which is less fairy-tale, less whimsical, and less “panto” if you will, and perhaps write musicals of a slightly more realistic nature.

I have never had any doubts about the wit and literary writing abilities of law students, but if they’d consider writing about more realistic or real-world characters I reckon it might make the musical even more impactful.

Nonetheless, “Never/Land” remains a remarkable effort and I am eagerly anticipating the next installment of what might end up becoming my annual pilgrimage to the ACJC Faith CPA.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2012 2:12 pm

    I did not manage to catch the show this time around. Did it have songs? How was the music?

    • Jeremy permalink*
      October 3, 2012 7:06 pm

      Yup, it had songs. 8 numbers in the first act and 5 in the second.

      The music was a mixed bag of styles. I remember one song even had a distinctly tango flavour to it. Don’t exactly recall any one particular tune though.

      As for the lyrics, they rhymed really well. Samuel definitely knows his stuff.

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