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December 7, 2013

E0324-HP_2 column layout_240(w)x140(h)_R2Event: Lightseeker
Venue: Resorts World Theatre @ RWS
Run: 28th Nov ’13 – 23rd Mar ’14

Misguided Light

Part of Resorts World Sentosa’s operating licence requires that it produce and stage original shows rather than restage Broadway productions the way MBS is doing over at Marina Bay, which explains the first two RWS shows “Voyage de la Vie” and subsequently “Incanto”.

Which is all very heartening to hear, honestly, because that means that there is at least one major venue in S’pore which is focussed on producing original big-budget, world-class extravaganzas which can (hopefully) compare with the likes of those seen on Broadway, West End or even Las Vegas.

I had not seen either of RWS’s first two productions, but I hear that reviews were mixed.

Yesterday evening was my first visit to the Resorts World Theatre, and the interior is certainly very impressive.

It is far and away the more attractive venue as compared to both theatre venues at MBS, and reminds me a lot of an up-sized version of the SOTA Drama Theatre with its vibrant colours and modern interior.

You would no doubt have heard about “Lightseeker’s” credentials by now – it features big names such as Dick Lee (songwriter), Michael La Fleur (director), and is produced by showbiz veteran Andrea Teo, who is now Vice President of Entertainment at RWS.

The ensemble is an international one – some may say too international – and includes stars who have West End credentials.

The only local name I seem to have spotted in the extensive list of around 40 cast members is Lim Kay Siu, who plays both The Cloud Spirit and The Emperor, although he inexplicably does not perform in the flesh but exists only via on-screen projection throughout the show.

The show’s introduction, projected entirely on the massive LED wall featuring 281 trillion colour variations, is a curious one, sort of like an opening sequence in a movie where a narrator lays out the backdrop of the story before the music finally reaches a crescendo and we see the large title text “LIGHTSEEKER” flash across the LED wall.

And from then on, the rest of the musical was one curious decision after another.

The characters were mostly uni-dimensional, and although an attempt was made to try and flesh out the inner conflict faced by The General, it was poorly done.

For all the show’s multi-million dollar production values, what with the ostentatious LED wall to the glitzy props to the breathtaking acrobatics, it was a huge pity that it lacked the one most important ingredient the audience was looking for – heart.

Throughout the show, there was close to zero emotional connection being made with the audience, due to a myriad of factors such as poor bookwriting, puzzling plot development, cheesy – almost off-putting – attempts at slapstick humour, and forgettable songs.

There were scenes which were incomprehensible – how they could devote what seemed like more than five minutes to a “snake” dance, where everything else just stops and everyone watches as the supposed snake takes human form…only for this “snake” creature to never feature again in the musical.

The dialogue was often cringe-worthy at best, and when you realise that for all the show’s resources in hiring experts in various technical fields to put the show together, it didn’t even hire a dedicated bookwriter for this musical (the director doubles up as the bookwriter), then you’d probably get a feel of where the priorities in the production lay.

Oftentimes it felt as if the show was conceived firstly as a vehicle to show off fancy sets, multimedia, choreography and stunts, and then as a feeble attempt at telling a story.

Midway through the show, due to some computer glitches backstage, we started to see bits of code running prominently across the LED screen (“Press F1 to Resume” anyone?), and for a show which has been running for more than a week, you’d expect that such elementary gaffes would have been cleaned up by now.

Dick Lee’s score (he was the reason why I decided to buy tickets in the first place) was highly disappointing, with almost all songs sounding either similar to each other or forgettable, and even though the show’s theme song “The Light Within” was blatantly force-fed down our throats, it hardly made a mark.

That is not to say the musical is without its saving graces.

Stuart Boother, who plays the protagonist, is a singer of the highest quality, having being trained as an operatic tenor more than 10 years.

He reached notes which us mere mortals could only dream of, and duly played the part of The General with as much conviction as the score and script would allow.

Vivienne Carlye and Sarah Brown, who play Usha and Nova respectively, also played their roles competently, and it is without a doubt that the production team had done a fine job as far as the casting of talent was concerned.

The stunts and acrobatics too were a sight to behold, and the production featured a number of creative and ingenious stunts which evoked more than a few “oohs” and “aahs” from the 30%-filled theatre.

Which brings us back to the larger picture – with a 30% audience attendance on a Friday night, and with a good three more months to go before the show ends its run, it’s hard to see how this production would eventually become the sell-out show which the producers and creative team had hoped for it to be.

Tickets to this show aren’t cheap – which I can fully understand, especially when you feature production values as high as this – but the bigger worry is that this show has huge structural problems which are unlikely to be easily fixed.

Buried somewhere deep in this show is a moral about how we all can find the light within ourselves, and that we have the power to change the world, but the show’s deficiencies are just too glaring to ignore.

It’s probably okay if you’re just looking to be entertained by a visual spectacle, but if you’re looking to be moved by a satisfying book musical, then you’re better off looking elsewhere.

I personally found it an ordeal to sit through the entire musical, and if you have strong preconceived notions about what a proper book musical should be, then you might want to think twice about checking this musical out.

Unless you’re a fright seeker, that is.

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