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Firefly In The Light

November 20, 2014
by

FireflyInTheLight1

Event: Firefly in the Light
Venue: The Arts House (Chamber)
Date: 15th Nov 2014

Hopes And Dreams

It’s not every day that you find a new original book musical being staged, and it was absolutely exciting to be able to sit in on the premiere of “Firefly in the Light”, a brand new musical conceived almost entirely by one precocious seventeen-year-old named Shayna Toh.

While Tabitha Loh directed the show, it was Shayna who wrote the entire book, lyrics and music to the musical, while also serving as musical director, pianist, band leader and orchestrator as well.

One might be tempted to draw comparisons with Jonathan Larson, who wrote both the book and the songs for “Rent”, and it is indeed hard to grasp how one so young as Shayna could possibly have put so much together in just a span of eight months…all while being a student at Raffles Institution!

“Firefly in the Light” tells the story of the young seventeen-year-old protagonist Wendy (played by Rachel Tay), who aspires to chase her dreams of being a star amidst the bright lights of Los Angeles, where according to her mother, her father had once left his family for in search of dreams of his own.

Meanwhile, an old flame Jake (Linden Furnell) reappears in her life, hoping to rekindle the relationship they once had four years ago.

However, Wendy eventually escapes to Hollywood despite her mother’s violent objections, only to find out that her father – whom she now works for – runs a sleazy nightclub and is both ruthless and violent towards all his girls.

Jake, who blossoms into a singing superstar in his own right, eventually tracks Wendy down in Hollywood, but their supposed reunion does not go according to plan.

The songs are generally in pop-rock style, and there is a good mix of up-tempo, lively numbers as well as the mellow ballads.

There is no doubt that Shayna can write a good tune, and the opening song “Some People Have It All” proves it right off the bat.

The title song proves to be quite a hit as well, and is both catchy and memorable even upon first listening.

But while the lyrics are generally serviceable, it was a pity that the poor acoustics in The Chamber rendered more than half the lyrics undecipherable.

Other contributing factors could have been the drums overpowering the voices, or the less-than-perfect diction of some of the performers, but from where I was sitting I could hardly make out more than half of the lyrics I heard, and I would put it down to the acoustics of the venue, which has never been forgiving as far as I can remember.

The orchestration was inventive enough to keep things interesting, and having been a student of Dr John Sharpley for three years, it is no wonder that Shayna was able to come up with such deft arrangements.

Linden Furnell proves once again that he has got the singing chops, and hit some high notes pretty flawlessly while maintaining great stage presence throughout the show.

Rachel Tay too deserves plaudits for pulling off the lead character Wendy, who is the most emotionally complex of all the characters in the show.

And while the book served its purpose in delivering a full and engaging story, it did seem like there was slight redundancy in characters (one too many schoolmates which didn’t seem all that necessary), plus the fact that characters such as Wendy’s mother and father seemed more like stock characters than anything else.

Also, I felt that the daughter-father bond was far too underdeveloped and should have been focused on, since it would have added a whole new level of depth to the play.

Nonetheless, much credit must be given where it is due, and “Firefly in the Light” remains a truly remarkable effort not just from Shayna alone, but from everyone who was involved in the production.

It never fails to warm the heart to see so much effort being put in by a group of passionate theatre-makers to stage a brand new musical given the limited time and resources they have on hand, and if the musical theatre scene here is ever going to blossom, then this is definitely one way to go about it.

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