The Legends readies up a musical documentary on Cantopop’s four biggest stars.
HOMEGROWN theatre institution Dama Orchestra is aiming for the bright lights with its upcoming production The Legends, which is set to hit the stage at KLPac in Kuala Lumpur starting June 7.
Previous full-scale Dama Orchestra shows have been mostly Shanghai shidaiqu affairs (favourites from the 1930s to 1960s) and also several flips through the pages of Teresa Teng’s Mandopop songbook (from 1970s/80s). Next up all eyes will be on Hong Kong’s pop darlings and the Cantopop scene from the 1980s. That’s the backstory behind Dama’s The Legends.
The 1980s saw the beginning of the golden age of Cantopop, when flamboyant Hong Kong pop stars dominated the colourful Chinese entertainment scene.
For its first major production this year, Dama Orchestra has decided to pay tribute to these cultural icons with The Legends, which features a local cast rolling out a celebration of songs and stories from Cantopop icons like Leslie Cheung, Anita Mui, Danny Chan and Roman Tam.
A project of Dama’s 20th anniversary celebration, The Legends is designed as a song-and-dance concert musical show with English narration.
The show will revisit the hit songs from these stars while the audience can enjoy a retelling of their showbiz stories, struggles, fame, relationships and hitmaking.
The Legends, in short, will dig deeper into the careers of these stars. And the audience can expect a deft mix of stories and showbiz.
A total of 25 Cantopop hit songs will be dispatched during the two-hour-long show (divided into two acts).
Some of the classics include Cheung’s A Chinese Ghost Story, Mui’s Break The Iceberg, Tam’s Legend Of Dagger Li, and Chan’s Encore.
“These are HK megastars with so many hits and good songs. We could never do an exhaustive programme because individually, each act could standalone on their own,” says Pun Kai Loon, Dama Orchestra artistic director, about the stageside songlist.
The idea was to narrow down the setlist – with key songs – yet give the audience a snapshot of the actual pop star lives behind the celebrity and pop charts.
“What we are trying to do in this concert (series) is to give flavour to their contributions, as well as to highlight the spirit of their work. So, what we have done is to narrow down our selection to songs that were pivotal in their respective careers ... insightful tunes in terms of understanding them as performers and individuals,” adds Pun.
As an example, he mentioned how Anita Mui started performing as a child and had already 10 years of stage experience behind her when she was “discovered.”
For The Legends show, the main cast features singers Tan Soo Suan, Terence Au, Bui Yik Ling, Khoo Wu Ji, Kong Jie Wei, Lim Yee Fen, and Tan Soo Tze. Dancers Leslie Cheng, Gigi Chiam, Dorothy Foo, Rich Mah, Ben Gee, Jojo Wong, Rickyy Wong and Alice Yee have the support roles.
Unlike most tributes, music director Khor Seng Chew said that The Legends will not have any one singer playing a fixed role, as he felt no one could step into their shoes.
“The show will not be divided into four segments, with each featuring one artiste. Instead the songs have been picked to flow with the storyline.”
Since The Legends is a musical theatre piece, Khor worked on new arrangements and transformed the evergreen hits to give them more contemporary appeal.
“For example, Leslie Cheung’s In A Sentimental Past, I felt would be better as a trio (Soo Tze, Bui and Lim) and Danny Chan’s The Meaning Of Life was made into a quartet piece (Bui, Lim, Khoo and Au). The spirit of the songs remain, but they have a fresher edge now,” says Khor.
Dama regular Soo Suan will be taking on popular numbers like Chan’s Take Care Tonight, Mui’s Heart Debt and Intimate Lovers and Tam’s When Tomorrow Comes and Family.
There will also be group numbers that will see the whole company of 15 performers hitting the stage. As for showbiz glam and choreography, this is will be a blast to watch.
“Since none of the performers are native Cantonese speakers, we roped in Chinese dialect coach Lee Jin Wen to help the singers work on their Cantonese pronunciation,” says Pun.
After a roll through the hits and drama at the show’s recent preview, we’re happy to report that nothing has been lost in translation.
The Legends will run at Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac), Sentul Park, Jalan Strachan, off Jalan Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur from June 7 to June 22. Tickets are priced between RM68 to RM288. For more info, call the box-office (03 4047-9000) or visit www.ticketpro.com.my.