Marrying Me is a musical love story raring to challenge conventions.
Hilarious comedy and poignant drama come together in Marrying Me, A New Musical – a whimsical production about an unconventional wedding.
The American comedian Eddie Cantor once said that a wedding was like a funeral, except you got to smell your own flowers.
Okay, this is a bit of a morbid take on matrimony: tying the knot has its benefits, after all. Marriage encourages many timeless values, such as patience, compromise, compassion and understanding. Admittedly, these are all traits you wouldn’t need if you had just stayed single, but better to get hitched than end up alone, right?
Not so, according to the characters of Marrying Me. The musical is a love story with a difference: the tale of a woman who discovers that despite what fairy tales tell you, happiness is not always found in the handsome prince who sweeps you off your feet. Rather, one must learn to love oneself before one can give or receive love from others.
Featuring beautiful melodies, clever lyrics, laugh-loud humour and a quintessentially Malaysian story, the show is rib-tickling and heart-warming all at once.
Marrying Me features an all-star creative team, with book by Mark Beau de Silva, lyrics by Ella Rose Chary, and music composition by Onn San.
The show, which ends its Kuala Lumpur run this weekend, is directed by Christopher Ling, with a cast comprising Stephanie Van Driesen, Sandra Sodhy, Tony Leo Selvaraj, Chang Fang Chyi, Joel Wong, Benjamin Lin, Aaron Lo, Abdul Muhaimin, Ho Lee Ching and Tan Yi Qing.
The musical spins the story of Stephanie, a liberated single 30-year-old who leads an NGO for abused women: the Society of Consolidated Women’s League (SCOWL). With everyone around her tying the knot, Stephanie just wants to live on her own terms, but her mother and meddling aunt have other ideas.
After her mother fakes an illness and makes a “dying wish” to see her married, Stephanie turns to Tony, an old flame. But is the both of them coming together truly a good idea? In a twist of fate, Stephanie ends up doing something truly unconventional: marrying herself!
Marrying Me’s strongest point is how incredibly relatable it was: the musical is full of local flavour, from lahs and hahs to references to eating at Jalan Alor and buying products from Amway. It even had an entire song about kopi O!
Marrying Me’s music spread – all melodic and catchy – balances well with the show’s witty lyrics.
The many references to local Malaysian culture is an admirable feat, given the lyricist is an American!
Highlights, then? The group number That’s What’s Normal and the show’s soaring theme song Marrying Me. Also wonderful is the villain song Win Win: what do you say about a number featuring, among other things, a woman who gets a BMW after threatening suicide?
What is most admirable about Marrying Me, however, is its humour and heart. Billed as a screwball comedy, the show definitely delivers on the laughs (although some of the slapstick antics can be a bit over-the-top): yet it also explores dark themes such as domestic violence, marital exploitation and societal pressure.
Marrying Me handles everything effectively, never trivialising its story with too much comedy or suffocating it with too much drama.
Acting is generally solid. Van Driesen plays the role of Stephanie well, proving to be engaging whether belting her heart out in a powerful ballad like Superhero, or cajoling audience members to sing along to the ridiculously laid-back and catchy Solo Honeymoon.
Sodhy also plays up her role well as Sandra, who is Stephanie’s mother. She portrays her character as sweet and exasperating at the same time (like most mothers!), while Selvaraj infuses his role with a delightful charm. Lin, on the other hand, receives many of the biggest laughs of the show with his portrayal of Stephanie’s best friend, the flamboyant Leroy.
Almost stealing the show, however, is Chang, who plays Auntie Gertrude, the show’s villain. Whether singing or strutting onstage with a delectable air of superiority, her stern and unrelenting character is always a delight to watch, a lady Hitler with a business suit and perm.
While well-crafted, Marrying Me is not perfect. Stephanie’s story is told quite well, but Tony’s is slightly under-developed. A development that he is afraid of “becoming a monster” also appears a bit contrived. Sounds like a last-minute plot rethink here. The character of Ah Hee, Gertrude’s younger brother also seems mostly superfluous, important only for comic relief (in a play already full of wacky roles!).
All in all, Marrying Me remains a strong production – despite all the romances depicted throughout ending poorly. Trust the lovable characters, generous doses of hilarity and solid music to delight most audiences.
Marrying Me, A New Musical runs daily at KLPac, Sentul Park, Jalan Strachan, off Jalan Ipoh in Kuala Lumpur till Dec 22. Tickets are priced at RM53 (adults) and RM33 (students, TAS card holders). Visit www.ticketpro.com.my or call 03-4047 9000 to book tickets.