Spectacle on stage

  • Arts
  • Thursday, 09 Jan 2014

Hear me roar: Vivienne Carlyle chews up the scenery in her role as evil sorceress Usha.

If you’re into acrobatic stunts and state-of-the-art effects, new musical LightSeeker will light your fire.

IF there is one thing you can’t accuse LightSeeker of lacking, it’s certainly ambition.

The multi-million dollar musical – now showing at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) in Singapore – aims for the skies, in every aspect, from its production value to the talents involved. And while it falters in some aspects, it does show potential; given fine-tuning, it has all the makings of a spectacular piece of entertainment for the family.

As one of the characters muses in the beginning, one needs to “take a leap of faith”. Similarly, one must channel his inner eight-year-old to appreciate this sci-fi musical, which is RWS’ third original production.

Best described as Avatar-meets-Cirque du Soleil, LightSeeker is a made-in-Singapore product, dreamt up by veteran TV producer Andrea Teo (of Phua Chu Kang and Under One Roof fame). The fantasy fable features state-of-the-art effects, grandly-scaled props, spectacular stunts (that’s where the Cirque du Soleil comparison comes in) and an international ensemble cast that includes actors from London’s West End.

Other creatives onboard include director Michael La Fleur, music director Jonichiro and Emmy-award-winning production designer Patrick Larsen. And let’s not forget that the numbers were composed by award-winning songwriter Dick Lee; he is the man behind Singapore’s Beauty World (1988) and Fried Rice Paradise (1991). Closer to home, Lee was involved in musicals P Ramlee (2007) and Puteri Gunung Ledang (2006), the latter which moved me to a standing ovation.

So, even though I kept my expectations low about LightSeeker (after reading not-so-favourable reviews online), I was hoping to enjoy Lee’s compositions. Alas, the numbers in LightSeeker prove to be strangely monotonous; there is not one strong melody or chorus that stays with you as you leave the theatre.

Right from the start, LightSeeker seeks to impress with its computer-generated imagery (CGI) and multimedia capabilities. An LED wall – which reportedly weights 10 tonnes and has 281 trillion colour variations – is seamlessly and effectively used as a backdrop.

When the curtains first part to reveal a jungle paradise, complete with realistic-looking flora and fauna and fluffy clouds in the sky, it is an awe-inspiring sight. (I couldn’t help but gasp, “This scene must have cost a lot of moolah.”)

LightSeeker is set in a fantasy world where a power known as The Light nourishes all beings. An evil emperor of darkness (played by Lim Kay Siu, who appears only on video) wants all the light in this realm.

His main general, known as the LightSeeker (Stuart Boother), leads the charge in obtaining this power of light across the land. He is assisted by Usha (Vivienne Carlyle), an evil sorceress. The baddies’ search lead them to Nova (Sarah Brown), a mysterious young woman who seems to have the ability to create The Light.

Hear me roar: Vivienne Carlyle chews up the scenery in her role as evil sorceress Usha.

The general captures Nova, and tries to force her to conjure up The Light. But he soon discovers that, not only is he unable to control her, Nova’s presence also threatens the only world he has ever known.

Hence, the general must make the ultimate choice – be secure in the darkness he knows, or embrace the promise of a new and better world within the light.

As the title character, Boother makes his first appearance in a skintight blue leotard with shiny armour and spiked bracers. His outlandish costume aside, Boother is overshadowed by Carlyle, who chews up the scenery in her role as a power-hungry sorceress. Among the actors, she seems to be having the most fun on stage, garbed in drag queen-licious ensembles.

I was quite disappointed with the portrayal of Nova, whose character is pivotal though she only appears in a handful of scenes. Actress Brown looks a tad mature to convey innocence and purity, qualities one would associate with Nova.

Though its good-triumphs-over-evil premise is a familiar one, what I found refreshing about LightSeeker is that – unlike most other musicals – it doesn’t focus on matters of the heart. There is no conventional boy-meets-girl or tragic love triangle subplot. Rather, it is about the choice between fear versus freedom. Apparently, it is Teo’s metaphor for the corporate world with its power struggles.

Certain elements, from its costumes to dialogue, are reminiscent of Masters Of The Universe, the cheesy 1987 live-action film inspired by He-Man.

And like the villain Skeletor in that movie, the LightSeeker baddies’ bark is often worse than their bite. They are fond of grandiose threats; lines such as “Your life is mine!” and “Obey me, or die” are thrown about with such frequency, they lose their menace after awhile. At one point, Usha growls at her slaves (to unintentional hilarity), “I can either take the pain away, or make it stronger.”

My favourite segment revolves around Usha turning her pet snakes into human form, so that they can hunt for the missing Nova. The pair of dancers who play the serpents were sleek and sensual in their moves, and positively hypnotic.

The other impressive sequence occurs right after intermission. After a lethargic first half, the second plys the audience with acrobatics on trampolines and suspended ropes. At certain points, two performers swung above the heads of the audience, while varied other stunts occurred on stage. It was an explosive feast for the eyes, as one didn’t know where to focus.

Watch LightSeeker if you’re into this sort of spectacle, and you won’t be disappointed. Just don’t expect to be emotionally moved by it.

> LightSeeker is playing at Resorts World Theatre in Singapore until March 23. Tickets are priced from S$48 (RM125) to S$148 (RM384). For more information, log on to www.LightSeeker.com.sg or www.sistic.com.sg.

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