In this new musical based on a children’s book, hens just wanna have fun

A rehearsal scene from 'A Hen-Made Tale, The Musical', adapted from a children's book by theatre veteran Lim Soon Heng. The story tells of hens on a farm who want a break from laying eggs every day. Photo: KLSP

Once upon a time, on a farm far, far away, the chickens put their heads together to hatch a plan. They were tired of waking up at the break of dawn every day, laying eggs and then repeating the whole process the next day, and then next and the next. It is time for a well-deserved break, they think. It is time to fly the coop.

This is the premise of A Hen-Made Tale, a charming children’s book written by theatre practitioner Lim Soon Heng and illustrated by Tang Yeok Khang. It was released last year.

On April 1, A Hen-Made Tale, The Musical will be staged at Nero Event Space at the Petaling Jaya Performing Arts Centre (PJPAC) at 1 Utama Shopping Centre. The upcoming show series offers two public performances (coming after a series of sold-out school bookings this week).

Presented by theatre outfit KL Shakespeare Players and directed by Dominic Lucien Luk, with script and music by Nick Choo, the musical features a five-strong ensemble comprising Jamie Tan, Megan Chng, Zickry Yusoff, Nave VJ and Sabrina Hassan. Kenny Shim is the choreographer for this production.

“The story is told through the perspective of the hens and their friends on the farm. There will be costumes and puppetry, with a focus on the mission that the hens have to get their day off. The story is told through a lot of dance, narration and interaction,” says Luk.

In this production, the music is upbeat and the lyrics amusing. But A Hen-Made Tale has themes that will strike close to home for many. Are you stuck in a rut? Do you need a break? Do you feel exploited at work? How do you move away from the mundane?

After a long run of lockdowns and social isolation, this message is a refreshing one.

Lim Soon Heng's 'A Hen-Made Tale' illustrated book for children, tells a comedic tale about a group of hens who want a day off. Photo: Lim Soon HengLim Soon Heng's 'A Hen-Made Tale' illustrated book for children, tells a comedic tale about a group of hens who want a day off. Photo: Lim Soon Heng

“The pandemic was a period of following rules: maintain your social distance, wash your hands, mask your face, test yourself. Life here is serious enough, especially since the pandemic. So we need to be entertained. More so now, we need to laugh, have fun and feel free. Here is a story about hens, each laying 365 eggs over 365 days, declaring, 'How about a break?'” says Lim.

He is quick to add, however, that it is not set to a preachy tune and you really can take whatever you want from it.

“We are not dishing out morals, nothing about this-I-know-to-be-true, or this-is-the-right-behavior, although ‘takeaways’ are likely there for the picking. Most importantly for us is that the audience is entertained, is tempted to get up and dance along with the performers and then leave delighted. And maybe after the show, to step into a store to purchase a hand-made hen!” he adds.

Luk is on the same page, agreeing that the audience should leave feeling happy, singing to the melodies and tapping their feet.

“It is a good time to sit back and not overthink the story. The hens want a day off, and so do we in real life. It is nice to think of how we should sometimes relax and give ourselves the break we deserve from our routine life. I hope it helps the audience to appreciate the little things in life. There are so many things we should be grateful for, and the story helps us smile while we appreciate everything we have,” says Luk.

The line-up in 'A Hen-Made Tale, The Musical' (from left): Nave VJ, Zickry Yusoff, Jamie Tan, Sabrina Hassan and Megan Chng. Photo: KLSP  The line-up in 'A Hen-Made Tale, The Musical' (from left): Nave VJ, Zickry Yusoff, Jamie Tan, Sabrina Hassan and Megan Chng. Photo: KLSP

Lim’s A Hen-Made Tale book was written with children in mind, but it is clear that it also resonates with adults.

Reflecting the story’s wide readership appeal, the musical, too, is fun for the whole family.

Ever the realist, Lim notes that a performance targeted at children must have elements to engage the adults - the gate-keepers who buy the tickets, provide the transportation and chaperone the young ones at the event.

“So for the adults, we have provided some 'hen-tertainment' too. For instance, if hens get a holiday, what would be their ‘eggspectations’? What would they want to do? A feather trim? Work on their penmanship, because presently, it’s only fowl scratches?”

Lim is obviously in a "punny" mood.

“There’s lots of puns and wordplay that may be painfully corny but in context, they can evoke laughter. We are still trying to work in, 'Why did the chicken cross the road?'” he says with a laugh.

‘A Hen-Made Tale, The Musical’ is on at Nero Event Space at PJPAC on April 1. More info here.

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