Come experience live musical theatre in JB!

My love affair with musical theatre goes back, way back to my childhood in a musical performance in Primary School at Johor Baru’s Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus.

The poster for Lost/Found, a
musical theatre show in Johor Baru
In an all-girls school, girls will be dressed as boys and I was in the role as one of the ‘pretty maids’ singing opposite a ‘boy’ to present the song, Where Are You Going To My Pretty Maid?

While it was merely a school show, it was a life-changing experience for me, and since then live musical theatre shows have always been the ultimate joy!

Recently when Elizabeth Louis told me about Lost/Found, an English musical theatre production scheduled to be staged in Johor Baru during the first weekend of December 2019, I was absolutely thrilled!

Over the years, I was privileged to attend students’ annual performances organized by Elizabeth, Director of StageCraft, the largest Drama & Speaking Skills training center in Southern Peninsular Malaysia.

Now StageCraft Theatre Productions, the theatre arm of StageCraft, will be presenting Lost/Found, a work by acclaimed Malaysian composer, Nick Choo, in collaboration with Christopher Ling, award-winning Founder-Director of theatrethreesixty.

This is the first time for such a stylish musical theatre production to be presented in Johor Baru and I was told that this show was in fact, four mini musicals woven into one re-telling of life, love and loss, in a rollercoaster of emotions.

It was exciting that Lost/Found was really coming to JB and a quick online check turned out some interesting info about prolific Malaysian composer, musician and playwright, Nick Choo, whose original musical theatre works have been produced in Kuala Lumpur, Australia, South Korea and Singapore.

A scene from the musical theatre Lost/Found
In 2013, his original piece Dreaming Outside The Box swept eight out of 14 awards in the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre’s Short+Sweet Musical Festival, including Best Musical Director, Best Libretto, Best Composition, Best Overall Production and the Audience’s Choice Award.

For his work in the Short+Sweet Musical Fests over the years, Nick was the recipient of the inaugural Mercedes-Benz Malaysia Creative Excellence Awards in 2014.

Nick was also the composer, writer and lyricist of The Edge, which won several Boh Cameronian Arts Awards in 2014 including Best Original Script/Lyrics and Best Musical Direction.

The Edge made its Western Australia premier in May 2018 with an all-Australia cast at The Blue Room Theatre in Perth.

Nick’s work included the Boh Cemeronian Arts Awards-nominated 2015 children’s musical Zak Zebra’s African Safari which toured to South Korea for the launch of the Asian Cultural Complex that year.

An intimate setting where the audience can enjoy
an experience of the live theatre show
In 2016, Nick graduated from Murdock University in Western Australia with a Masters of Arts in Journalism, Public Relations and Creative Industries, where he continues to collaborate with his colleagues in Murdoch and in the wider Perth theatre scene with projects like 4-in-50: A Mini Musical Marathon in 2017.

This work was featured in the Perth Fringe World Festival and was even nominated for a Theatre Award.

Nick was the composer and lyricist of Alice’s Wonderland, produced and presented by Cempaka Performing Arts Company in May 2017.

This led to the Cempaka Schools being recognised by the Malaysian Book of Records as the first school to produce an original professional quality musical.

Lost/Found premiered in Kuching with sold-out shows and the shows here will be presented at the Sunway Iskandar Events Gallery, the building next to the Sunway Citrine Hub in Iskandar Puteri.

A meet-up with [Left to Right] Elizabeth Louis,
Christopher Ling and Nandang Abdul Rahman
I was in the Sunway Iskandar Events Gallery for a recent event and cannot help but wonder how the stage will be set up to showcase this musical theatre show.

To put a stop to all this wondering, I asked Elizabeth and she in turn, invited me to join her for a meeting with the show’s Artistic Director, Chris Ling, so that I can quiz him myself.

Meanwhile an online search on Chris Ling uncovered yet another impressive dossier.

Chris, the co-founder and Artistic Director of Malaysian theatre collective, theatrethreesixty was trained in Drama and Theatre Arts at Middlesex University, UK and with the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain.

His theatre productions which made their debut in KL, have also toured to Singapore and London.

Chris Ling, speaking with animation
In 2009, Chris was recognised by the Anugerah Seni Negara, Young Talent Award for Theatre Directing and in 2012, he received the Boh Cameronian Arts Award for Best Direction (Musical Theatre).

His directing credits included the Malaysian premiers of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Duncan Macmillan’s Every Brilliant Thing, the 10th anniversary staging of Nick Choo’s musical, The Edge, and the recent 16th Boh Cameronian Arts Awards ceremony.

When I met with Chris, Elizabeth and her sister Anne, they were with co-founder and Executive Producer of theatrethreesixty, Nandang Abdul Rahman, better known as Nan.

Our conversation topics in the next two hours ranged from arts awareness in schools, how performing arts should be integrated into the school syllabus, the parents’ role in exposing their children to the arts, to changing the mindset because art is for everyone!

We also talked about the talents, skills and job opportunities in the industry that not only needed actors but also a host of responsibilities backstage and at the front of the house.

The affable Chris did not hesitate to share about his own foray into the performing arts when he was at the tender age of 13. This self-confessed Teacher’s Pet fondly remembers being given the opportunity to direct a school play.

His father helped him write a 15 to 20-minute script with a moral to the story entitled, Boh Chai See (Hokkien dialect) loosely translated as, The Man Who Was Not Afraid To Die.

An interesting and informative time with two co-founders
of theatrethreesixty and Elizabeth Louis
Since his directing debut in Form One, Chris was bitten by the proverbial live-theatre-bug and as he worked with professionals who came to mentor and advise them on their school performing arts projects, his passion for the arts was ignited.

Every year, he was involved in his school’s arts projects, performances for competitions, right up to when he was in university.

Chris then shared with us, a behind-the-scenes chat with the talented cast of Lost/Found, Tria Aziz, Alia Kearny, Gabriel Tham and Natalie Makulin, to discover what the words, “Lost, Searching and Found” mean to them and prepare them for their roles.

To start the ball rolling, he shared his own childhood experience of being lost in Jaya Supermarket. He remembered being found by kindly people who placed him on the counter (near the cigarettes display) to wait for his parents to claim him.

Another traumatizing childhood experience was with his parents in Metrojaya when it was late, almost closing time.

When young Chris heard the Thank You announcement to shoppers, informing that the store would be closing soon, he was overcome by the feeling of panic and abandonment and rushed his parents to leave immediately or risk being locked in!

Live music performance by violin virtuoso, Andrea Sim
Everyone may have their own experiences in being lost or found and the Lost/Found musical theatre show aims to engage the audience with the bittersweet, honest and poignant portrayals in the performances and evoke life-changing responses.

The audience should easily identify with the human stories shared in Lost/Found about the four young people who are trying to find themselves. In the process, they are left wondering whether in order to find, they must first lose themselves…

When Chris explained that Nick had given him the freedom to deconstruct his script and reconceptualize it with a refreshed staging, I’m more than eager to have my own experience of Lost/Found in its first showing in JB.

In fact, the composer himself, Nick will be playing the keyboards for this performance and will be accompanied by violin virtuoso, Andrea Sim.

Elizabeth was pleased that some corporations have exercised their Corporate Social Responsibility by buying tickets in bulk for students to experience this show.

And yes, I did not forget to find out about the stage setup; Nan scrolled through the visuals stored in his smartphone and showed the stage layout to me.

It will be an intimate setting where the audience cannot miss a thing in this live musical theatre show…

Daily shows are at 8pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Dec 6, 7 and 8, with a matinee at 3pm on Sunday, Dec 8.

Ticket price at RM75 only with Senior and Student rate at RM60 only.

One Adult chaperone ticket comes Complimentary for every 10 Student tickets purchased in a single school booking.

On Saturday, Dec 7, a Musical Theatre Workshop will be conducted by Chris from 2pm to 6pm at RM100 per person. This workshop will involve instruction and application in Acting, Singing and Dancing.

For tickets and enquiries, Tel: +6017 – 783 5700.

For a peek into the live musical theatre performances, check out these snippets:

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