Lao Jiu: The Musical staged by The Theatre Practice is running from July 12 to 29 at the Drama Centre Theatre as part of this year's Kuo Pao Kun Festival.
Lao Jiu premiered in 1990 as a play, and in 2005 as a musical. It tells the tale of Lao Jiu (Sugie), the ninth child and only son in a family of eight girls. Lao Jiu’s sisters have menial jobs, as do their respective partners, and the sisters who are still in school are at risk of failing and not graduating. Lao Jiu, however, excels at his studies to such a degree that he’s invited by Senior Horse (Jeffrey Low) to sit for an exam in which the prize is a scholarship to university.
The whole family pins their hopes and dreams on Lao Jiu, and what starts off as attempts by the family to make his life more comfortable and his surroundings more conducive to studying well, soon turn into pressure on the poor boy, who actually harbours a secret desire: to carry on the puppetry trade his uncle (Lim Kay Siu) has taught him. Between chasing his own dreams, and societal and familial obligations, Lao Jiu’s inner turmoil is what drives the story.
Interwoven into this story is also a romantic arc, as Lao Jiu falls for Senior Horse’s assistant Junior Horse (Inch Chua). However, conflict soon arises between the two young lovers as they both struggle to make the right choices for their future.
So, how is Lao Jiu? Let me just cut to the chase: Lao Jiu is brilliant!
It is not brilliant “for a Singaporean musical”, it is brilliant period.
The pace is good, the acting is amazing, the singing is superb, the set, lighting and costumes are all wonderful, the songs are extremely catchy and melodious (courtesy of composer Eric Ng) and the creativity of the director is nothing short of astounding. I won’t spoil it, but in order to portray Lao Jiu’s inner demons and hopes, director Kuo Jian Hong seeks out rather creative ways of showing the audience exactly what Lao Jiu is going through privately.