Back in the 1960s, where did Bangkok's fashionistas and trendy teenagers go to be seen?
Powerhouse songstress Maneenuch Smerasut, centre, returns to the stage as grandma Rose.
Compared to today's Siam Square, Wang Burapha was the hippest place for shopping. The first Central store was there, and theatre-goers enjoyed shows at Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre.
Modish young men who hung out around Wang Burapha in those days were referred to as Koh Lang Wang, (roughly, "dudes behind Wang"), and the term later came to signify the period and its pop-cultural artefacts. It also became the title of a series of concerts held annually at Sala Chalermkrung since the mid-1990s.
The concert, which still takes place, is the event of the year for fans of 60s and 70s Western music. But here's the latest twist: Premiering tomorrow, the 2012 version of a Koh Lang Wang gig has been transformed into a musical that takes the audience back to the good old days to relish hits, from Johnny Tillotson's Dreamy Eyes and Nat King Cole's Answer Me My Love to Bobby Rydell's Sway and The Beatles' Twist And Shout.
Weeradon ‘Mac’ Wangcharoenporn and Nattapat ‘Pui Fai’ Wipatkorntragoon are rehearsing hard to deliver golden oldies for tomorrow’s premiere of the musical.
"No longer can you hear these golden oldies on the radio. And nowhere else in Thailand can you enjoy them sung live on stage except by coming to see a Koh Lang Wang concert, which is an awaited event for Koh, including me. Turning it into a musical makes it even more entertaining," said respected composer Wirat U-Tawaughn, who as a teenager frequented Wang Burapha and as a member of the Silver Sand band performed at Sala Chalermkrung.
Titled Ruk Nee Khue Nirand (meaning "this love lasts forever"), the musical has Wirat overseeing vocal performances and conducting the 19-piece Chalermraj band. From over 200 songs, around 27 were selected for the show.
"Right from the debut concert, Koh Lang Wang was a big success. Over the years, it has attracted loyal fans, and this musical production also targets a younger audience," said Pradit Somdungjait, the show's creative director.
"We want to share the timeless songs with the new generation. The cast include actors in their 20s, and they have been rehearsing hard to deliver the golden oldies to their generation as well as the senior audience."
The songs are mostly presented in the original style, but some numbers, such as When I Fall In Love, have been rearranged with a contemporary flavour.
"We picked Love Is A Many Splendored Thing as the theme song because it relates to the title Ruk Nee Khue Nirand," Pradit said. "Love, however, doesn't merely mean romantic love but also friendship and love within the family, which are reflected in the musical."
The story alternates between the present and the past as the protagonist, Rose, recalls her teenage years when two Koh Lang Wang, Jim and John, tried to win her heart while her good friend, James, helped her handle them. She shares her lessons in life and love with her daughter-in-law and granddaughter.
Veteran songstress Maneenuch Smerasut portrays the 67-year-old grandma Rose, while Nattapat 'Pui Fai' Wipatkorntragoon plays the teenage heroine.
Pui Fai got her big break on the fourth season of the 24-hour reality show True Academy Fantasia (AF). Joining her in the musical are AF's Methus 'Jack' Treerattanawareesin, Rachphol 'Music' Yamsaeng and Weeradon 'Mac' Wangcharoenporn, who respectively play Jim, John and James.
"I wasn't familiar with songs from the 60s and 70s before taking on this role. Even with simple melodies and lyrics, the ballads can deeply express feelings, while the catchy numbers are really fun to sing," said the 25-year-old actress, whose vocal performances include End Of The World, Twist And Shout, and Stupid Cupid. Mac's song list includes The Young Ones, Answer Me, My Love and Walking My Baby Back Home.
"They are songs my parents listened to when they were young," said the 26-year-old heart-throb, who has also starred in the Thai version of The Coffee Prince.
"Singing these songs and performing this musical makes me want to hop on a time machine and go back to the 1960s. It would be so cool to be a Koh Lang Wang."
About the author
- Writer: Kanokporn Chanasongkram