The musical comedy Lumsing Singer has everything one would expect in feel-good theatre, from famous and talented stars to comical gags and sentimental moments that would make you laugh and probably cry. However the unpredictable plot, weak conflicts and logical flaws _ which are pretty conspicuous _ unfortunately barred the show from reaching any sort of zenith.
The crowd were keen to see the stars in Lumsing Singer . Above, Chantawit Thanasewee and Panisara ‘Opal’ Phimpru. Below left, Nantida Kaewbuasai and Khemanit ‘Pancake’ Jamikorn.
Opening over Christmas, Lumsing revolves around a dreamy girl in 1996 (err, why?) who wants to make it big in the molam scene, a genre of Thai Isan folk song. But her mother despises the profession as the girl's father failed to pull it off before (this is not a spoiler since it is revealed in the first act).
Anyway, the girl succeeds, without a clear reason as to how, so she has to lie to her mother until the day her band is set to play in her home village. Then the show becomes a series of comical cover-up plans, fluke discoveries, with a love triangle and other melodramatic elements.
While the first act aims to lay down the background and set up some conflicts, the second act is filled with comedy and all-too-easy solutions that blaze a path towards a happy ending.
If you think this sounds like an amateurish storyline from a high school or university production, you've hit the bullseye. The comedy is a remake of the 2003 student play from the Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University. As a university production, it was, and still is, viewed as a show of rare quality.
In fact, two popular actors, Chantawit "Ter" Thanasewee and actress/emcee Panisara "Opal" Phimpru, have returned to the same roles that made them popular while students, and later pushed them into the movie industry. They are surely talented and confident on the stage, which explains why they have arrived where they are now in showbiz. Still their characters _ Chantawit as an assistant district offer caught between love and duty, and scene stealer Panis as self-indulgent, self-delusional Noi Na who turned idiotic because she accidentally banged herself on the head _ are invented for the sake of a love triangle which hardly affects the main plot.
It is a sure-fire formula to cast famous stars such as Khemanit "Pancake" Jamikorn as the lead, Nantida Kaewbuasai as the mother who can't leave the past behind, Direk Amattayakul as an abusive yet funny band manager, and Sunny U-four as the band's big mama. The number of die-hard fans these stars alone can draw should be enough to guarantee good ticket sales. While Pancake struggles a bit to sing to convince the audience that she is a molam singer, she showed that she was keen on theatrical performance. Nantida performed only one emotional solo, but she can command the stage. Still, it is their star power, not really their characters, that keeps the audience glued.
With musical theatre reaching great heights last year with at least 12 productions made, GTH is promoting the show as its first theatrical production. And if this implies that there are more to come, GTH needs to take this line of business as seriously as its movies.
After Nanthida had an accident within a few days of the opening, the company cancelled four shows: this coming Sunday, and Jan 8, 10 and 13. GTH could have dealt with this sheer bad luck more professionally. Where is her understudy? Second, a meatier, more logical script could have lifted the quality of the production.
Nothing is wrong with reviving a university show, but a revival in a full-scale production requires much more than recycling an amateurish script filled with in-jokes that were probably funny in 1996 or 2003. It is quite lazy to follow the long-held tradition of the faculty's student theatre where a male lead usually represents an idealistic gentleman, a female lead has dreams but eventually yields to love, and both are usually caught in a tangled romance or family conflicts which are later resolved easily in a few lines or scenes.
The rewritten script by the GTH creative team, consisting of the faculty alumni, could have gone beyond rural characters, usually portrayed as naive and chirpy _ as we've seen in many GTH movies. Honestly, Lumsing had the potential to become a good comedy if the writers dug deeper into Isan village culture, molam, and human connections through the love of music. After all, a performance is not just about putting a star cast together with a bit of stage spectacle and gags.
Given the great resources at its disposal, GTH could become a new player in theatreland. If only there is continuity and quality scripts, GTH could definitely create entertaining productions for theatre-goers. The question is when will GTH wake up from its university dreams and take theatre seriously.
Lumsing Singer will be performed tomorrow, Saturday and Jan 11 and 12 at Muang Thai Ratchadalai Theatre, Esplanade. Tickets cost 500 to 2,500 baht and are available at thaiticketmajor.com. For information, call 02-262-3456.
About the author
- Writer: Alongkorn Parivudhiphongs