Who were those masked Merry-Makers? Ball welcomes 2013

Costumed guests and performers added excitement and mystery to the New Year's Eve gala at the Dusit Thani Hua Hin, and the masquerade was lent a special magic by an onstage marriage proposal from a man who wasn't pretending

There were Phantoms and Spidermen and Venetian-style full masks and sequins and feathers galore as costumed men, women and children made their way into the lobby of the Dusit Thani Hua Hin for the New Year countdown party.

Srisalai Suchartvudhi, Sarun Kungbunpot and Paulpiwat Na Songkhla with the host, Victor Sukseree.

Titled "Starlight Masquerade", the event follows on an ever expanding series of themed parties created by the hotel's genial general manager, Victor Sukseree, known for the evening as the Master of the Masks.

Loyal Thai guests joined a long list of equally loyal foreign guests who flew in _ just as they have done for the past 20 years _ for the festive occasion. Pretty soon it was hard to tell who was who, except for the Master of the Masks, who remarked that he felt rather disappointed that he was greeted by a chorus of "Good evening Khun Victor" as soon as he stepped into the lobby area. What he didn't realise is that, although his face was covered by a mask, he was easily distinguishable by his dramatic outfit _ the first of many changes through the evening.

With the cocktails having set the mood for the evening, guests were ushered to the spacious lawn where endless buffet tables had been set up on three sides, and an enormous stage with a mask-themed backdrop designed by Ritirong Jiwakanon on the fourth. The Maestro (Kittikhun Sodprasert) and his Masquerade Minstrels from the Royal Symphony Orchestra provided a musical background for the early part of the evening, while guest singers took turns entertaining, namely Sakol Suchatvudhi, Viruj Sarobol, Issariya Khooprasert, Pibul Chaengsawang, Denis Ng (who also took volunteers through a new dance step), Sirinporn Vessarojkit, Alongkorn Sirimahawero and Arthur Panyachote.

This was followed by a special performance from the Masquerade Ensemble, normally known as the Resonance a capella singers whose unique renditions of well-known songs always get guests singing along and applauding loudly.

By the Maestro's Command was a performance by special guests singers, notably Thai diva Srisalai Suchartvudhi, Sarun Kungbunpot and the angelic young Paul, or Paulpiwat Na Songkhla, finalist in the reality show The Trainer Season 4. Each had such a unique voice, yet they all managed to combine their talents into a mesmerising programme.

The highlight of the New Year countdown was a performance by the Dusit Resident Acting Group, made up of hotel staff as well as student trainees and led by a handful of professional dancers, and choreographed by Suteesak Pakdeeteva. The performance combined a medley of songs linked to masks and masquerades, such as Phantom of the Opera and Mask of Zorro.

Sarah Huang was announced as the winner of the Best Mask contest, with her gold full face mask offset by a flowing red velvet robe over a white gown.

Stealing the scene _ to the delight of the guests at the dinner _ was a live on-stage proposal by Christoffer William Groves to his girlfriend Claudia Pongwattana, in a well-rehearsed speech proffering his love to the beautiful young lady who, as was expected, said "Yes" to loud applause and whistles from the audience. What a romantic way to end the year!

To prepare for the countdown, guests were invited to move from the lawn to the lagoon, where a special khon masked dance performance was enacted, with boats replacing chariots, and dancers executing their difficult poses on the surface of the water (a platform just below the surface helped create the illusion).

The chimes of Big Ben announced the arrival of the new year, marked by a colourful fireworks display.

Door prizes and dancing ensued, and those who didn't feel like sleeping continued their merry-making at the Polo Bar long after the party ended.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Usnisa Sukhsvasti
Position: Features Editor