Wednesday, 30 July 2008

The Edge: Wouldn't Think Twice To Intercede

Hi boys and girls! Here's another video clip, sung by the characters April (Sheryl Chong) and Michael (Ho Soon Yoon) to the nonexistent character Josh. I've deleted some of the dialogue from the scene so as to make the clip more concise. In case you can't make it out, towards the end of the clip, Josh is witnessed stealing money from a workplace cash register, and April tells him off while Michael reflects on how Josh gets away with everything...

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

The Edge: Performance Selections #3, plus Video Clip #1: Many Factors Here At Play

Hi all. Nick's a little bit bummed... post-production blues, arf. Didn't do much all of yesterday (Monday); basically enjoyed time about the house, savouring the silence of non-music (heh!), walking the doggies, having quiet mealtimes. It's been quite nice, if not for the touch of melancholy that inevitably sets in after a show. Unfortunately I've not got anything immediate to move on to; I mean, I don't have another production lined up that I can immediately delve into, and I don't start work until Friday... so... yeah. Savour it while it lasts, I suppose!

Anyway, just to keep the momentum going, here is a selection of more pics from the performances, plus a bonus treat: a video clip of one of the song/scenes from the show!! Whoohooo!! Pics first, courtesy of Sam Tseu (who played Ryan, second last pic below):

And now the video clip, a performance of Many Factors Here At Play, sung by Lilly, the mother of the suicidal boy, played by the faaabulous Zalina Lee. It's not "complete" as it flows into other melodies continuously, but it should provide you with enough to know the power of this woman's voice, as well as the style of the show.

Not a dry eye in the house, let me tell you that. Not a dry eye.



Bye for now!! ;)

Monday, 28 July 2008

Seventh Seats & Sixth Sense (plus True Quote #17)

By the way, remember my friend Nick who sees dead people? Check out the link if you don't, though I don't actually say very much about it there. Bottom line is, my friend "Scary" Nick (as he is called) has always been able to see thingies that none of the rest of us do - almost like Ghost Whisperer, though he doesn't necessarily help 'em get anywhere (and nor, he says, do they necessarily want to be helped). This makes, as you might imagine, for some very interesting conversations... and not just with people. Eeeks.

Anyway. He, Terry, Debs and Phaik Leng were at Saturday night's show; and in the show, the way the performance space is arranged is there are seven chairs in formation, six of which are occupied by the cast, the seventh of which is meant to be taken by the suicidal boy Josh, who is referred to but never seen throughout. Here's a peek at what I mean:

So at one point, Scary Nick came up to me, pointed at the empty chair and asked, "Who sits there? Josh?" To which I blinked, looked at him nervously, and replied, "Um. Yes. Why, you're not seeing anyone there right now, are you?"

Cue uproarious laughter from the nonexistent audience in my mind.

Okay, okay, this story is a heck of a lot funnier in context, and also if you knew that kinds of stories that Scary Nick has told us, thanks to his supernatural sight. (And for the naysayers out there: it's true. We believe it, even if you don't. Nyaaah-nyaaah.) Whatever the case, my response to Scary Nick's question? - best quote of the week. Period. Yes siree billy-bob, believe you me.

Okay, buh bye.

The Edge: Performance Selections #2

Monday, and it's over. For now. The show has run its final workshop performance, and we've cleared out the performance space and had our cast party (due to which I'm severely tipsy and kinda heavy-headed right now, so this post is going to be really rather brief). I'll blog more later in the day (assuming I'm not too hungover, oy vey)... but for now, I'm going to leave you with more performance pics. Special thanks to Justin Tan for these shots. FYI, there are a ton of pics, and a whole bunch of video footage for me to go through, but rest assured there'll be videos put up on this blog very, very soon, don't you worry!! In the meantime, enjoy these photos. :)

Sunday, 27 July 2008

The Edge: Performance Selections #1

Shoddy photo-taking of The Edge cast, by yours truly. Pic #2, Ho Soon Yoon as Michael (left) and Samuel Tseu as Ryan; pic #3, Zalina Lee as Lilly and Michael Chen as Jarod; pic #6: Janet Lee as Deanna; pic #10, with Sheryl Chong as April.

The Edge: An Interesting Article

Here's a very interesting write-up on a website aimed at the lesbian, gay, bi and transgender community in Malaysia, I hope the writer doesn't mind that I copy-and-paste the bulk of what is written; but if you're keen on checking out the actual page, which has additional materials related to the show on it, please go ahead and do so here!

Anyway, the article:

This is not a review, it’s a heads up. My Friday night was spent in Indicine, KLPac, watching the musical workshop performance for The Edge, an upcoming musical written by Nick Choo, directed by Chris Ling.

There are no clear heroes or villains in this musical, which I liked. Just a group of interconnected people, flaws gaping wide, making mistakes and cooking up the pressure that leads to a man standing on the edge, willing to let it all go.

Watching it in Indicine was kinda cool especially with the monologues, when each character sang while a spotlight cast a long, dark shadow across the room. Almost like being left to deal with your darker side which has been made visible.

This being a workshop to get feedback, the musical is not complete yet, but the large, shiny potential is there. The cast/ crew is doing a good job so far, and I’ve seen enough to be so very hopeful on how this will turn out. The voices - holy hell, I teared at some of the scenes (as discreetly as I could, anyway).

Sometimes the characters border upon caricaturing themselves - for those familiar with Avenue Q (the internet is really really great, for porn), where Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street have their latent homosexual relationship heavily paradied, you’ll probably find some similarities between Rod (the repressed gay man) and one of the characters in The Edge (though he does get more human later). Or perhaps there is a stereotype for portraying bitchy gay men that everyone understands - one of our more modern archetypes. Or, I have a nasty habit of lumping things together under one broad generalisation. Hmm.

To me, the one person who seemed the most complex was the one who never appeared in it. The musical effectively paints a murky picture of the enigmatic man. Six people from around him start to narrate how their relationships worked, and I can see so many things about him, but more I didn’t understand. Did he really have nowhere else to go?

I have more questions, but none I want to state here (and give away the plot). I’m mentioning The Edge here because for those seeking theatre with queer characters, this is one of them. Yes, this post is here just to say - there is a gay character coming out in a Malaysian musical (not the first genderqueer one though, mind). You have only till Sunday 3pm to catch this - sorry for the very late update. Otherwise, keep a look out for The Edge, and wait for the full production.

The Edge: Reflections, Post-Show #3

Yo, all. Sunday morning, 4am, and we're up to our final show later today at 3pm! Whoohoo! Wow, it's been quite a run so far, and as you can tell, I've been too knackered to blog after each performance, LOL. But let me just tell you this: three formal shows in, and the feedback I've been receiving has been very, very positive, very encouraging. There's so much to be tweaked for next year's show, which I'm already beginning to give serious consideration to; and yet, the deal with feedback is that it's so subjective and varies from person to person, that it's difficult to gauge what should be taken on board and what shouldn't. For example, I've had people tell me the songs are complex, sophisticated and beautiful; and others have said monotonous, repetitive and tedious. What to do, what to do? Arf arf. You can't please 'em all!

I think the problem with a show like this is that it doesn't really cater to the true meaning of the word "musical". It's actually the same problem I had with Follow The Light; by all intents and purposes, FTL was an opera (99% sung through; barely any dialogue)... The Edge is, by rights, an operetta (90% sung through; minimal dialogue). And what I've done with the show is to devise all the music based on just two or three themes; in other words, the songs that make up the show are variations on just a handful of melodies, creating a "universal" sound throughout, which, unfortunately, many might consider "repetitive". I truly believe that once I put actual orchestrations in (i.e. "live" instruments), and brush up on the melodies, piano accompaniment and vocal harmonies, it's going to add so much more depth and colour to the piece. As it is right now, the piano (and fake synthesised sounds) makes the show sound a little bit on the flat side; add to that the unfortunately poor audio in the performance space, and I can't blame people for saying the music needs a little bit of a boost.

said, I've also been very pleased by some folks who have come up to me saying, "I think I get what you're doing here, with the style of the show... if that's what you're aiming for, then it works." Thank heavens that's what I am trying to do. But given the limited time we've had to develop it, perhaps it doesn't really come through all that clearly... for now. And that's where I also feel the intermission should be a no-no: it's a composition-interrupter and a momentum-killer, heh. But more on these creative-technical things some other time; right now, let's focus on the positivity at hand!!

At the end of the day, as the creator of the piece, I have to stay true to my vision; and based on this experience of workshop performances, I can already say I've learnt so much about the process, and of the importance of feedback. I think it's a very valuable tool, this whole "constructive criticism" thing. I can tell you right now that what I intend to do with the show is to make changes where I think it doesn't interfere with my overall vision of the show, while adhering to some of these critiques that would make The Edge work more effectively and enjoyably in the long run. Just to tease some of the cast and crew who I know do read this blog, here are some of what I'm already pondering on: in no particular order - the songs; the script; the characters; the casting. Yes, even the casting. How's that for a mind-phuck? Arf arf!! Roll on, February 2009!

Friday, 25 July 2008

The Edge: Opening Night

Yo all! A quick update - tonight was opening night of The Edge!! And for the most part, it went well, but as we expected, there were first-night jitters and the energy levels were 'strained', so much so that it really didn't feel as tight as yesterday's preview runthrough, and it really did feel like everyone was on the edge, bwa ha ha ha ha. But that's okay, the cast did a terrific job; I fumbled here and there every so often; and it was mostly a success, arf arf. We had the audience provide written feedback this time around, but I won't be looking at it until next week, so we'll keep going without changing too much over the next three days, heh.

Anyway, I'm gonna make this a brief post because I'm knackered and wanna go take a shower and sleep. I also left my camera with the filming and photos from the show which I'd intended to blog, so we'll just have to wait till I go back to the theatre to retrieve it. Well, until next time - wish us another breakaleg for tomorrow night... Be back soon!! xx

Thursday, 24 July 2008

The Edge: Preview Performance Pics

As usual, click for bigger views ok!! Special thanks to Janet and Mikey!

My kozy little keyboard korner!

Lovely shot of the wonderfully talented cast

The real casualties of
The Edge: our director and stage manager...

The Edge Eve: Preview Performance!

Hey folks! Whew! Today's the day! Well, actually, it's 220am Thursday morning now, but tonight... in about 18 hours' time, will be the opening of the workshop-production run of The Edge!!! Woooooot!!! Earlier tonight we had our first complete run before a specially-invited audience of young performers and some other guests, and I'm so happy to say it was a success!! The cast acted their guts out with gusto; the music wasn't an entire mess; the singing was top-notch; and one performer in particular blew her role away by giving it 110% - that little extra that made her character just work to marvellous proportions!! The audience laughed; they gasped; they went "awwww"; they cried. And the best part?? Apparently, they actually managed to follow the rather convoluted plotline, with all its time shifts! Yaay!! I'm very happy!!

Some very fascinating observations. First off, Act One, which had always seemed rather long to me, went by surprisingly quickly and surprisingly tight tonight, which is wonderful. Then there's the amount of dropped/missed lines by the cast (bwa ha ha ha!!) and the improvisations they had to do to make up for it... quite terrifying and hilarious, both at once! But they did a terrific job, these guys and gals, and I don't the audience barely noticed there were little bloopers. Bloopettes. At one point (spoiler alert!) during the gay character Ryan's song, one audience-member gasped out loud audibly in realisation that he was gay, prompting the other members of the audience to laugh out loud and tease her. This in turn had the effect of making yours truly go "what's going on??", throwing us off concentrationwise... but we got through it, and lo and behold, the gay boy Ryan is much beloved. Actually, from what I can tell, everyone was much beloved. Awesome.

After the performance we had a Q&A with the guests, where people had very good things to say about the show, which I'm very thankful for. We all got to speak (the director, the cast and yours truly) on what we thought about the process and progress of the show. There were a couple of minor criticisms, nothing that can't be fixed; but all in all, the feedback was very, very encouraging, and many of them are looking forward to seeing the show again and/or in its capacity as a full-fledged production (now scheduled for February 2009; mark your calendars, boys and girls!!). Of course, these audience-members are a young crowd of theatre enthusiasts; without intending to belittle their presence and contribution, the real challenge will be seeing what happens before a "real" crowd on opening night tonight. God help us all!!!!

Anyway, I'm going to end this right here because, as usual, I'm rather drained (though less so than during the audience-less rehearsals; it's true what they say about us feeding off the crowd's energy); but before I go, I want to say thank you to the cast and crew of The Edge, and utter that timeless cliche of opening nights: break a leg. Just... not literally. Arf. And just as a special thank you to all you wonderful folks who've been reading this blog faithfully all these days, months and years, here's a special video of the cast, filmed tonight. It's really an exercise in pointlessness, but heck, it's kinda funny anyway. I'll be back to blog about our first performance, post-performance tonight!!! Until then.... ;)))

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

The Edge Eve Eve... Plus: Return of the Native & Dad's New Toy

Yo! I'm back! Another day, another run through, another exhausted Nick! For some reason today I'm even more tired than usual. Could be because I'd woken up "early" (11am, okay, fine, but it's early for me!) and began experimenting on my keyboard at about 4pm before commencing rehearsals which led us all the way up to 1030pm. Yes, that could be it. Six and a half hours of almost non-stop playing can do that to a person. By scene three or four in the show, I was like, "Man, is this over yet??" Arf arf. But it's all going very well, I think, and we've managed to almost resolve some audio issues (from mono to stereo! that usually helps!) Tomorrow we're doing our final rehearsal with a specially invited preview audience, so that oughta be pretty exciting/scary!!

Going back a little bit. Yesterday was pretty cool. First off, I finally met up with my old friend JJ, who, if you clicked on the link in the previous post, had gone "missing" since my return to Malaysia two years ago. Y'see, JJ had run off to Cambodia and had found a job working at a hotel there, where he's still at. But now he's come back for a brief holiday, and we've manage to catch up, and all is well with the world again. Yay! He dropped by my house to visit my Mum, who hugged him and then promptly told him off. Good times.

The other thing I was gonna mention is my Dad's new toy, which he brought home yesterday. It's a new car!! A Toyota Corolla Altis! Yup, a couple of months ago, Dad spontaneously said, "Let's get a new car", and lo and behold, much to my own surprise, he actually did it. Now we've got three cars in the house - the older Proton and my MyVi, plus the newbie - and only two drivers. Heh. Go figure. Meanwhile, the Altis is two days old and all it's done is sit in the porch, away from the roads. Oy vey. That's what happens when you have two other cars at your disposal... :P

Anyhoo, here's the proper promotional shot of the Altis:

...and this is our little latest addition the family, parked stationary under the aforementioned porch:

Whooohoooo!! I can't wait to get behind the wheel!! Now all I need is to convince them to let me!! Arf arf!!

Anyway, that's it for this post. Until next time... ;))

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Week of The Edge

Jeez, has time flown or what! We're in the performance space already this week, and we open the run of workshop performances on Thursday, goodness gracious me!! Today I lugged that huge, heavy keyboard into the IndiCine @ KLpac and we set it up and tried doing a full run. Exhausting but it's looking quite good, I reckon!! And rather whole too, considering it's a work in progress! Anyway wish us luck. I'd type more, but I'm exhausted, arf arf!! I'll update in the day (it's 2am now). In the meanwhile, go preoccupy yourselves with the new season of Stargate Atlantis, starring new regular Robert Picardo. Yup, that was a totally random Atlantis plug. Heh. Ooooooo incidentally, among the highlights of my Monday were the return of an old friend who'd gone "missing", as well as Dad's new toy. More later... ;)

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The Edge: The Greatest Measure (Again)!

All righty, folks, here's another sneak preview from The Edge!! It's a familiar song as I've posted up various incarnations of it on this blog previously (such as here and here!), but this was filmed just last night (Tuesday) at rehearsal. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

The Edge: Important Runthru & Love Duet Clip

Hello folks. Well, it's 230am on Tuesday morning, and I'm blogging because... well... I can't be bothered going to bed just yet, hahaha. On Monday I had a day off from The Edge because, well, honestly, I'm still quite tired. Not of the show, but by the show, lol!! I mean, it's totally draining when your brain thinks about one thing all the time... and unfortunately, my brain has been going edgeedgeedgeEDGEEDGEEDGEEDGE!!! all day, every day, for the past couple of months, arf arf. It's so interesting, of course, to see how this material has developed, and how our talented cast has brought it to life... though it can be very frustrating when the 'scenes' in my head don't turn out the way they do on the actual stage. (Here's where smartypants can go, "Then why don't you tell them what you want so you can achieve on stage what you see in your head?" To which I smugly reply, "You've got a point there. Now bite me.") Arf.

So what's new? Well, for those who haven't noticed, I've tweaked the sidebar on the right of this blog to include the Edge poster and links, as well as added my Peanuts collection and edited the telly section... though that's largely irrelevant with anything, LOL. On Sunday we did an important runthrough, where we performed in front of one of the important persons at KLPac. I hope our presentation was enjoyed, though I fear that it was a tad messy, what with me playing on my keyboard (the huge, heavy expensive one, lugged all the way from home!) and being unable to really gauge the levels of the sound as the speakers were far away from me; versus my lack of sleep and the lack of food in our tummies!! Still, all in all it's looking quite... interesting, hahahaha!! Chris, our director, has been working with the cast on the blocking - i.e. where to stand, how to emote, etc - and so it's getting along. We've got about 10 days to the presentation of our workshop performance, and that's a key phrase I still gotta remember: workshop performance. We don't need perfection. We just need... um... performance. Arf arf arf.

This morning (well, yesterday, really...) I woke up at 945ish after going to bed at 5am-ish... because I had to rethink some of the scenes etc for the show. It's amazing how much I tell myself to stop working on the script, you need a cutoff point!! - but I inevitably come home and make changes anyway. I think the poor cast must be gnashing their teeth. Actually, they are. Oy vey.

Meanwhile, the director has made one major change that I'd never intended for the show: there's now going to be a fifteen-minute interval, when I actually wanted the musical to just be consumed in one sitting. Unfortunately, it's running at about an hour and fifty minutes, so I think the decision to have an intermission is called for. The downside, of course, is that the show becomes unbalanced lengthwise, with two parts of unequal length - about 75 minutes for the first part and 30 minutes for the second - so today I've gone and revised the script even further to shift one of the Act I scenes into Act II. Fortunately, the show depends a lot on time-shifts, flash-forwards and flashbacks, so shifting an entire scene into the second half wasn't all that difficult. Whew.

Finally, as a very special reward for those who've read this post all the way to this point, here's a sneak peek at a rehearsal in progress, a duet by two of the characters, though they aren't singing to each other. It's a murky little shot made murkier by effects I decided to add on just for the heck of it... and the sound isn't the best, but hopefully you'll be able to hear it well enough to appreciate the potential of the moment. (That was a murky sentence, too!!) Incidentally I don't know if our director would approve of sneak-peak shots being posted on my blog, but, like I always tell people who get worried about me putting stuff up here: not many people read this blog. The truth or otherwise is debatable - but the point remains. Okay, here's the clip. Enjoy!!!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Life In Cartoon Motion

Hey everyone. Wow, I'm having a spin-out moment. I'm looking through the years and years of cartoons that I've created, from the below-posted 6 or 7 years old all the way to as recent as 2004 (I've stopped cartooning since coming back to Malaysia from Aussieland), and it just... I don't know, it makes me wonder why I've halted (though I suspect it's only a temporary thing!)... and it also confirms something I've known for a very long time: that Neek (that's me) is a little bit crazy. Bwa ha ha ha ha ha!! I mean, I think you've got to be when at age 13 you're churning out things like this:

...inspired, of course, by the popular Lemmings computer game that was emerging at the time. Arf.

But really, it's the earlier stuff that really got me going, "Whoa, what the phuck!" Here are some scans... not all of 'em are totally legible, but I think it gives you a little insight into what was going on in my mind at the time of conceiving these ideas. (Sorry I'm being a little self-absorbed at the moment; but then again, what better place to do it, no?) ;))

Let's start with this cover, dated February 1990... innocuous enough! I was the star of my own comic book at 10, LOL!!

But not too long after, some dark creepy things began to happen with my mind!! Aiieee! Check out the messy comic below, you'll find it includes piranhas and black widow spiders... and a character who gets bitten by a black widow and turns spidery himself. What the hell??? 1991... I was 11 then. Shriek.

And it just gets ickier. Check out this one, also when I was 11. I wrote and drew this comic with a schoolmate Ed, and I think we tried to sell it to friends. As far as I can tell, some people did buy it, though for the life of me I dunno why, hahaha!! Anyway this one is "gory" by 11-year-old comic-book standards, so here we go, proceed with caution:

Ah, but it wasn't all dark, thankfully! In 1993, at 13, we had to do sketches to accompany Bible passages for Sunday School-like lessons in school. I think these are probably among some of the funniest sketches I've ever done:

And as the years went by, I like to think we are able to see the development of my cartooning style. From 1994:

...and 1995 (okay, the style here is less restrained than the one above):

...right through the late Nineties (which I'm skipping for now) and into the Noughties: from 2000 and 2001:

And one of the 'latest' I ever drew, back in 2004 in Perth:

Finally, I've kept this example from 1996 for last because I simply can't remember what the premise of the story was, and in fact I hardly remember drawing it... and yet, reading it, it sounds like a very mature, adult-oriented plot that could've also been the basis of a sitcom. I don't remember a title, nor do I recall going past these three panels, so it's piqued my curiosity more than anything as to what I had intended to do with it. Sorry if the cartoon is pretty hard to read due to the small lettering (in the enlarged version, I mean):

Well, I hope you've enjoyed that little journey through time with me. I'll come back and post more scans up soon; but in the meantime, I feel that despite the awesomeness (of the discovery) of these sketches, the sequence that takes the cake is still the one in the post directly below this one: The Little Duckling. So if you haven't had a chance to read it yet, I'll stop here so you can scroll downwards and check it out. I promise you you'll laugh, hehehe. Okay, people! Until next time... here's Nick signing off and thinking of new cartoon ideas for the future, refreshed and re-inspired by these little revelations. It's not over, folks. Not by a long shot. ;))) ~N