Monday, 29 December 2008

Counting My Blessings

Hello folks. Well, life's back to "normal", and it's a couple of days till New Year's. 2008 has been quite a year indeed... a year of changes, accomplishments, and thankfully more ups than downs. Today I decided to look back on some of the things that have come my way this year, and, while not intending to make this a totally self-absorbed blog post (cue someone remarking that this blog has always been totally self-absorbed), here in chronological order are the things I am proud of in 2008:
Gawsh. Looking back, I think that's quite a number of decisions and accomplishments. Next year, I'm going to keep on working hard at what I love to do best (i.e. the music and theatre stuff), while learning not to overcommit to the point of exhaustion. A good rule of thumb in general for everybody, heh. Roll on 2009!!

A Christmas Closing

Aaaand it's over, boys and girls. Weeks of rehearsals, fourteen performances, and far too many drinks later, and the show has officially come to a close. I'll type more later today... but this is just me heaving a bittersweet sigh, of both sadness and joy, crestfallen and relieved. And I leave you with a pic of the cast and musicians (I'm in there somewhere, click for bigger view), taken after the final show. More pics and ponderings to come, folks!! Don't go away!! ;)

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Bloody Drinks!

Whooohoo. 5:15am, and I've just got home from a night of drinking after the third last show of the season (and, hopefully, for good!). Had a blast, hanging out with the cast and crew, firstly at The George & Dragon (sic) @ Bangsar, and then at the McDonalds, where Zal (heeeey Zallll) treated me to a double beef Prosperity Burger that I barely remember consuming. Heh. Came home and damn near ripped off an entire fingernail stuffing my keyboard into the trunk of my car. What a bloody mess. Literally. Still, it was fun. The evening ended with some slow sobriety outside the McD's, with just me, Zal, Bella, Mikey and Bryan. Can't really remember what we talked about, but I remember a cockroach running up the front of my shirt and me going "Ooo look there's a cockroach running up the front of my shirt." And now I'm in bed, typing sideways,trying to avoid typos and staining the keys with a bloodied finger, thinking how it's 5:15am, and I've just got home from a night of drinking after the third last show of the season (and, hopefully, for good!)....

Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmastime! Thistlemoe and Whine!

Yo all. Happy boxing day, heh. It's been a pretty good Christmas, what with the matinee show and then the post-performance Christmas party with the cast and crew. Shame I had to run off to join my family for Christmas dinner, during which, as usual, my brother acted like a big baby and pretty much ruined the festive mood just because my dad chose to take us to a Chinese restaurant and not a Western buffet. Which inevitably left me feeling like Scrooge: "Christmas?? Bah! Humbug!!" Not for the first time, I thought of the old saying, Friends are the family you choose. **grrr** But whatever. Moving on.

The party with the Christmas Carol cast-crew was a lot of fun, with friends, food and booze (of course!!) galore. There was Christmas turkey, but no Christmas ham, dammit! Memories of Perth (ah, back when I was thin, *grumbles*)! And last year's Christmas dinner in Singypoo @ the hotel! ;)) And we've got three more shows to go... after which I never have to see these bunch of people ever again! BWAAA HAAA HAAA!!!! ;)))

Not many pressies this year, though I'm fond of the Christmas stocking one of my castmates gave me, arf. And we had a Secret Santa gift-swapping session during the party, wherein I received — much to the amusement and envy of others (heh!) — a cheque for fifty bucks by a mate who hadn't had time to go shopping. Hey, call it an impersonal gift, but *I* like it, and as far as being impersonal goes... well, it's now got my name on it! :P Thanks, A!!

Oh well. It's 5:55am and for some reason I woke up and don't feel sleepy enough to go back to bed just yet... so I thought I'd put up some pics, courtesy of my friends from the show. Enjoy, and hope you've had a wonderful Christmas!! x

At a pub after one of the shows

I love this shot: the orchestra, during one of the performances

To quote my lovely friend Bella who took this pic: "The orchestra, without whom we all sound like frogs."

With some cast and crew in costume

Christmas party. Doesn't the background look like a stage backdrop?

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The Existential Angst of a certain Jon Arbuckle

My colleague Zed has introduced me to what has to be the most fascinating, funny and heartbreaking comic strip I've encountered in a long time.... Garfield.

you ask? Garfield, I reply. Or, to put it more accurately, Garfield... minus Garfield. It's a collection of altered strips off a website that prudently and professionally removes all traces of the cat from the cartoons, leaving his pathetic owner Jon Arbuckle to live a lonely, miserable existence. It's dark, it's dismal, and it's brilliant. What's even more awesome is that Garfield's creator and cartoonist, Jim Davis, not only approves of the alterations to his kitty-caper cartoons, but has even allowed a collection of 'em to be published!!

Anyhoo, check out some of these examples of how one man's life with a fat cat can be even more depressing and hilarious without the tubby tabby (click for slightly bigger views). And there are heaps more on the website, Go nuts!!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Define Inappropriate

While I'm in a sitcom-sharing mood, here's a clip from another of my favouritest shows, The New Adventures of Old Christine, starring the absolutely hilarious Julia Louis-Dreyfus (of Seinfeld fame, of course!), about a neurotic, self-involved fortysomething woman named Christine who's trying to juggle her career, love life and family while her ex-husband takes on a younger, hotter girlfriend who has her same name (rendering the aforementioned younger, hotter girlfriend "New Christine" and Louis-Dreyfus' character the titular "Old Christine").

In this clip, Old Christine and her best friend Barb (the equally hilarious Wanda Sykes) have just opened a spa, where Christine's brother Matthew encounters a rather serious problem: "I was molested!" The scene continues as per below. Hehehe. ;))

Come back soon for another clip from Old Christine, featuring a surprise for Will & Grace fans! (Here's a hint: Can you say "Puh-kaw!"???)

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Some Christmas Cheer...

In the spirit of Christmas (five days and counting, folks), here's a little video clip from one of my favouritest sitcoms to date, The Big Bang Theory, the story of two supergeeky, ubersmart scientists, their equally nerdy fellow-scientist friends, and the hot chick across the corridor who throws their perfectly rational, calculated worlds into a tailspin.

In this scene, hot chick neighbour Penny gives hyper-obsessive-compulsive, neurotic and emotionally stunted Sheldon a Christmas gift signed by Leonard Nimoy, a.k.a. the original Spock on Star Trek. Enjoy!

Friday, 19 December 2008

You Blockhead!

So today (well, yesterday) was my good friend Johann's birthday, and so I got him a Starbucks tumbler (filled with coffee), some mints (y'know, because of the coffee), and a scan of this Peanuts cartoon I just happened to stumble upon (click for bigger view):

(Handy note: they're celebrating Beethoven's birthday!)

Oh, the Drama! The DRAMA!

So here we are, on day something-or-other, for performance #X, I've lost count. Yesterday's sound was horrible and resulted in me being tense and cranky (some of you might call that "default Nick") for whole show and after; today, we sorted out the audio and finally, finally, for the first time, the sound both backstage and front has been pretty great. Pity I forgot to empty the camera memory card after yesterday's perceived disastrous performance, so I didn't get to video today's show. But no matter. You could feel the energy rising among the musicians who, for what must be the first time, could finally hear themselves through the speakers with the voices of the performers, all in harmony. Well. Not harmony. Because that never existed. Heh. Um. Yea. Moving along...

Today, I had further discussions on the potential Follow The Light 2009 with potential producer Cathy and potential director Colin. We're still trying to work out the venue and we're exploring a new space that's due to open mid-year next year... but there's still a lot to be sorted out to make sure that this works for us and for the venue management and (pertinently) for the show. So it's still (after three years) up in the air... though with each meeting, we inch a tad closer (just a tad, mind you) to our goal of finally restaging our Christmassy moosikle. I think I shall pray for a Christmas mirakle. On the plus side, I finally got to meet the director of a major local musical that's been a smash hit for the past couple of years and that's due for its third (!) restaging next year... so that was pretty cool. Networks!

Finally, some developments on The Edge front. See the little poster in my previous post? Well, that poster might or might not become defunct, because as of this time, I've temporarily pulled the plug on the show. What?! you might exclaim. "You heard me," I'd reply. Because, you see, we've been so neck-deep in Christmas Carol that The Edge (scheduled for less than two months' time) has been deeply neglected, and I don't think it would do it justice to the show to have us rush through the rehearsal process to put up what might end up being a mere imitation of the workshop production. I do wish we'd decided this before the audition process which was held on Monday night though!! But on the other hand, it's good to make contacts, so I'm thinking it'll be good to keep in touch with these performers and see what happens in da future. Regardless, tonight, the director and I mutually decided to put a hold on it. Until when?? Well, he'll look at the schedule for 2009.... but I don't think we're terribly optimistic that there's a slot remaining at the moment. So we might have to wait till 2010 to stage it under the company and in their theatre. Unless....

(Sentence deliberately left hanging)

So yes, that's the biggest theatrical development today. To be perfectly honest, I'm very relieved, because what with the two-hour continuous performances every night in Carol, and the stress over bad audibility during the show, I've barely had any mental or creative energy to rework Edge. So now we're buying ourselves a bit more time, and I'll be able to better dedicate myself to the project (plus FTL), and I think I'll be able to add one more day to work at TNG, thereby increasing my salary in the next month (I've been on a 50% pay cut these past couple o' moons, poo!! Not good!!).

I think my biggest lesson through all of this is to not be so eager to gain exposure that I overcommit to too many projects. And next year will be a chance for me to step back and reevaluate my commitments, especially now that my name's out there and more doors will (God willing) be opened.

Ah well, that's about it for now. Live and learn, people. Live and learn. Chat more soon.

About one week (or less) to Christmas. Whooohoooo.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Red Alert!

Taking a break from A Christmas Carol... here's a (tiny) concept poster for The Edge 2009, tentatively scheduled (and I say this with a lot of fear!!) for 12-28 February.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

All Hail To The Daze

Four down. Ten shows to go. Whoohooo.

Today's audio in the musician's area was really rather bad — terribly soft, I thought... and then, much to my surprise, when I played back the stuff I'd recorded on camera, I discovered that the muted audio allowed for clearer audibility in the video clips. So here, for your pleasure, are two: the first is a brief scene — a sad, slightly eerie moment in the play where (spoiler alert!!!) the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come shows Scrooge the death of Tiny Tim (shame you can't hear the dialogue much, and Scrooge blocks the view of Cratchitt kissing the body of his departed child... but the music is pretty cool, no??? Arf!!!); the second is a song, music by yours truly, lyrics traditional and included below. Enjoy.

All hail to the days that merit more praise
Than all the rest of the year

And welcome the nights that double delights,
As well for the poor as the peer!

Good fortune attend each merry man's friend
That doth but the best that he may,

Forgetting old wrongs with carols and songs
To drive the cold winter away.
To drive the cold winter away.
Tis ill for a mind to anger inclined
To think of injuries now,

If wrath be to seek, do not lend her your cheek,
Nor let her inhabit thy brow.

Old grudges forgot are put in the pot,
All sorrows aside they lay,

The old and the young doth carol this song
To drive the cold winter away.
To drive the cold winter away.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Nicked Art

(Thanks Elaine!!)


Whew! Exhausted! Worked at TNG and then headed off to KLPac for auditions for The Edge. Went really well, generally!! Listened and talked to a few rather remarkably talented people. I think we've got a solid potential cast now. More as and when.

I'd better head off to bed now. Well... once I finish off TNG stuff, oy vey. Yup, didn't get the webpages done in time, so I'm still online now trying to get 'em done in time for publishing in the morning. In the meantime, I've got the flu and am now on some very drowsy-inducing meds. Awesome shit. I should finish my work before I fall asleep at my desk. Bai for now... a new week of Christmas Carols kicks off shortly!

Crikey, can it really be nine freakin' days till Christmas?! Amazing.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Running Down to the Stable Bare

Three down, eleven to go. Arf.

If Bethlehem were here today, just as it was before
I'd run down to the stable bare and quietly push the door
And mother holds my hand and smiles, and whispers "Now take care"
I'd gently kiss the little boy and touch his golden hair
While Mary pulls the blankets back and gentle talk begin
I'd tip-toe very gently out and meet the Wise Men going in

(I love his little gesture at around the 2:15 mark, on the word "push".)

(Remember: poor audio is not reflective of how it sounds in the theatre. I hope. *shudders*)

Saturday the 13th

Whew! Two down - a dozen performances to go!

Here's a sneaky peeky, which I'm sure we ain't supposed to put online just yet. But heck, hopefully it'll entice more people to come see the show. Then again, maybe not... the clip doesn't really feature anything, arf arf!! What's the point then, you ask? Well, it's really just to highlight some of the music. That said, sorry about the poor sound... the camera was right next to the band's speaker, which had crappy audio to begin with. Ah well. Y'can't win 'em all.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

And So We Commence...

Yo everybody. Well, opening night has come and gone, and it was pretty... okay, I guess, bwa ha ha ha. It's really hard to tell, given how little I could hear of the audience's response (which might be an indicator in itself); and I was a little bummed by the size of the crowd, but apparently it was a perfectly respectable turnout for opening night (hmmm). Anyhoo, musicwise I felt it was a bit messy due to sound imbalances making it difficult for us to hear what we were playing (and the singers missed their cues, which, as you might imagine, led for some tense moments). Whatever the case, 13 more shows to go. And I've begun reworking The Edge and Follow The Light, both at the same time, so I've got music from three different Neek shows playing continuously in my head, threatening to rob me of the vestiges of my sanity. Whoohoo. Till later!! Ciao.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Christmas Carol Eve

Hey all! We open tonight!! Whoohooo! It's been quite a ride indeed, and it hasn't been entirely pleasant because... well, let's face it, the planning has been rather haphazard, resulting in, among other issues, too little singing-rehearsal time, too little orchestral time, and too little combined singing and orchestra sessions! Heck, we just had our FIRST orchestra-singing session earlier tonight, which is about two weeks (and I'm being generous by reducing the duration) too late if you ask me!! But anyway. No matter. I think the orchestra's sounding pretty good, and the singing is... well, passable, and it's all going to be just... okay LAH. That's my honest take on it. (By the by, I'd originally written a full-length rant, totally scathing, about the seeming lack of focus this production has undergone, but methinks I shall leave it as an unpublished draft for the time being.) Whatever the case, we open 8:30pm Friday, and we shall enjoy it, and, as is my mantra, we're all zen. That is, in a state of perpetual meditation, at peace. Zennnnnnnnn. Have fun at the show, folks!!

Here's a brief video of me introducing tonight's final dress rehearsal...

Monday, 8 December 2008

Orchestra Awesomeness: The Third

And here's some more sneek peaks (I think I spelt that wrong). First song is (supposedly) a traditional classic (is that redundant?): Angels from the Realms of Glory. The second is the climax to an original piece, If Bethlehem Were Here Today (including yours truly singing a couple of lines sung by a child in the show). :)) Enjoy.

Trills. Cheap Trills

Whew, another long day, with several moments of duress. But never mind about those, we'll get over it. Here's a video of our violist Bryan, attempting the show's "romantic theme" for almost the first time. Complete with bloopers and insane laughter. And yes, that is a beard.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Orchestrating Awesomeness Again!

And on a more optimistic note... here's another batch of orchestra sneek peeks. The middle dance jig is an improvement over Day One, don't you think? We've still got some tightening to do, but they're doing very well indeed. Note the Silent Night arrangement at the start... and the song right at the end has one of my favourite sections, with lots of downward, serpentine sliding notes. It's also the most difficult song in the show, with a continuous semiquaver motifs and a tricky chord progression (Dm-C7 — Fm-Eb7 — G#m7-F#7 — Bm-A7 — Dm), so the pitch goes off every now and then... but am very confident in their pulling it off, and am very excited! Wheeee!!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

A Christmas Chaos

Urgh, it's been a rather long day, and I'm feeling rather bummed and exhausted right now. Been up since 8:45am as we had orchestra rehearsal at 10am, followed by a lunch break before rehearsals with the singers commenced. I had to bring Zalina (of The Edge fame) in to whip the guys into shape, something I should've done earlier (both the whipping-into-shape and the bringing-in of Zal), because... well, in a nutshell, the singers need the extra help. More and more I think that the company should've sprung for a vocal coach (but then again, the emphasis was never on the music, it being a "play with some songs", until a runthrough last week that resulted in the big boss of the theatre company going "the singing is atrocious!" Sorry, but you reap what you sow. Harsh words but true: none of them are trained)... so Zal was brought in to do just that.

Well, the orchestra proved again to be promising, based on yesterday's and this morning's rehearsals; though the singers weren't in the best shape today (and tensions were running high this afternoon, semi-long story, won't go into it here). I'm to blame for a lot of the mess, because, in evaluating my contribution towards the coaching of the singers, I realise I've been approaching it with a slightly weary attitude, stemming from a) not having been involved in the casting process that favoured acting over singing, and b) having to deal with the whole musician fiasco; and also having to write out all the scores in a short period of time while juggling my already-trimmed-down full-time job (plus, have I mentioned the tv promo that featured music not by yours truly, but which resulted in people saying, "Hey great job with the music, Nick!" and me having to go, "Um. That... wasn't... me...."??? I'm just sayin').

So methinks perhaps I've not been as focused as I should've been with regards to the singing, and for that I'm sorry, folks (I know some of you read this blog). That said, I don't have the skill or experience to do the stuff that Zal did with the group this afternoon. So the biggest folly, really, was not bringing her in sooner. But then again, she's not getting paid for this. Oh look. Variations on a theme.

The point is, we're now at a point where the singers are stressed, and I am stressed, and in turn other members of the production are stressed, and we open in six days. Zal has very graciously offered to help out over the next few rehearsals to kick their asses (and mine, knowing her, oy)... and I'm still working with the musicians to try to get their work into shape (which is a lot easier than the singing aspect, since I'm more competent at the music performance element). But the fun factor has dropped a little bit (or maybe we've just been having way too much fun), and... well... we need all the help we can get.

Which is why I now have a plan to try to rectify this situation as much as possible. I could go on along the path of "whateverrrrrr-ness" that had already begun to infiltrate my way of doing this, but truth be told, it's not exactly the impression I want to convey for something I so seriously believe in, am passionate about, and would like to make a full-time career out of. So... yeah. Wish me luck with trying to resolve this and make it the best that it can be, if only to prove to everyone that yes, you can make something good out of a not-so-optimum situation (to coin a rather bad analogy, wine comes from fermented grapes, thank you very much!), and that it would be wrong and unprofessional of me to say "we've done the best we can" when it's clear that, just maybe, we haven't done the best we can.

Fingers tightly crossed.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Orchestrating Awesomeness!

Introducing... the members of the mini-orchestra for A Christmas Carol!

Li Peng, violin I

Xiao Teng, violin II

Bryan, viola

Diane, cello

Kalai, flute

Elaine, keyboard

(and of course, yours truly on the piano, not pictured, arf!!)

We've just had our inaugural music rehearsal (after several long sessions of mind-exercising, challenging, tedious-and-exciting-in-equal-measure score-writing), and I'm happy to say that it went very well indeed, considering it was the first time we were working together, and it was the first time they were trying their hands at the music (sightreading most of it on the spot), and it was the first time in a long time (since FTL '05) that I was actually hearing my music coming together with multiple instruments. All in all, very, very thrilling stuff!!

Here's a little sneak peek at our rehearsal earlier in the evening... the audio isn't the best (the room was too "hard", the acoustics pretty lousy, and FYI, the constant tapping you hear in the first part of the clip is a metronome...), and the playing is admittedly occasionally off-pitch as the musos worked to find their fingering; that said, they did a terrific job (considering, too, that the music is fairly difficult)!! It's early yet, and I'm confident that by showtime, we'll be rockin' the joint, pseudo-classical style! ;))

PS: Sorry there ain't much to look at... camera was just left lying lonely on the hardwood floor...

Christmas Tree

... part of the "things I do when I've got a little bit of free time" series. :P

Monday, 1 December 2008

Shriek! SHRIEK!

Happy December, everyone!
12 days till opening night...