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Publication Date : 06-07-2012
Let's be perfectly clear about this: A stage musical without a proper story is a concert.
Scenario's latest romantic musical "Rak Chab Chai" turns out to be, as widely expected, "The Bie Concert". It's packed with concert-style scenes that owe a lot to K-Pop extravaganzas, all dazzling dance and eye-numbing lighting effects.
The show, which opened last Thursday, clearly derives from Sukrit "Bie The Star" Wisetkaew's hit "Na Bud Now", and its aim is to boost his two new singles, "Rak Chab Chai" and "Khon Doem Khong Thoe". By the end, viewers are sure to know all three songs by heart.
How many musicals have you attended where you were urged to get up and dance along? When Bie did this for a reprisal of the title song, I walked out. On my drive home I listened to Balkan hip-hop just to erase all memory of his cheesy tunes. Somehow I still couldn't shake the sight of his silly accompanying hand movements. I might have to see a doctor.
Because the show overemphasises the hits, the plot is thinly contrived, the characters stereotypical and the scenes improbable to the point of absurdity. Romantic it is not.
Bie plays a self-centred, love-him-or-hate-him pop superstar named Sun. He's had many short-lived romances with female celebrities - the exact opposite of Bie in real life. Suddenly he falls in love with Vue, a girl-next-door type who is blind from a car accident but helps her sister Voon run a small restaurant. Vue also writes novels.
Vue has already been duped once by an aspiring TV actor, so Voon doesn't want Sun around. So he wears sunglasses and tells Vue he's actually Nuea, a movie stunt double for Sun. On learning that she helps seniors in a nursing home, Sun dons a clown costume and puts on a concert for the old folks, mimicking a classic scene in Mel Brooks' musical "The Producers".
Vue's heart is won over, the disguises come off and Voon agrees that Vue can write Sun's biography to earn money for additional medical treatment. There's little point relating where the plot goes from here.
Nuengthida Sophon is as commanding as Vue as she was in the hit movie "Hello, Stranger". She should consider other kinds of roles to fully exercise her promising acting talent, which glows with sincerity. She can sing, too, but concentrates so fiercely on the task that listeners don't get to fully enjoy the tunes.
Unfortunately for Nuengthida, the scriptwriters were unable to balance the lead characters, which is essential in good romantic drama. For his part, the director kept his stars turned so that the audience saw his leading man's face, not hers.
Wichuda Pindum is quite arresting as Sun's manager, but the true star of the show is Wichayanee "Gam The Star" Pearklin, who is totally immersed in her role as Voon. Her solo "Khong Tai Thi Yak Haichai" was the only moment in the show I felt moved.
Bie The Star, on the other hand, has a role that requires little more than singing, dancing, flexing his six-pack and kissing the girl. This cannot be good preparation for the lead role in "Khu Kam", which he's slated to tackle next year.
But, once again, such details seem beyond Scenario's caring. This is a concert, not a musical. It sells tickets at the theatre and songs via digital download.
"Rak Chab Chai" strikes me as simply filler between Scenario's last production, the sold-out but technically awful "Si Phaendin", and its biggest production of the year, the Thai edition of "Miss Saigon" coming up in September.
It's interesting that September brings two other big musicals - "Reya" and "Mae Bia". Let the marketing war begin, because not many people can afford tickets to all three.
If you must
"Rak Chab Chai: The Romantic Musical" continues at the Muangthai Rachadalai Theatre in Bangkok every Wednesday through Sunday until August 5 at 7:30pm and at 2pm on the weekends. It's in Thai but there are English surtitles on Thursdays and Sunday evenings.