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Publication Date : 17-07-2012
The lyrics at the beginning of "Langkha Daeng the Musical" indicate it's going to be about the thin line between sanity and madness and suggest we might need to reconsider our roles in daily life. Four hours and many, many love songs later, it concludes that everyone is entitled to a little romance in life, crazy or not.
Sarunyu Wongkrachang, making his debut as a writer and director for the stage with his new company Saman Kan Lakhon (Ordinary Theatre) in Thailand, should have stuck to the original idea. Viewers might learn more about the background of the patients in his mental asylum rather than just the two lovebirds - and the outcome would be far more compelling.
It was Sarunyu who in 1994 directed the TV drama "Langkha Daeng", with a script adapted from Euthana Mukdasanit's 1987 film of the same name.
Sarunyu has trimmed the story down significantly for the stage, yet enough superfluous scenes and subplots remain to slow the overall pace. The meandering tale gives the supporting characters more stage time and songs to sing, but I'm sure a few viewers wish they could speak up and appeal for brevity so they might get home by midnight.
Sarunyu took a big risk in casting two young actors with no experience acting in or even seeing live theatre. Toni Rakkaen and Ramita "Gypso" Mahaplearkpong fill the roles made famous onscreen by Thongchai McIntyre and Chintara Sukapatana, both of whom were seasoned stars at the time.
The gamble pays off with Gypso, playing a character whose optimism amid obstacles fills the hall with smiles. The problem is her singing - or rather her dearth of singing lessons. The same applies to Toni, and their duets do no justice to Kaiwal Kulwattanothai's demanding compositions.
With his weak stage presence, Toni is frequently upstaged by Gypso and others in the cast who have more experience. And with the subplots occasionally stealing the spotlight, it's easy to forget he's the male lead.
As the asylum director, former teen heartthrob Vasu Sangsingkeo utilises a style of acting that reveals his character's secret too soon. As the wife of a millionaire gone missing, Som "Amara" Siripong never seems comfortable in her head-turning costumes.
Risa Honghiran delivers an arresting performance as a nurse, yet the script requires an unconvincing shift in her character. Another veteran actress, Chanana Nutakom, plays a patient who delivers some good laughs while blending in well with the skilful ensemble.
With sheer sincerity in their acting, Anuchit Sapanpong (of "Mekhong Full Moon Party" fame) and Issaree "Micky AF" Thongthammaroj are charming as a junior intern and therapist, notwithstanding Anuchit's unnecessary B-Boy digression.
Pacharapon "Vit" Jantieng proves once again to be a chameleon. I shouldn't reveal which role he plays marvellously, but film and stage producers should consider giving him better ones. Unfortunately, in a musical where things often go berserk, he's required to put on a hip-hop concert, which only succeeds in marring his character's credibility.
Saman Kan Lakhon's next work is "Sip Muen: The Musical", scheduled for early next year. Let's hope the company has time to rebound from this unmemorable debut.