On the evenings of November 2 and 4, the Hanoi Opera House was packed with audiences of many nationalities watching Shrek The Musical in English with a screen displaying Vietnamese subtitles. It is the first project to be fully licensed from the US, from script to music.
Backstage, the project's artistic advisor - Meritorious Artist Dang Chau Anh - spoke to The Hanoi Times about the recent evolution of Vietnamese musicals.
Broadway standard musical
Shrek The Musical is a fully licensed work from the world's cradle of musicals, Broadway. How has its premiere in Hanoi affected the landscape of musicals in Vietnam?
It is the first Broadway musical to be staged in Vietnam, with all copyrights purchased from Music Theater International (MTI) by The YOUniverse Production. The goal is to bring international work to Vietnam and promote musicals to the Vietnamese public.
|Meritorious Artist Dang Chau Anh. Photo: VNA|
Last year, The YOUniverse bought the rights to stage Alice in Wonderland in Hanoi, but it's a school version, while Shrek The Musical is a professional version, including set design, music and script.
The work brings a simple and human message that is thought-provoking, although Shrek and Fiona are not the conventional protagonists often seen in fairy tales, their love story still has a beautiful and happy ending - proving the power of love that transcends all gender frameworks and social expectations.
This musical has many foreign artists joining the creative team. Will their expenses put pressure on the producer to secure revenue?
This is the biggest art project of The YOUniverse in 2023, which invested in all aspects, from expertise, costumes to stage, really professional and majestic staging.
The show features a team of Vietnamese-Australian musical experts, including Director Ylaria Rogers, Choreographer Madison Price, Music Director Nicholas Gentile, Vocal Coach Craig Haggart, and especially Broadway musical legend Philip Quast.
They were very excited to be a part of this project because they knew it would send a good message to young people, and more importantly, acquaint them with musicals. Thinking that they have a mission to support Vietnamese art, they accepted our invitation with enthusiasm. Therefore, the budget spent on inviting them is not too much as you think.
As for The YOUniverse Production, they love art and also want to spend money on quality works. When you work in art, you don't care much about money.
|It is a work that brings a simple and human message about true love. Photo: The YOUniverse|
Making the show a success is not an easy task. Does the production team have any plans to take the musical to other places besides the three performances at the Hanoi Opera House?
We definitely want to. All over the world, musicals are performed regularly every year. Every night, audiences flock to see classic musicals like Beauty and the Beast, Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, and Miss Saigon, which have been running for decades.
With Shrek, we hope to bring theater to students and families, and we are looking for sponsors to help us do that.
Professional musical theater training is needed
What do you think about the current scenario of Vietnamese musicals?
In recent years, we have seen good signs for the development of musicals, with performances of classic works and modern Broadway-style musicals pulling in large audiences in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and other major cities.
In addition to copyrighted plays such as Alice in Wonderland or Shrek, there are also purely Vietnamese works such as Song (Waves) or the upcoming Vien Da Ngu Sac (The Five-Colored Stone).
It can be said that musicals are becoming more and more popular.
|The Hanoi Opera House is filled with applause and laughter during the performance of Shrek The Musical. Photo: The YOUniverse|
What factors do you think are necessary for the development of Vietnamese musicals?
Musical is an extremely difficult genre because it requires a combination of music, dramatic situations, sets, lighting, sound, choreography, acting, dialogue, and the actors' emotions.
Unlike the acoustic sound in chamber music, the orchestra in a musical needs a lot of microphones to diffuse the sound. Meanwhile, on stage, the sound engineer has to adjust the volume of each microphone for the actors.
On stage, there are a lot of maneuvers, including sound, lighting, actors, and stage decoration... so the director must be very versatile and meticulous to control everything.
At present, there are no theatres or stages for musicals in Vietnam, no professional musical actors, and no special training for musical personnel.
That's why I hope that Vietnamese art institutions will provide this training.
Could you tell us about your art projects in the near future?
I am working with the Interkultur World Cultural Alliance to develop choirs in Vietnam. I also teach conducting at the Vietnam National Academy of Music.
Currently, I am focusing on artistic consulting for The YOUniverse on a musical project. We will continue to bring copyrighted Broadway shows to Vietnam. Our goal is for musicals to become more and more popular in Vietnam and to create a community of musical audiences.
I have great confidence in young Vietnamese artists. Although 90% of the actors in Shrek The Musical are amateurs, they sing very well in English, have good voices, are skilled in choreography, and know how to act.
They have a lot of love for the stage and take their work seriously. By nurturing their passion for musicals, they have contributed to spreading and inspiring the art to everyone.
Thank you for your time!