REVIEW / MUSICAL
Toy Factory Productions
Drama Centre Theatre
BOOK IT / INNAMORATI TWO
WHERE: Drama Centre Theatre, National Library Building, 100 Victoria Street
WHEN: Till Oct 2; 8pm (Tuesday), 3 and 8pm (Wednesday to Saturday), 3pm (Sunday), no shows today
ADMISSION: $52 to $72 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
INFO: www.toy factory.com.sg
Toy Factory Productions has a keen eye for style and design, appealingly displayed in Innamorati Two. The visual palette attracts attention and appreciation, from the actors' candy-coloured hairstyles to the exquisite bouquets presented to cast and crew before the curtain falls.
Director Goh Boon Teck also has an ear for music. This original musical features interesting ballads created by a powerhouse cast of notable singers including Sugie Phua, Chriz Tong, Jacky Chew and Wong Jing Lun, with music director Elaine Chan.
What is missing is a beating heart to power the story devised by the cast and playwright Jiang Daini. At present, it is a child's confection of saccharine drama sprinkled with cliches.
Six characters roam around a fairy-tale town, revealing past trauma in expository - but usually entertaining - songs. Their hurts are healed literally or metaphorically in cliched encounters with equally burdened strangers.
To demonstrate selfless love, they decide to exchange prized possessions for items that might bring their loved ones happiness, heading to a barter stall run by toy-loving, autistic Xiao Zhi (a stalwart Wong) and his caring but worn-out older sister Ai Mei Li (Tong).
The secondary love story between Chew's character and that of Sunny Yang's could have been dropped without hurting the tale. Far better to have devoted time and resources to the fascinating and under-developed meta-text, which is that these characters have been dreamt up by an acclaimed author struggling to replicate her success in her next book.
There are obvious parallels between the author's position and that of the creators of Innamorati Two.
Innamorati, performed in 2014, was written by Jiang, directed by Goh and even featured some of the main cast from this year's musical as musicians trying to break into the big time.
Innamorati Two, devised through an artistic collaboration with cast and crew, starts with a writer who has made it to the top - Stella Seah, commanding in song and presence as An An - and who is crumbling under the pressure to perform again.
A writer on the verge of a breakdown is the best possible excuse for paper-thin characterisation and a hackneyed plot, but all An An needed was a good editor to hold her hand and help her through the creative process. Similarly, Innamorati Two would have greatly benefited from a dramaturg who could have helped make the characters sacrifice cuteness for believably solid edges.
The cast and production values are top-notch, making Innamorati Two right now a musical that is a forgivably enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes.
Add another layer of solidity to the script, balancing the writer's real world with the fantasy, and it could be an enduring work, not just one that tries a little too hard to be endearing.