Making a musical together from scratch

The cast of Innamorati Two, which centres around a barter shop where seven people meet by chance.
The cast of Innamorati Two, which centres around a barter shop where seven people meet by chance.PHOTO: TOY FACTORY PRODUCTIONS

Singapore theatre company Toy Factory Productions is taking a different approach to making its latest musical, Innamorati Two.

Instead of performing old classics, the musical's ensemble cast will compose and sing their own original works. They also have a hand in the devising of the musical.

"With this production, we're questioning the way a musical is created. We're doing it like an artist lab, using a collaborative approach," says Goh Boon Teck, 44, Toy Factory's founder and artistic director.

He adds: "When I decided on this, I was a bit worried. I even lost sleep, thinking, 'What if we make something crappy?' But I want to celebrate creativity - that's more important to me than quality."

Innamorati Two is not a sequel, but derives its name from Innamorati (an Italian term which means "the lovers"), a musical staged by Toy Factory in 2014, which was based on the personal stories of seven Singaporean performers and featured songs by veteran Malaysian singer-songwriter Eric Moo.

The new musical includes three returning faces from Innamorati, singer-actor Sugie Phua and singers Huang Jinglun and Chriz Tong. Actors Ann Lek, Stella Seah, Sunny Yang and Jacky Chew round off the seven-member cast. They will be mentored by music director Elaine Chan.

  • BOOK IT /INNAMORATI TWO

  • WHERE: Drama Centre Theatre, National Library Building, 100 Victoria Street

    WHEN: Sept 22 to Oct 2, 8pm (Tuesday),3 and 8pm (Wednesday to Saturday), 3pm (Sunday). No show on Monday

    ADMISSION: $52 to $72 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to sistic.com.sg)

    INFO: www.toyfactory.com.sg

The production is directed by Goh and written in part by playwright Jiang Daini, 28, who collates feedback from discussions and works it into the script.

Innamorati Two centres around a barter shop where seven people, each with their personal struggles, meet by chance.

Some of the able-bodied cast will play artists who have disabilities - Yang, for instance, plays a hearing- impaired dancer.

Jiang, a project manager with Toy Factory, has a bachelor's degree in theatre arts from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.

She conceived the musical one day when she was thinking about the idea of imperfection.

"When we go to the theatre, we want to see beautiful things. But we don't want to see what's imperfect. So I thought: we should try to present the stories of people with disabilities on stage," she says.

Huang, who is based in Taiwan for work, flew back specially to attend rehearsals and will also take time off his work schedule to act in the musical.

"This is a local production, so I felt that as a Singaporean, I should do what I can for the local musical and entertainment industry. It's also a chance for me to come back for a couple of months," says the 33-year-old, who is also an actor and host.

He recalls that the stress of working on the first musical caused him to be sick for 10 days.

"It was so intensive. But I want to work on my composing and also challenge myself," he adds. Huang plays one of the siblings who run the barter shop in the musical.

Tong, 31, who has performed songs for television dramas, says that composing for the musical is different as "music in a musical has to move the story forward, compared with pop songs where you can write more freely".

Tong has also acted in musicals such as Ge Tai - The Musical, produced by Resorts World Sentosa, and Toy Factory's staging of the musical December Rains last year.

She adds: "It's such a different approach, knowing that you have contributed to the storyline and building the characters. You'll see a real part of each of us in them. It's our baby."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2016, with the headline 'Making a musical together from scratch'. Print Edition | Subscribe