Updated: Jul 7, 2022
Over the past 50 years, I have seen at least 50 different musicals on stage, some more than once. And one thing I can attest: big is definitely not always better. Starting this week, I shall rank the musicals I have seen (first seen, not subsequent) according to merit of the production. And the top spot goes to:
It is ironic indeed that despite having seen over my entire life dozens of musicals on stage, many of them spectacular, my favorite remains the very first one which also happened to be the very simplest one. I still remember like it was just yesterday.
It was 1973, I was in secondary one, and one day out of the blue, the whole school was ushered into the auditorium for a show. That show turned out to be Godspell, performed by a group from overseas. There was no prop other than a bench and maybe some items like flowers. Yet, I was mesmerized. Despite never having heard the songs, they stuck with me long after. And the message of Christian love was more effectively conveyed by the two-hour show than all the years of chapel service.
Two decades later, a Singapore theater company put on a big-budget production at the grand Victoria Theater. I was eager and excited for it, as I have been listening to the show’s song numbers over the years since 1973. Yet somehow, this production which boasted more pizzazz and better sound system failed to deliver the same charm and magic as the simple one in the school auditorium. I left disappointed.
Thanks to the earlier experience, I learned that great shows don’t necessarily need a big budget and spectacle. It’s more about connecting with the audience.