The brainchild of three indefatigable cultural warriors who’ve chosen to call Hong Kong home, “Melodia” is a musical for the universal stage.
A peaceful planet, Zymbalia, is rocked by an inexplicable explosion that throws everything into a state of chaos. Melodia discovers that she is the only one who possesses the innate powers needed to save the Zymbalians from the dark force that confronts them. This sends Melodia on a journey of discovery to find the Enchanter. The Enchanter is an evil force with a blackened heart and two faces. On this journey, she discovers the power of sound and the effects sound vibrations have on people and things.
“Melodia” is an ambitious and impressive child born of the dedication and artistic vision of Lindsey McAlister, Rose Wine Brenner (AKA Chicago Rose) and Violaine Corradi.
Lindsey is spoken of in reverential tones by everyone that enters her field of operation. She possesses an array of skills, experience, knowledge and contacts, and moves heaven and earth to turn the shred of an idea into a vibrant reality. She has written and produced several youth musicals for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Her artistic vision is tempered with extraordinary people-handling skills and underpinned with experience and daring-do.
This level of magical/metaphysical chemistry finds its resonance and amplification through the other two arms of this trinity. Rose and Violaine bring along not just an apprenticeship level of training, but full mastercraft status after their years of service with Cirque du Soleil.
Violaine, formerly a native of Montreal Quebec, the home of Cirque du Soleil, was inducted into this unique circus troupe, more or less from its beginning, as one of three composers to create their special brand of music to accompany their acts. While she has branched out to do other things in theatre since arriving in Asia, she remains an active member of Cirque du Soleil. Musically she is multi-talented with a command over a range of instruments as well as being conversant with a broad range of musical genres. The music of “Melodia” is testament to her virtuosity as it sweeps through an umbrella of world music styles: from traditional to Afro, Latin, Funk, Delta Blues, Blue Grass, etc.
Rose has a similarly impressive history. She began her professional musical career at the age of 15 when she started on a path she holds steadfast to today. A major part of her earlier work was playing solo piano 4-5 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week in bars, up-market restaurants and clubs in Chicago. Other venues she regularly played in included churches, schools, libraries, private parties and various other events. As Chicago Rose she delivered over 1,400 performances as the lead female in Cirque du Soleil’s ‘ZAiA’ which ran from 2008 until 2012 at the Venetian Casino on the Cotai Strip in Macau.
While these three are the drivers behind this unique production, what is up front that the audience gets to see is a phantasmagoria of budding youthful talent amidst a sea of colour and movement that instantly impregnates the audience’s imagination with its athleticism and stunning presence. Containing a cast of 100 who were selected from a field of 800 applicants, this represents the best of Hong Kong talent. The cast includes a small number of professional artists seeded amongst them to give that extra edge. There is the 2016 US Aerial Champion, Joe Lam; the 2016 winners of the Acro Dance Division of the World Championship of Performing Arts, Corina Sucre and Daniel Sierralta, and their daughter, following in the same tradition, Ainara Mireya Sierralta Sucre; Chicago Rose and others.
The cast is divided into groups: main actors, ensemble, singers, acrobats and dancers and, given they only had three months of rehearsals to bring it to stage, the groups only had time to work within their own fields before bringing it all together over the last couple of weeks. Marsha Roddy designed the costumes and stunning sets. Giselle Liu and Kirsten Ho both choreographed the show with Kirsten focusing on the dance routines while Giselle did the choreography for the songs. Scott Gibson as musical director brought an amazing score together with songs and tunes that will stand the test of time. Kumi Masunaga was the drum master for Melodia who taught and coached the bucket drums which are employed to great effect in many of the dance scenes.
These five people are all highly regarded in their fields and each has awards and prizes in either film, TV or live theatre. Interestingly the theatre space the show takes place in, Queen Elizabeth Stadium, doubles as a sports stadium and this is entirely appropriate. With such a large cast and so many on stage at any one time along with large oversize puppets, aerial work and a stunning light show, it is easy to see that a smaller more conventional stage would not do it justice.
The calibre of those taking part is best illustrated by Melodia, played by Aoi Toba. Aoi arrived in Hong Kong several years ago without a word of English, and has already appeared in two productions with limited speaking roles. Now, in such a short time, her English is fluent and she is the lead actor giving full vent to her part in both speech and song. Aoi is one in a million whose talents and natural ability shine in a perfectly unaffected way.
Aoi is well supported by an equally energetic and highly skilled cast of students of various nationalities chosen from 30 different local and international schools. As well as Hong Kong locals, there are mainland Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Dutch, Slovakian, Italian, Turkish, British, Australian, Filipino and others.
Together they bring the narrative together with song, dynamic action and a mix of art forms including music, dance, aerial arts, puppetry, acrobatics, drumming and multi-media projected images. The light show owes a lot to cymatics whereby sound waves and patterns are given visual pulsating symmetrical form. Sound and its effects on human behavior play an important and stunning part in the storyline. Melodia’s favourite classroom in the story is the Sound Science Lab where she demonstrates cymatics at work with a cymatic frequency generator device.
A key focus of the musical is to emphasise the role of women in a literary form. Lindsay, Rose and Violaine all feel there is an urgent need to present females as young heroines in strong roles to make an impression on young people today. They hope to sway teenagers away from the false stereotypes and sterile values and images of the Internet, Facebook, Snapchat, etc, they are subjected to daily by offering them a glimpse on this exciting new world of live theatre that they can readily identify with.
Melodia runs from April 27th – 29th inclusive at 7:30pm. There is also a matinee session on Apr 29th at 2:30.
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Melodia is generously supported by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and is brought to you by the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation.