The Bertolt Brecht classic that swept six Hong Kong Drama Awards
HKRep and Actors’ Family co-present this musical revival
about good and evil and life’s vicissitudes
The Good Person of Szechwan – the musical
【Hong Kong Repertory Theatre】Adapted from German master dramatist Bertolt Brecht’s play The Good Person of Szechwan, this musical exposes both the good and evil of humanity, prompting the audience to ponder hard choices between morality and reality. When this adaptation premiered in 2003, it garnered six Hong Kong Drama Awards, including Best Overall Performance, Best Original Music and Top Ten Popular Productions. Critical response to re-runs in 2004 and 2011 were equally enthusiastic. Eight years on, the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre and Actors’ Family co-produce and perform this musical, injecting this contemporary classic with new ingredients. The Good Person of Szechwan – the musical is adapted by Victor Pang, Leon Ko and Chris Shum and directed by Pang, with Ko serving as the production’s Composer and Musical director, and Shum serving as Lyricist. Guest artist Luna Shaw appears in the leading role as Shen Teh, along with Yau Ting Fai, Lau Shau Ching, Chu Pak Him, Rick Cheung and Christopher Ying in the cast. The Good Person of Szechwan runs from December 23rd 2019 to January 3rd 2020 at the Lyric Theatre of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Tickets are available now at HKTicketing outlets.
Bertolt Brecht was a true reformer of modern theatre who wielded resounding influence worldwide. He was adept in portraying both the good and evil traits of dramatic characters using his trademark alienation effect, allowing the audience to maintain a distance from the theatrical proceedings and judge for themselves. In The Good Person of Szechwan, the character Shen Teh possesses both good and evil: when playing a good person, she can’t even feed herself or find shelter; only by playing a bad person does she manage to survive. The story reflects the darker side of society as well as the conflict between morality and reality, showing us the vicissitudes of life. Adaptor and director Victor Pang states: “I like Brecht’s oeuvre. Although The Good Person of Szechwan was written in 1943, the subject is still linked to our world. The critical stance against human greed and corrupt governments are still valid today. Staging a revival of this work is always timely.”
Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechwan is a tale examining the goodness of mankind in the face of harsh realities. Three divinities land in corrupt and dilapidated Sichuan in search of a good person, yet they find only hunger and treachery. Eventually, they encounter the only good person there: Shen Teh. Nonetheless, this cruel world has no place for Shen, who resorts to straddling between good and evil, questioning and eroding morality and humanity.
Adaptor, composer and music director Leon Ko says, “Although this musical first appeared on stage 16 years ago, our revival continues to connect closely with the times, perhaps creating even more resonance. Some of our cast and production team were veterans of earlier productions, others had seen earlier performances. Some came into contact with theatre because of the experience, while others were too young to join the profession more than a decade ago. In many ways, this musical has witnessed the growth and maturity of a generation of artists. The stage is a living platform: for our revival this time, minor adjustments are made; changes are also adapted to fit our current cast. Years ago, when actors were confronted with multi-part vocal arrangements, they were taken aback. But today, our cast handles them with ease. Indeed, we have all made progress. But what remain the same as ever are our original aspirations.”
Adaptor and lyricist Chris Shum admitted that The Good Person of Szechwan was a watershed in his own career, akin to “finding his way out despite tremendous hardship.” During the 2011 re-run, Shum explained it this way: “When I worked with Victor and Leon, they taught me not just to fit singable texts in suitable places in the script, but to develop lyrics hand-in-hand with the composer, going with the flow of the script and fitting in with the right rhythm. A composer uses music to retell a story, sometimes skipping certain details, at other times amplifying emotions. Lyrics are texts that everyone can easily comprehend, adding a layer of emotional and tangible messages to the abstract feelings contained within melodies. Sometimes we should add a singing passage when the needs arise in a scene. This entire process is performative and creative.”
James Wong, one of the great modern music masters of Hong Kong, once wrote:
“Only The Good Person of Szechwan expounds the essence musical theatre … this is real musical theatre!” Music, lyrics and drama must all be present in a good musical theatre work; the cast must also act, dance and sing well. The HKRep and Actors’ Family join forces this time to create a pinnacle of musical theatrical experience for our theatre audience.
About Adaptation and Director Victor Pang
Artistic Director of Actors’ Family and guest lecturer at the School of Creative Media of the City University of Hong Kong, Victor Pang is a graduate of the School of Drama, The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, majoring in acting. He also received a Master’s Degree from the Middlesex University in performance and stage directing. During his stay in the United Kingdom, he studied with French theatre master Philippe Gaulier and travelled to the Moscow Art Theatre School to study Chekhov’s plays. In 1991, Pang co-founded Actors’ Family with fellow HKAPA graduates who were dedicated to the theatrical arts and the development of theatre in Hong Kong. Winner of the Hong Kong Drama Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Tragedy/Drama) in Prelude to a Kiss, Pang often participates in productions by other companies.
In recent years, Pang has focused on directing, striving to develop local musical theatre works that amplify from the personal to the universal, among them Border Town, The Good Person of Szechwan and The Passage Beyond, all of which won Hong Kong Drama Awards for Best Overall Performance. Most recently, his output includes Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Love Story of Sam and Sally, The Lily of the Valley, How to be a Star and A Beautiful Day. Victor Pang was selected by the British Council in 2008 as one of its “Celebration 60” alumni, in recognition for his achievements on the dramatic stage.
About Adaptation, Composer & Musical Director Leon Ko
Leon received a Master’s degree in Musical Theatre Writing from New York University. His musical Heading East won a Richard Rodgers Development Award in the U.S. For his Cantonese musicals, such as The Good Person of Szechwan, Field of Dreams, The Passage Beyond and Sing Out, he won eight awards at the Hong Kong Theatre Awards.
His music in the film Perhaps Love garnered a Golden Horse Award in Taiwan and a Hong Kong Film Award. He won Best Original Song at the 32nd Hong Kong Film Awards for the title song in the movie The Last Tycoon. He was nominated for Best Original Score again in 2008 for his work in the movie Warlords. Other film scores include Warlords, Mr. Cinema, The Great Magician, Dearest and Monster Hunt.
Ko was the musical director of Jacky Cheung’s 2004 world tour of Snow, Wolf, Lake, and put together the musical sequences in The Year of Jacky Cheung World Tour concert in 2007 and ½ Century Tour in 2011-12. He wrote new music for the classic Cantonese operas Princess Chang-ping (2006), The Reincarnation of the Red Plum Blossom (2014) and Shade of Butterfly and Red Pear Blossom (2017). In 2011, his musical Takeaway, the first major British Chinese musical in the UK, premiered at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in London.
Leon wrote music for the play The Liaisons for the Hong Kong Arts Festival and Fredric Mao Theatre Project in 2010. In 2014, he wrote music for the play Tonnochy, and an a cappella piece Our Immortal Cantata for the group Yat Po Singers, as well as a musical Sing High to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Macau Cultural Centre. Leon collaborated with Ms. Yip Wing-sie and Hong Kong Sinfonietta on his musical The Passage Beyond In Concert in 2014 and 2016, and released the CD on Decca Records in 2018. He collaborated with Hong Kong Sinfonietta again in 2018 on The Amazing Filmphony, the first film music concert by a Hong Kong composer. His musical The Woman In Kenzo was one of the highlighted events to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts this year.
About Adaptation, Lyricist Chris Shum
A celebrated lyricist in Hong Kong, Chris Shum devotes his energy on musical theatre and spoken drama. His lyrics also appear in film, television and popular songs. He won in the “Best Original Song” categories at the 43rd Golden Horse Awards and 32nd Hong Kong Film Awards. In 2011, he received the CASH Golden Sail Music Awards for Best Serious Composition, while in 2006 he received the CASH Golden Sail Music Awards for Best Alternative Composition. To date, Shum is a four-time winner of the Hong Kong Drama Awards for Best Original Lyrics. His career path has made him a rare lyricist crossing stylistic and media boundaries. In 2018, Shum penned the script and lyrics for Pica Pica Choose featuring Taipei’s Mr. Wing Theatre Company and Yat Po Singers; he also wrote the lyrics for The Great Pretender, a collaboration between West Kowloon Cultural District and the HKRep. He penned the script and lyrics for This Victoria Has No Secrets: Blah blah blah and the Cantonese lyrics for the HKRep’s recent production of La Cage aux Folles.
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