The Hua Mulan we all know is a filial daughter in ancient China who hid her gender to take her elderly father’s place in the army. But better drop that expectation for this upcoming musical.
From 16 December 2016 to 5 February 2017 at Resorts World Sentosa, catch the overseas debut of Mulan The Musical, a theatrical romantic comedy from Taiwan, which gives a different spin to this century-old legend.
Not the Mulan you know
In this tale, our heroine reluctantly shoulders the responsibility of taking the place of her father in the army as her siblings aren’t up to the task. Her elder sister got pregnant out of wedlock while her younger brother is too young and well, gay.
In the army camp, hilarity ensues for Mulan as she has not only has to dodge enemies’ arrows but also Cupid’s arrows. Her captain and childhood friend fall for her and have to wrestle with their feelings of being in love with someone of their gender.
Taiwanese singer-actress Nana Lee (李千娜) and Kanny Lai (辣子) will take turns as the titular character while Zhou Ding Wei plays the leading male. Singapore artistes Ann Kok and Pierre Png take to the stage too in supporting roles.
Here are a couple more surprises about this musical:
1. Started out as a play
The playwright Tsai Pao-Chang wrote it originally as a stage play. It won first prize in a literary award by the Cultural Affairs Bureau of Tainan City Government in 2007.
He brought in composer Owen Wang to turn it into a musical for the National Taiwan University’s Department of Drama and Theatre’s tenth anniversary in 2009. It was the department’s first Chinese-language musical. It wasn’t an easy task as the script was edited heavily to fit the new format which incorporates music and choreograph.
2. A young play, by the young
Both Tsai and Wang were under 30 years old when they first staged Mulan The Musical in Taiwan in 2009.
The two first collaborated when Tsai directed an experimental play K24 CHAOS in 2007. They discovered they have similar tastes in music then.
The musical was created in three countries. Well, at least the creators were in different places. Tsai was studying drama at the University of London, while Wang was studying film scoring at New York University. Director Lu Po-Shen was the only one in Taiwan. The three of them collaborated through the internet to nail down the musical.
3. Made it onto the big stage
The show was originally performed in 2009 as Tsai and Wang’s alma mater’s anniversary showcase. Seats at the Metropolitan Hall were all sold out for the three-day run.
Due to its popularity, it was reproduced by Tainaner Ensemble and Studio M for a bigger stage in a 1500-seat performance hall at the National Theatre in Taipei for six shows in 2011.
4. Layered with current social issues
It’s not all about the laughs. Using music and comedy and a historical setting, the creators give us food for thought by slipping in current societal issues such as the compulsory military service, gender identity and single parenthood.
5. Some familiar faces
In the Singapore edition, local actors Ann Kok and Pierre Png will flex their musical chops as supporting characters. Ann plays Mulan’s vivacious elder sister who has been accidentally knocked up. Pierre plays the army captain. The two will be rehearsing with the full cast in Taiwan.
A couple of new songs are made for this new Singaporean version with completely new set, lighting and costume.
6. Added Singaporean flavour (Updated 2 December)
The script has been improved for the Singapore staging to cater to Singaporean’s humour and tastes. For example local slang has been added to the dialogue and some of the props have been modified, such as ships, to be more “Southeast Asian”.
Two original new songs have been added to the Singapore show. These two songs took the composers a month to write.
Mulan the Musical is about two hours long with a 15-minute intermission. It’ll be staged at Resorts World Theatre from 16 December 2016 to 5 February 2017 on selected nights.
Tickets from $38 to $128 (excluding booking charges). Get them at SISTIC or Resorts World Theatre.
members get 30% discount for Cat 1 – 3 tickets.
Editor’s note: Additional information about the show (Point 6) has been added following the press conference on 2 December.
Check out our Mulan The Musical blog posts