The personal stories of seven Singaporean performers will unfold on stage for Toy Factory Productions' new Mandarin musical, Innamorati.
And lead cast member Huang Jinglun, 30, is bracing himself for such intimate exposure. The Taipei-based Singaporean singer and host tells Life! that it could be "quite embarrassing" for him. He says: "I don't know whether the audience will think these are my actual stories. About 60 per cent is based on what I told the scriptwriter."
And this confession includes a tale about his first love, a girl he had a crush on from primary school all the way to national service. The bachelor says: "I don't know if she ever liked me and I was reluctant to tell her that I liked her, but our friends - you know how in primary school, they liked to play the 'you like her, she likes you' game - they matchmade us. But I wasn't the only one, she had a lot of admirers."
She has since tied the knot with someone else. He ponders: "Maybe I would like to invite her to the show?"
His love life is not the only thing in the spotlight. The musical will also look at his journey in chasing his dreams, drawn from interviews with him and the other cast members - Sugie Phua, Tay Kewei, Chriz Tong, Bonnie Loo, Benita Cheng and Trey Ho.
Innamorati (an Italian term meaning "the lovers") runs from July 24 to Aug 3 at the Drama Centre Theatre. It will showcase 12 songs by veteran Malaysian singer-songwriter Eric Moo, 51, including the familiar tunes Ni Shi Wo De Wei Yi (You Are My Only) and Tai Sha (Too Silly). He is often referred to as one of the pioneers of xinyao, the Singapore Mandarin folk music movement of the 1980s and 1990s.
Huang admits: "I'm actually worried about singing the song Tai Sha because it has a difficulty level of A-star-star-star." But he likes the soaring ballad very much and hopes to do it justice.
Since competing in the hit Taiwanese reality TV singing show One Million Star, he has released two albums, Jing's Note (2008) and OK Man (2009), and hosted many shows, including popular Taiwanese variety show Super Taste and Singapore programmes Are You Hokkien? and Bliss Seeker.
On his success there, he says: "It's tougher to succeed in Singapore because the market here is quite small." But he says it was important for him to do this musical - his first - as he wants to remind audiences of Singapore's own music heritage.
Toy Factory founder Goh Boon Teck, 42, will be directing the show, which is part of his company's renewed push to create original Mandarin musicals.
Goh singles out one of Moo's songs, Xie Hou (Acquaintance), released in 1983: "That song, one song, united Singapore's young people to be really impressed by local creations. Nobody believed at that time that there was a local creation that would appeal to Singaporeans. Xie Hou encouraged more composers and young people to get into music."
While reminiscent of The Theatre Practice's successful musical, If There're Seasons..., which was recently revived and is based on the music of Singapore xinyao composer Liang Wern Fook, Goh says that Innamorati was inspired mainly by the strength of Moo's music.
To raise more money for future musical projects, the theatre company is hosting a gala fundraiser on May 16, which is open to the public. It hopes to raise about $100,000.
Moo's younger brother, music producer Allan Moo, is Innamorati's musical director and vocal coach. He will arrange his brother's hit melodies. The younger Moo, 46, says: "My difficulty was fitting all seven singers into the songs. You have different stories woven in, so how do I redo the arrangements to fit the tone of the play?"
He quips: "It's more challenging than I expected. My hair is turning white because of this."
He also offers some insight into his elder brother's writing process - many of the hit tunes were composed in the privacy of his bedroom.
He says: "Some hit songs were written in five minutes. He goes into his room, comes out and plays. Sometimes when it's a guitar without lyrics and he's just humming, it sounds like s***.
"But he already knows what it's going to sound like. It's beyond our imagination. And when he comes back with the final version - wow."
The evergreen nature of Eric Moo's music could be due to how honestly they reflect his personal life. Allan Moo says: "The best songs were written after he had problems, family issues, his relationship with our father. He put all these into his songs.
"He's very open about his life. It's all in there. It's so real that it can stand the test of time. These themes are all very universal."
This article was published on April 26 in The Straits Times.
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