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Here comes the princess
The New Straits Time[Thursday, January 17, 2008 12:05]

Chew plays the lead role of Princess Wen Chang.
Chew plays the lead role of Princess Wen Chang.
The journey of a Tang dynasty princess to Tibet will be brought to life in Jewel of Tibet, the Musical.

JEWEL Of Tibet, the Musical, produced by Musical On Stage Production, is a tribute to Tang dynasty Princess Wen Chang who took three years to travel to Tibet in order to fulfil a marriage arrangement to its king, Songsten Gampo.

Along the way, she won hearts and left a legacy through her wisdom and compassion.

Playing the leading role of Princess Wen Chang is Paulway Chew. For the veteran artiste, this participation — her third with Musical On Stage Productions — brings mixed feelings.

“For one thing, it might be my last production with them,” she explained. She will be migrating to the United States with her husband soon.

“It is eight years of relationship (with the theatre company) and director Ho Lin Huay has been very kind to me all these years. We had a happy time together and I miss them all already.”

At the same time, because of the importance of the role, Chew needed a lot of preparation and even had to learn Chinese dancing and proper Mandarin pronunciation.

“It’s a new challenge,” she said. “I have never danced before but everyone was very supportive. Even the teacher made sure the steps were kept simple so I could follow.

“There are also a lot of songs, lyrics and dialogue to memorise. And the character is completely different from the ones I played before.

“In Above Full Moon, the Musical, I was Japanese girl Tomoko, who was very outspoken and modern, a complete opposite of Princess Wen Chang.”

And to let you in on a secret, Chew said that the character of Tomoko was more like her in real life.

However, for an experienced artiste like Chew, there is no problem getting into character although she does admit to feeling some pressure.

“But it’s only with pressure that you give the best of yourself,” she said. “I like to feel the pressure and I enjoy the process very much.”

Where her performance is concerned, Chew said that she always expects 100 per cent of herself but would let the audience judge for themselves.

Yang spent time interacting with Tibetans to prepare for the role.
Yang spent time interacting with Tibetans to prepare for the role.
Meanwhile, experience is definitely a plus point for Yang Wei Han, who tackles the role of King Songsten Gampo in Jewel Of Tibet.

Having starred in both Siddhartha, the Musical and Above Full Moon, The Musical, he has now perfected the method of getting into character.

“The trick is to do it without thinking,” he said. “You work hard at memorising everything during rehearsals but once on stage, you have to forget it all and let your subconscious take over. It’s the same in real life. You live for the moment and don’t think ahead of what to say or do.”

Compared with his previous roles, Yang said that the character of Songsten Gampo is a complete change.

“Previously, I played an Indian and then a studious Chinese and now, I’m this Tibetan who is a very aggressive, war-inclined individual. He was the one who united Tibet. He is a fighting king.”

Fortunately, Yang had the added advantage of being with the entourage who spent one month travelling from Xi An to Tibet and had the opportunity of interacting with Tibetans. “Generally, Tibetans are very strong with big movements and gestures,” he said. “Playing this character is very tough and needs a lot of effort and strength, not only to get the feel of the character but also to bear the weight of the heavy costumes!”

Yang revealed that the costumes, which are made of authentic materials brought from China and Tibet, are so hard and heavy that if he were to jump out of them, they would still stand upright by themselves.

“One just have to be in good condition to give justice to the role,” he said.

Besides going for a daily jog, Yang makes sure that he gets enough sleep and rest to prepare for the role.

Members of the Press and invited guests were given a taste of The Musical at its launch recently. It was a sight to behold, with the twirling of colourful costumes and expansive singing.

Jewel Of Tibet, The Musical is definitely something you cannot afford to miss if you are a lover of the arts.

* Jewel Of Tibet, the Musical will be performed in Mandarin with English subtitles. Produced by Musical On Stage Productions, it will be staged at Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur from March 1 to 15, excluding Mondays.

Tickets are priced at RM253 (VIP), RM183 (A), RM153 (B), RM123 (C), and RM73 (D) for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Tickets for Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are priced at RM233 (VIP), RM163 (A), RM133 (B), RM103 (C), and RM53 (D).

Showtime is at 8.30pm for Tuesdays to Saturdays and 3pm on Sundays. There's an early bird discount of 20 per cent for VIP and zone A tickets purchases until Jan 31 and group purchases of 10 tickets and above are entitled to 10 per cent discount for all zones.

Tickets are available through Axcess hotline at 03-7711-5000, online at www.axcess.com.my or at authorised Axcess outlets.

Musical On Stage Productions is also offering advertising space in their souvenir programme as well as seeking sponsorship in promoting the Malaysian theatre and art scene. For details, call 012-632-3033 or log on to www.musicalonstage.com.

Also read: A gem of a musical
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