PETALING JAYA: It’s that time of the year when twinkling Christmas trees and merry carols abound. If you’re looking to usher in even more festive cheer, don’t miss the 12th anniversary staging of “Follow the Light”, an award-winning Christmas musical by local composer Nick Choo.
It’s an age-old tale: Mary, a young woman about to marry a carpenter named Joseph, finds herself pregnant through divine means. There are also three (questionably) Wise Men and a trio of shepherds, who unexpectedly encounter a dashing angel named Gabe (Brian Cheong).
In one of the songs, the angel sings: “You’ve got to follow the light!” And there are several reasons why you should, regardless of your background or beliefs.
Firstly, there is a wide range of music in the show – from ballads to R&B, hip-hop to rock – and Choo masterfully takes the audience on a fun musical rollercoaster ride that powerfully evokes emotions at the same time.
With more than 20 songs performed throughout the near two-hour-long production, one may just find themselves tapping their feet and bobbing their heads before shedding tears the next moment.
Of note are the soulful songs “Be It Unto Me”, and “Beautiful Child” – both rendered by Kirthana Kuhendran’s Mary, with Joseph (Gabriel Tham) joining in the latter.
Other memorable melodies include Joe’s existential lament “What Will The People Say?”, as well as the catchy title song.
The music is performed live by a six-piece band, with instruments including a cello and viola, which are new additions to this staging. Choo, who is also responsible for the musical and vocal arrangements, plays the keyboard.
Well-deserved credit goes to director Christopher Ling, who successfully scaled the show down from the initial 13-actor production to a compact and intimate seven-hander, with all actors playing at least two roles. They do an excellent job keeping the audience fully engaged through their energetic performances.
Of note, Ling has placed the band members in two groups on opposite ends of the stage – a setup that, rather than having them play from backstage or in a pit, gives them visibility and places them in the midst of the action.
While the nativity story is commonly associated with Mary, it is interesting that “Follow the Light” gives the other characters their share of the limelight. This helps viewers gain a better understanding of the story, and this is especially true when it comes to Joe.
As a soon to-be-married young man, he is given a voice to express his struggles, a welcome side to this tale as he’s usually pushed aside, overshadowed by his partner Mary. What sacrifices did he have to make? And did fatherhood come too soon for him?
Through the songs and the script, Choo brings these real-life scenarios into the light. How did Mary, a young and first-time mother, react when her baby kept her up at night? Was she riddled with doubt or regret for answering her calling?
Meanwhile, the shepherds are portrayed as three siblings: two sisters (Natalie Makulin and Rachel Liu) and their younger brother, Marvin (Marco George).
Marvin is THAT child who often finds himself having to keep up with his elder siblings – a family dynamic that will resound with those from big families.
It’s hard not to warm up to him as he sings his way into the hearts of the audience – especially when he describes himself as the “black sheep” of the family.
It’s worth noting that although the story is primarily told through song, Choo’s script is witty, so pay attention – the “incense that Frank made!” line is one such example that will leave you chuckling.
This is a heartwarming scene as well, as it highlights how even the poorest can be generous despite having barely anything to their name.
Overall, this homegrown musical production is a must-watch, providing a contemporary take on a timeless tale.
Doubt, anxiety, worry, and fear are very human emotions. Yet, in the age of social media where everything appears perfect, it can be easier to pretend your insecurities don’t exist.
With this in mind, “Follow the Light” reassures one that when life gets a little too unpredictable and overwhelming, it’s OK to be perfectly human.
‘Follow the Light’ (showing now until Sunday, Dec 11)
Venue: Nero Event Space, Petaling Jaya Performing Arts Centre (PJPAC) @ 1Utama Shopping Centre, Petaling Jaya
- 8.30pm today, Saturday and Sunday
- 3pm Saturday and Sunday
Tickets, priced at RM88, can be purchased by clicking here, calling the box office at 03-7732 4988, or directly at PJPAC.