It’s World Music Day on June 21 and what better way to celebrate it than with an added twist to the day? Though unplanned, the staging of Once Upon a Musical around the same time just seems apt. As the title suggests, music plays the main protagonist in this musical anthology, which is a collection of six short musicals staged back-to-back.
This one is special for theatre person Craig Lobo, who has been a part of Poochu’s Productions for a long, as he has curated this anthology. “As a part of my debut, I’ve brought together a collection of theatre groups from around the city and also independent artistes for a musically curated storytelling night, performed by some talented directors, actors and musicians, seasoned and new. With lots of song, dance and merriment, each of these musicals are put together with great attention to detail to ensure you have a fantastic evening,” Craig tells us.
Produced by Poochu ’s Productions, the team has plans to stage many musicals in the coming months with Broadway, a concert dedicated to musical theatre, and a rom-com Tamizh musical in August, to name a few. But before all of that, here’s what you can expect at Once Upon a Musical. Queen of the Nile is a nonsensical play between Cleopatra, Mark Anthony and Octavian. The play depicts Mark Anthony and Cleopatra as lovers. While Mark Anthony is portrayed as scared, Cleopatra is an over-glorified Queen obsessed with musical theatre. Octavian, on the other hand, wants to prove he’s better than Cleopatra so he tries to manipulate her and prove that he’s better. Also, he’s secretly in love with Cleopatra.
Written and directed by Deandra Clementine Nicholas, this is her directorial debut, and she says, “I am more than excited to see how it all plays out before the audience.” While Queen of the Nile dwells on non-sense, For the Departed, takes on a rather dark theme of MPD — multiple personality disorder. “My play is a little darker than the rest of the plays that are a part of Once Upon a Musical. For the Departed is more of a monologue,” says Antara Chacko, who is making her debut in scriptwriting and direction with this play.
She adds, “My character Ethan suffers from multiple personality disorder. The play surrounds itself around two opposing personalities. Ethan, a quiet individual, and May, a little girl. Both these characters are played by me. These characters switch between songs. The idea is that May frames Ethan for a murder she’s committed and tells their therapist over the phone that Ethan has killed someone. By the time it switches back to Ethan, it’s too late and he can’t prove it wasn’t him as they are both one person.” Asked how music blends into this dark theme, Antara says, “Singing comes more naturally to me than acting because I’ve been doing it for longer. And with the song choice, taking inspiration from Cell Block Tango from the 1975 musical Chicago, and more such really smoothed the flow.”
Written and directed by theatre practitioner Freddy Koikaran, who is also acting in it, Swipe! is a lighthearted 15-minute musical that takes the audience through the highs and lows of online dating. “A lot can happen in 15 minutes — excitement, joy, anger, and maybe even a bit of love. That’s exactly what our play is about,” says Freddy, adding, “It features music from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s, across genres such as Pop, Rock, Country and Disco.”
Desh Prem, on the other hand, is a collection of shorts from the works of renowned writer Asghar Wajahat. “Each episode is political and provoking. It needles the audience into questioning the climate that surrounds us,” says director of Desh Prem, V Balakrishnan from Theatre Nisha. The play is in Hindi and runs for about 20 minutes. Vishwa Bharat plays the drums for this one; and Meera Sitaraman, Shivangi Singh, Aparna Kumar and Neeharika are the performers.
R Jayachandran’s solo musical Suttathu Yaaru (which means sound in Tamil) is a satirical play, which is an extended creative narrative of age-old fable Paatti vada sutta katha, connecting with different challenges of an old lady, the age-old imagination of Paati making vada in the moonlight; crow stealing the vada connecting to a thirsty crow; and the crow raises questions to humans; then comes the jackal, which again poses a lot of issues as to how people stigmatise and discriminate jackals as a thief. “The narrative ends with an interesting twist, that is on the characterisation of the narrator. The entire presentation is embedded with songs using popular film tunes in a satirical way,” says Jayachandran, who has written and directed the play and is also performing it solo.
It’s All Good directed byVinithra Menon — which she has co-written with Shalini Vijayakumar — is a 20-minute musical play that depicts the journey of a friendship between two men over the years and its many ups and downs. “Despite being best friends, they are unable to share their innermost feelings with each other owing to multiple reasons like gender roles, societal conditioning, fear of embarrassment and more,” says Vinithra, adding, “Towards the end of the play, we hope that they will finally be able to be real with each other. But will they?” The musical is performed by Aravinth Sundar, Keerthana PV, Roju, Shravan Ramakrishnan and Vinithra Menon; while the music is by Ranga.
INR 200 onwards. June 16, 7 pm & June 17, 2 pm & 6 pm. At Edouard Michelin Auditorium, Alliance Francaise of Madras.