A fine romance
'Musical on the Beach' revives nostalgia for old-timey Hua Hin and Klai Kangwon Palace
The setting is unusual, the name perhaps even more so, but then the upcoming musical "'Klai Kangwon the Musical on the Beach" makes no pretence to be ordinary.
Being staged for five nights next month on the beach at Queen's Park in Hua Hin, the musical takes its name from Klai Kangwon Palace, the summer residence of His Majesty the King.
"These days people from Bangkok pay much less attention to Klai Kangwon than to other Hua Hin tourist attractions like the amusement park, the market and the nightlife. But many are still nostalgic about this gracious palace," says Punnasak Sukhee, the musical's director and scriptwriter.
"I remember stopping by Hua Hin Airport, which was originally called Bo Fai Airport and which today is used for the Royal Rainmaking Operation Centre. It's also a museum and a place of interest that tourists should visit. I want to bring Hua Hin's spirituality back."
Klai Kangwon, meaning "far from worries", was built in 1927 by King Prajadhipok, King Rama VII, and served as an alternative summer palace for the King and Queen Rambai Barni. Designed in Spanish-style and overlooking the sea, its original name was Suan Klai Kangwon and Phra Tamnak Piamsuk, meaning "The Garden Far From Worries" and "The Residence Full of Happiness".
It was here that King Rama VII was staying in 1932, when the People's Party, which was demanding that the country's government be changed from absolute monarchy to democracy, sent three battle ships to the palace to deliver its message. The King, the last ruler under the absolute monarchy, accepted the demand and returned to Bangkok.
The present monarch, King Rama IX and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit went there for their honeymoon in |1950. So, "Klai Kangwon the Musical ||||||||||||on the Beach" is based on love, great love.
"It isn't a story of romantic love that culminates with an actor and an actress getting married, but a story that sees the heroine changing her attitude towards wealth and success," says Punnasak, whose critically acclaimed productions include "Dear Death" and "Dancing to Nirvana".
"I live in Bangkok and used to think I had to fight to survive. When I thought it over, I found that it isn't necessary to be like that, that I just needed to choose wisely to proceed with my life like the leading character, Fon Luang. Everybody should able to recognise the call of duty and do their best to respond."
The musical is divided into two acts. Act I opens with Khun Ta (Yanee Tramoth), a storyteller born the year Klai Kangwon was completed and who has witnessed several historical events, including the change from absolute monarchy to democracy.
Act II is set in the present day and focuses on Khun Ta, his nephew Fon Luang (Siwat "Cee" Chottichaicharin), an officer at the Royal Rainmaking Operation Centre and Roong (Chiranat "Namcha" Yusananda), a woman he meets by chance. Roong, who is helping plan a new condominium in Hua Hin, may be in search of spirituality but has a very different way of looking at life from Fon Luang.
"Roong is a modern girl fascinated by capitalism and sees a happy future as including money and success in her work. She's surprised by Khun Ta's home in Hua Hin, which hasn't been knocked down and taken over for a condominium block, then meets Fon Luang, who is happy working at the Royal Rainmaking Centre," says the director.
"I've been wanting to recruit Cee for a musical but it's always been impossible because of his acting schedule," Punnasak continues. "He sings well and follows what the composer and I want him to do, even though the songs aren't easy. Namcha has never acted in a play before so she's been practising hard with coaches. It's a hard task for her."
Most of songs are fresh, with lyrics by Punnasak and music by Rapeedech Kulabusaya. The exceptions are "Klai Kanwong" by His Majesty the King, "Ratree Pradub Dao" by King Rama VII, and "Hua Hin Sin Mon Rak" by songwriter Salai Klailert. All will be performed by a 14-piece ensemble from Silpakorn University.
"The songs are essentially separated into two themes, those for the modern Roong and the others for Fon Luang and Khun Ta. The overall musical is influenced by jazz music from the royal repertoires with 'Ratree Pradub Dao' and 'Klai Kangwon' painting a lyrical picture of Hua Hin ," says Rapeedech.
With the stage on the beach, both Punnasak and Rapeedech are aware they will be challenged by the the elements.
"The wind and the waves are sure to be obstacles. We have to estimate the wind direction and tide in relation to the area where the audience will be sitting. The sound engineer will be responsible for solving those problems and for controlling sound," says Punnasak.
"Klai Kangwon the Musical on the Beach" will be performed at 7pm from February 20 to 24 at Queen's Park in Hua Hin.
Admission is free but advance reservations should be made by calling (091) 424 0430-2.
An exhibition "Khue Rak Thi Pong Thai Hai Klai Kangwon" will run in parallel with the musical.
Find out more on Facebook at "Klai Kang Won Musical ont he Beach".