August 07, 2012 00:00 By Pawit Mahasarinand Special to 2,517 Viewed
Before the Oscar, 'Dreamgirls' was a hit musical. Now it's back onstage with a Thai cast
In a month featuring four different stage musicals, the fun begins with Dreambox’s production of “Dreamgirls”, the Tony Award-winner from the 1980s that became an acclaimed Hollywood movie in 2006.
Suwandee Jakravoravudh is the producer of this highly anticipated and long-overdue show.
“Following up on the success of our translation of the Broadway musical ‘Fame’ last year, we were looking for a show that was not only famous but also one a Thai audience could relate to,” she says.
“The story reflects the true nature of the entertainment business anywhere in the world. And the stage version is much more fun than the film – and more difficult – thanks to a good plot that’s filled with dramatic events.”
Suwandee believes theatre patrons found “Fame” a welcome change from the many musicals adapted from well-known Thai novels in recent years. “They got to see a wider variety of the popular musical format.
“For the cast and crew it’s also an important learning process because we’re staging works that are regarded as world-class. It’s like we’re pushing ourselves to that international standard. We need to take this challenge – we can’t just cruise along in our safe zone.”
Dreambox purchased the rights to the book and the score and resident playwright Daraka Wongsiri translated it without trying to shift it to a Thai context, just as she did with “Fame”.
“Even though the story’s about African-American singers in Chicago whose R&B tunes top the pop chart, putting it in a Thai context wouldn’t work,” says Suwandee. “The theme is already universal, and it’s a fun learning experience because we get to know more about Motown and the artists’ musical journey. So, apart from the engaging drama, there’s a social dimension we can experience.”
Veteran director Suwandee has turned those duties over to her long-time assistant Dultat Vasinachindakaew.
“I have full confidence in him, and actually his passion for musicals is much stronger than mine. I still prefer spoken plays, especially comedies. And, after ‘Pritsana’ and ‘Tuen Tuek IV’, I think I deserve a break from directing – a short one.”
Dultat, Suwandee, Daraka and music director Sutee Sangsareechon auditioned many singers before settling on their three Dreamettes, who become idols and evolve in the show into “the Dream”.
Thanaporn “Parn” Waekprayoon portrays Effie White, the role that brought Jennifer Hudson an Oscar. Pijika “Lookwa” Jittaputta plays Deena Jones, filling Beyonce’s shoes. And Nattapat “Puifai” Wipatcorntragoon is Lorell Robinson.
They were screened partly on facial structure and skin colour. Now, with the help of makeup and wigs, they look like they might even be a black singing trio.
“We’ve worked with Lookwa and Puifai before but they’ve never been in the same show, and this is Parn’s first time with us,” Suwandee says. “They’re all getting along very well, helping one another in their acting, singing and dancing, like one happy singing family!”
As well as being able to look forward to hearing Parn open up on the Grammy Award-winning tune “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going”, Suwandee promises we’ll be amazed at how good a dancer she is.
Also in the cast are seasoned actors Vorarit “Nott” Fuengarom as their manager Curtis Taylor Jr and Kwankaew “Lookkaew” Kongnisai as Michelle Morris, who replaces Effie in the trio.
Commenting on the rising popularity of stage musicals in Bangkok, Suwandee admits she never expected them to become such a trend.
“I think the market for musicals is wider now that more people are getting used to watching them. Some might even think it’s better value than going to a concert because they also get the dramatic story and many different aspects of the arts.
“For the performers and musicians it also means more jobs and a better living. It’s good training for them, too, since they have to excel in acting, dancing and singing. School theatre departments should make sure their graduates have these three skills, not just acting.”
YOU ARE GOING
In Thai with no English translation, “Dreamgirls” runs from August 17 to 19 and August 24 to 26 at the M Theatre on New Petchaburi Road.
Shows are at 7.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 2pm on Saturdays and Sundays.