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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Passage to Tibet

February 26, 2008

Malaysia Star, Malaysia
25 February, 2008

The spectacular historical tale of Chinese Princess Wen Cheng comes to
glorious life in Musical On Stage Productions' latest effort, Jewel of

Stories by SETO KIT YAN

COME March, the biggest Malaysian musical of the year, Jewel of Tibet,
will regale you in all its splendour.

This RM1.5mil all-Malaysian production features 150 minutes of
original music, songs and dance choreography, more than 300
newly-designed ethnic Chinese and Tibetan costumes, 17 scene changes
and 40 cast members playing multiple roles.

Based on a true story, the musical extravaganza is a tribute to
Princess Wen Cheng, who undertook a three-year-long arduous journey
from China to Tibet to marry King Songsten Gampo more than a thousand
years ago.

This spectacular historical epic is the latest creation of Musical On
Stage Productions, which has produced three highly-acclaimed musicals
to date – Siddharta The Musical (1999), Above Full Moon The Musical
(2004) and The Perfect Circle (2006) since its inception in 1999. The
experienced troupe has toured and performed in Malaysia, Singapore,
South Africa and Indonesia in its mission to bring a message of peace,
love, humanity and wisdom through performing arts.

Last July, director Ho Lin Huay, 36, led her creative team from Xi'an,
China (formerly known as Chang'an, the capital of the Tang Dynasty) to
Lhasa, Tibet, on the route taken by Princess Wen Cheng when she left
her homeland to marry King Songsten Gampo.

Ho, who also acts as producer and scriptwriter, said: "Jewel of Tibet
is an exciting story of a brave lady, which took place some 1,300
years ago. To undertake a journey from Xi'an to Lhasa and marry a
foreigner takes a lot of courage. Many other Chinese princesses left
their homeland to marry foreigners but none left such a legacy and
contributed as much as Princess Wen Cheng."

Ho said the settings in the Tang Dynasty and Tibet naturally make for
very colourful costumes and entertaining performances. "We are very
excited to be playing at Istana Budaya. Audiences will see that an
all-Malaysian team can produce top notch musicals, too."

Composing and arranging the music for the production was not an easy
task for music director Imee Ooi.

An established Malaysian music producer, composer, arranger and
vocalist who has released more than 20 albums, Ooi, 43, was also the
music director for past productions Siddhartha and Above Full Moon.

"The first was set in India, the second, in China and now this, which
is more like a combination of Tang Dynasty Chinese and Tibetan music.

"This particular production presents strong influences of contrasting
musical styles with diverse instruments and melodies of a different
flavour to suit each individual character from the gentle Chinese
princess to the Tibetan warrior king who has gone through many wars."

Multiple roles: Imee Ooi (left) serves as composer, musical arranger
and musical director for Jewel of Tibet while Ho Lin Huay is the
director, producer and scriptwriter.

Apart from the leads Yang Wei Han and Paulway Chew, the musical's
other major vocalists representing the best from the Malaysian pop,
classical and art scenes include Angel Lee, Ciang Teng, James Loong,
Lim Cheng Hock, Winson Voon and Amy Wang.

"When we were in Singapore two years ago for The Perfect Circle, which
was a smaller musical production, lots of foreigners among the
audience were surprised to discover that we were Malaysians. They were
so impressed by the performances of our vocalists that they even asked
whether we were singing live."

And the song, goes hand in hand with the dance in this sort of production.

Choreographer Michelle Yong, 45, whose repertoire ranges from
classical ballet and Chinese traditional dance to contemporary and
jazz, worked together with another choreographer Chan Soo Ling and
director Ho to come up with nine dance items to fit into the
150-minute musical.

"Essentially, the director wanted some Tang Dynasty Chinese and
Tibetan flavour although the dances did not need to be entirely
traditional. We used a lot of contemporary elements to give the
performances a more modern touch. Imee's music arrangement paints a
great picture so the choreography comes very naturally too."

"The director and I each choreographed four dances and combined our
efforts in the remaining performance. So, our different styles are
quite apparent."

They auditioned professional dancers from all sorts of backgrounds and
trained them for two months in gestures and expressions before they
began choreographing.

"Even the singers had to put in a lot of effort to learn how to dance
and walk like the people they were going to portray."

It's been a long journey for both cast and crew but their efforts seem
worthwhile and audiences will soon get a taste of the glory and
splendour of the Jewel in Tibet.

As an added bonus for audiences, Musical on Stage Productions, with
the support of Xi Yue Art and Culture, has also produced a full colour
book and 10-episode documentary in DVD format titled Jewel of Tibet –
Walking With Princess Wen Cheng, which document the creative team's
travels from China to Tibet, as they journeyed the route taken by the
princess. The book is priced at RM59.90, while the book and DVD
package is priced at RM129. Partial proceeds from the book and DVD
sales will go towards covering the musical's production costs. Both
the book and DVD are available in bookstores nationwide.
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