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Night of splendour

March 5, 2008

Malaysia Star, Malaysia

Jewel of Tibet The Musical opened to thunderous applause on Saturday.

It was a spectacular opening show for Jewel of Tibet The Musical at
Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday night as resounding applause
punctuated every change of scene.

Kudos to the impressive all-Malaysian cast and crew of Musical On
Stage Productions who brought to glorious life the inspiring tale of
legendary Princess Wen Cheng of Tang Dynasty China.

After touring Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and Indonesia with
three large-scale musicals featuring men as the title character –
Siddharta (1999), Above Full Moon (2004) and The Perfect Circle (2006)
– it is most appropriate for the predominantly female production crew
to pay homage to an extraordinary woman, the Chinese princess Wen
Cheng.

Touted as Malaysia's biggest musical of 2008, the lavish musical
extravaganza is a tribute to the courageous princess, who undertook an
arduous three-year-long 3,000km journey from China to Tibet to marry
King Songsten Gampo some 1,300 years ago and left a great legacy, as
she introduced Chinese culture and technology in medicine and
agriculture, as well as the peaceful teachings of Buddhism, to Tibet.

Jewel of Tibet turned out to be a top-notch production, even better
than many classic Western musicals, with outstanding talents in all
departments.

The engaging story by producer-director-playwright Ho Lin Huay was
cleverly-spiced up with various elements, such as courage, sacrifice,
humour, romance, hope, kidnap, betrayal, murder and political
intrigue. Exquisite ethnic costumes by Caren Yee and marvellous dance
choreography by Michelle Yong and Chan Soo Leng complemented
enchanting music by composer-arranger-musical director Imee Ooi.
Equally impressive were the elaborate sets by Pam Lim and visual
projections by Yang Wei Han (who also plays the Tibetan king), from
indoor settings of the ornate Chinese throne room to the colourful
Tibetan palace, and outdoor settings from the bustling Tang capital of
Chang'an to the vast and rocky Tibetan landscapes of Lhasa.

Playing the titular character Princess Wen Cheng is Paulway Chew whose
powerful lilting vocals rang rich and clear as she opened the play and
won the audience over even from her first solo piece.

Originally named Yen Er, the princess was the daughter of General Li,
the cousin to Emperor Taizong. Selected to be sent to marry the king
of Tibet to maintain peace between the nations, the compassionate and
well-educated girl was bestowed the title of princess and renamed Wen
Cheng, as befitting her new status.

Chew's heartfelt portrayal even moved the audience to tears as I could
hear sniffing all around me when the forlorn young maiden lamented her
dismal fate of being married to a foreign warrior king in a harsh,
snow-covered faraway land. However, she finally accepted her marriage
to the West as her calling when a celestial being, the thousand-armed
Goddess of Mercy Guan Yin, appears to her in what is perhaps the most
visually mesmerising dance sequence of the musical odyssey.

Yang's flamboyant rendition of Tibetan warrior King Songtsen Gampo
ranged from his romantic declaration of love to guarded dealings with
treacherous court officials. With a heavy heart, he had to resort to
banishing his most trusted courtier Minister Gar Songtsen (in Chinese,
Lu Dong Zhan; played by James Long) to the border, supposedly in
exile, but, in actual fact, in a bid to protect him from the vicious
political backstabbing that was coming to a head.

Keep a look-out for fresh faces like Winson Voon (first runner-up in
the male category of Project Superstar Malaysia 2006) who plays
Tibetan official Thonmi Sambhota, as well as Amy Wang (first runner-up
of Astro Talent Quest 2004 and champion of International New Talent
Singing Competition 2004, Hong Kong) who plays Nepalese Princess
Bhrikuti Devi, another one of King Songtsen Gampo's foreign queens.

# Jewel of Tibet The Musical will be staged at Istana Budaya until
March 15. Showtime is 8.30pm from Tuesdays to Saturdays and 3pm on
Sundays, with no performances on Mondays. The musical is in Mandarin
with English subtitles.

Tickets for Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are priced at RM253,
RM183, RM153, RM123 and RM73. Tickets for Tuesdays, Wednesdays and
Thursdays are priced at RM 233, RM163, RM133, RM103 and RM53.

For enquiries, visit www.musicalonstage.com or call 012-6323033. Group
purchases of 10 tickets and above are entitled to a 10% discount.
Tickets are available via Axcess Hotline at 03-77115000, online at
www.axcess.com.my and at all authorised Axcess outlets.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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