Monthly Archives: December 2011

WICKED The Musical

At last, the WICKED has arrived in Singapore! This will be the first South East Asian tour the production team has ever made in history and I am very excited to watch this show.

Here’s the plot summary from the musical’s official website:

So much happened before Dorothy dropped in.

WICKED tells the untold story of the Witches of Oz. Long before Dorothy dropped in, two other girls meet in the Land of Oz. One, born with emerald green skin, is smart, fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular. WICKED tells the story of how these two unlikely friends grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good.

It’s been my dream to watch this show ever since I became addicted to a few of its songs. I remembered having to be introduced to this musical by a friend who has interests in these sorts of things. And I owe it to this friend of mine because if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have slowly shown interests in musical plays – a form of art that deserves to be appreciated more by the people.

Moving on, WICKED The Musical begins its production in Singapore on December 6, 2011 at the Marina Bay Sands Grand Theater. After learning about this news, I immediately reserved the date solely for WICKED. I invited my sisters and mother to accompany me, so we booked our plane tickets months before December and had our tickets for the play reserved on the 18th of December. Time seemed to come by slowly, but as it neared the month of December, the more excited I became.

And finally, the moment has come when we flew to Singapore. My energy did not seem to die down – this adrenaline rush kept my heart beating faster than ever. After months of waiting, another dream of mine has come true. This could not get any better, and I wouldn’t ask for anything more than this.

Upon entering the theater, my family and I were amazed by its stunning display of the Time Dragon Clock, and a map of Oz that was served as the stage’s curtain. The name of the theater gave it all – with its grand and sophisticated architectural design, the theater encompasses comfortable seats facing a big stage enough for everyone to see. It was evident that everything has been planned out perfectly and passionately, giving the audience the Oz-y feeling and letting them be involved in the world of Oz.

Everything is just spellbinding – from the extravagant costumes designed by Susan Hilferty, mesmerizing special effects of lights and sounds to the captivating songs and lyrics of the show! There was even a live orchestra playing at the orchestra pit of the stage. I couldn’t help but be in awe of the extent of the production team’s effort to make the show flawless and memorable for everyone.

WICKED is, indeed, the untold story of the Witches of Oz. The audiences are brought back to the time before Dorothy and her dog, Toto, dropped in to the world of Oz, before Elphaba became the Wicked Witch of the West, and how Elphaba and Glinda (the Good) became best of friends.

The story begins with the citizens of Oz celebrating the death of the Wicked Witch as Glinda the Good enters the stage in a bubble and recalls the life of Elphaba. I am amazed by how the production team creatively transitioned the story smoothly from present time to the past through a simple yet striking form of dialogue, emphasizing how Elphaba came to be. And I can’t help but share the dialogue with you:

Girl: Glinda, why does wickedness happen?

Glinda: That’s a good question. One that many people find confusing: Are people born wicked? Or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?

Isn’t it amazing that I also encountered that same question when I took up a Philosophy subject on morals and ethics? Hearing the dialogue surprises me because this philosophical statement will actually push people to ponder about the existence of evil in this world and it’s up to the audience to figure out which of the two is the truth. And the progression of the story will lead people to a certain, definite answer.

Moving on, the tandem between Elphaba and Glinda has been made realistic and I came to love how their friendship developed. Glinda, played by Suzie Mathers, is a humorous, perky, vain, and popular young woman who gets to have things her way. One thing I find interesting in her characteristic is that despite her spoiled brat personality, goodness still comes within her. On the other hand, Elphaba, played by Jemma Rix, is someone who is often misunderstood due to her emerald-skinned appearance. An outcast in the social norm, she still maintains an open mind and look at things differently. She cares for her sister, Nessarose (played by Elisa Colla), and is never afraid to go against the norm as long as she knows what is right. Her disposition proves that her personality can outshine her being “beautifully tragic”.

As you can see, Glinda is the very opposite of Elphaba. Albeit being enemies at first in terms of the differences in their personality and views in life, they were able to become friends in the most unexpected ways. The character development of all characters is so strong that each cast is significant throughout the show and their performance has been the best one I ever seen.

Elphaba has the most complex character development of all and the audience will be enlightened by how she decides to become a Wicked Witch, wearing her signature witch hat. She has shown empathy towards others that she can’t stand the feeling of pain and always blames herself for something that isn’t her fault; thus, she decides not to do good deeds anymore. Moreover, I love how her relationship with Fiyero (played by David Harris) evolves into a profound connection which proves to show that love does not limit itself to matching beautiful appearances, but it goes beyond to the experiences they share with one another.

Each of the casts is very talented and I am astonished by Jemma Rix’s and Suzie Mathers’ harmonious voices, reaching the high tones perfectly. They can blend in well together and show how their designated characters are a perfect fit for them. I also realized that Jemma Rix may also be the one who played as Elphaba during the WICKED show in Universal Studios Japan which we watched in 2009.

Throughout the show, I guess the highlight of it is to let the audience know that in every person, there’s always a good side and a bad side. It ultimately depends on what the person chooses to become, just like how we come to know the good side of Elphaba, not the Wicked Witch we know from where Dorothy appeared in the Wizard of Oz.

The story of WICKED is so deep and dynamic that words cannot express how amazed and impressed I am by the show. The script and lyrics are witty/humorous yet inspiring and rich with meaningful dialogues which deeply moved people. It has surely made a great impact to the audience and can unmistakably tug at one’s heartstrings because it is politically correct in a sense that people can relate to the show in their lives. I, myself, am so engrossed with the show that I can’t stop smiling until the end. It surely exceeds my expectations as it is unique and spectacular in itself that I believe no other show can surpass the way it emotionally affects the audience.

WICKED The Musical truly did not disappoint me. And I am looking forward to watch more runs of WICKED in the future.


The 39 Clues: Cahills VS Vespers, Book Two: A King’s Ransom by Jude Watson

SQUUEEEEEEAAAAA!!!!! That was my reaction when I finally got hold of the second book of the Cahills VS Vespers series (while here’s my review of the first book, The Medusa Plot). The book is entitled A King’s Ransom and inevitably, Amy and Dan Cahill are once again after another priceless treasure people thought are long gone.

Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:

When seven members of their family were kidnapped by a sinister organization known as the Vespers, thirteen-year-old Dan Cahill and his older sister, Amy, vowed they’d stop at nothing to bring the hostages home. But then the ransom comes in and the Vespers demand the impossible. Amy and Dan have just days to track down and steal an ancient map. The only catch? No one has seen the map for more than half a century.

Now Amy and Dan are on a desperate search that will lead them to Nazis, spies, a mad king, and some of history’s dirtiest secrets. It’s the race of their lives . . . and one misstep will mean certain death for the hostages.

Another. Amazing. Book. I can’t help but be impressed by the progress of the story. Despite the varying authors writing the series per book, the idea still remains whole and unified. Characters from the first series are not left forgotten and the story itself gets more interesting as it develops. I couldn’t keep the book down and as I turn the pages, the faster my heart beats.

I love how the Cahills, especially the younger generation, from different branches work together to fight against Vesper One and prevent him from killing one of the hostages. Amy and Dan are given further tasks to complete and they would do anything to save their family. I couldn’t imagine myself being in Amy or Dan’s position. They’re going through tough situations that I might not be able to handle physically, psychologically, and emotionally well. On the other hand, they also possess unique qualities and talents which are put to use during the mission and those just can’t be put aside if they remain living a normal life. Otherwise, everything will be useless. I guess it is their fate to be a Cahill, but I also sympathize with them despite them being fictional characters.

Once again, the book did not fail to astound me with all those surprising twists and unpredictable phenomena. The informative element of the story makes history more exciting to study and read. And I bet that’s one of the purposes of the series – to let the younger readers explore the world through imagination and gain knowledge without ever having to physically leave the place. The book is so rich with information that other readers might dream of traveling to the places Amy and Dan visited in the future.

One thing I notice in the book is how the Cahill children begin to mature and grow closer with each other. Trust proves to be something that is difficult to build and at the same time, easy to break. The Cahills, especially Amy and Dan, learned to trust each other and count on one another for the sake of their loved ones that are held hostage. Moreover, Atticus and Jake Rosenbloom unexpectedly played a significant role in the story and I am eager to read more of what they can contribute to the Cahill family. Even Evan, Amy’s boyfriend, also proved to be keeper. On a side note, although Lightfinger Larry is only mentioned in the book and has not appeared, I came to love his character. He reminds me of Parker from the TV series Leverage and Neal Caffrey of White Collar. This series definitely keeps getting better and better.

Towards the end of the book, it leaves me asking more questions, hungry for more… Can’t wait for the next book!

The Guardians, Book One: Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King by William Joyce and Laura Geringer

It’s finally the month of December and Christmas is just around the corner! Can you feel the Christmas spirit? It always brightens my day whenever I see colourful Christmas decors and lights having put up in malls, houses, and along the streets coupled with Christmas songs being played in the background. Christmas, as people often say, is the season for giving. People, young and old, would happily look forward to this holiday as they celebrate the day with gift-giving, planning or attending feasts with their loved ones depending on their beliefs and cultures, and most importantly, they are brought back to the time of rejoicing Jesus Christ’s birth.

Moreover, Christmas is also the time when all the innocent children talk about gifts they want to ask from Santa Claus. We all know how Santa Claus came to be. And speaking of him, it just so happened that I recently read a book that is Christmas-related which focused on St. Nick. The Guardians Book One: Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King (by William Joyce and Laura Geringer) is something that children would definitely enjoy reading this Christmas season.

Here’s the plot description from the cover jacket of the book:

Before St. Nick was St. Nick, he was North, Nicholas St. North, a daredevil swordsman, ruffian, and notorious outlaw. His prowess with weaponry of all kinds was infamous and he sought treasure and riches at all costs. Hardly hero material.

But heroes are not born – they’re tested.

When real villains enter the scene in the shifting shape of Pitch and his dreaded Fearlings, North finds a different use for his famed fighting abilities.

Here, in this first in a series of epic Guardian adventures, meet the legendary St. Nick. You’ve known about him for years, but, it turns out, you don’t really know him at all…

Yes, this book is not about the Santa Claus we know – the old, round-shaped bellied man who lives in North Pole and rides a sleigh pulled by eight reindeers to deliver Christmas gifts all around the world.  Instead, this book discusses the early and young life of Nicholas St. North before he becomes Santa Claus.

As much as it is about North, this book is also interconnected with the first children’s picture book, The Man in the Moon. Tsar Lunar, AKA MiM, watches over the Earth to protect the children from having nightmares caused by the Fearlings and Nightmare Men. He sends moonbeams to Earth and by fate, one of the moonbeams awakens a boy trapped in Pitch’s stone body and the villain Pitch himself, causing grave danger to Earth. This mysterious spectral boy, who is released from Pitch’s body and whose name is to be revealed towards the end of the book, immediately finds his purpose and begins to roam around to fight the evil with light.

It is the moonbeam which leads Nicholas St. North to Santoff Clausen, a village “sanctuary” created by the most powerful wizard of all, Ombric, and a place where only a person with goodness of heart can enter. I feel that this part is where the authors prominently imply the difference between good and evil. Children who read this book would surely favour good over evil, light over darkness. On the other hand, Joyce and Geringer also provide a message that one cannot contain only goodness in this imperfect world where evil inevitably exists. As proven in the story, Ombric encloses so much goodness in Santoff Claussen that a small encounter with evil would already bring too much anxiety and fear to the villagers.

Moving on, I love the character development of both North and little Katherine. Their characterization is dynamic that one cannot help but love them and the turn out of their friendship. Their relationship is strong enough to break any spell. Katherine looks up to North and would go an extra mile to protect and save her loved ones. Her hunger for adventures all the more strengthens her bravery even at such a young age. Furthermore, North, in the end, is able to find his purpose for living, not as a bandit, but as a Guardian of Childhood. Because of Katherine, he feels belonged and loved. This proves to show a child’s dream can motivate a person to aspire to become what he is expected to be. One might ask how North become the Santa Claus we are familiar with. I don’t know and I hope the authors will eventually answer this question.

Overall, the book is an enjoyable read. The lyrical prose is agreeably appropriate for young readers. The richness of the words and the structure of sentences will immerse readers in this magical world. Similar to The Man in the Moon, this book has some illustrations in it, too, drawn by William Joyce himself. I surely cannot wait to read the next book.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

A year after the publication of Anna and the French Kiss, the second of the alleged three companion novels of this book had finally been released, which was entitled Lola and the Boy Next Door. Evidently, the second book will mainly focus on the life of Lola.

Here’s the plot description from the cover jacket of the book:

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion…she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit – more sparkly, more fun, more wild – the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket – a gifted inventor – steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

I am always fascinated by fashion designers. They have this impeccable talent of bringing their imaginations into reality through the style of clothes they create. In today’s society where fashion has become famous and prevalent – with the emergence of fashion bloggers and several fashion show events –, our world has just transformed into a new era. Clothes are not just a need, but a want that will eventually dictate one’s lifestyle. And Lola partakes in this extraordinary experience of her life.

I see Lola as a talented fashion designer. She may dress weird to some, but her sense of style shows her true self, her personality and attitude. She possesses a strong kind of confidence that any person couldn’t just easily bring her down. I admire how she doesn’t care about other people’s impression on her or what they would say about her. Instead, she continues to show her talent without any hint of shame or whatsoever.

Although Lola separates her way of clothing from fashion, Stephanie Perkins is able to portray that a costume is not that different from fashion – that both can be on the same category. A teenage girl with such talent as hers is so rare that every person will envy her. Lola proves her worth as a designer and she will surely have a great future ahead of her. This is manifested in the way she creates her costumes and alters Calliope’s costume for her skating performance. And I would definitely want to see more of Lola’s talent in the future, hopefully.

Story-wise, the book has some depth in it. Readers can never ignore the fact that Lola is still in love with Cricket Bell. Stephanie Perkins describes Cricket as the boy next door, both in literal and figurative sense, a geeky yet perfect guy anyone would aspire to be with. With that said, I came to love Cricket more than Max, not because of the looks, but because of the way he treated Lola. Max, for me, is the complete opposite of Cricket. It is also in Lola’s relationship with Max and with Cricket that readers will learn the true meaning of love. I, myself, will not deny that I feel giddy whenever Lola and Cricket are together. Although Lola’s past experience gives her false hope which leads her to the confusion of her heart’s true desire, she eventually listens to what she really wants towards the end of the story. After all, anyone will go for someone who will love you for who you are and accept your true self. That’s when a person will find “THE ONE” (for himself or herself).

Moreover, I love how Stephanie Perkins makes the characters become interconnected with each other from the past book. Although Lola and the Boy Next Door focuses on Lola’s life, Anna and St. Clair still appear in the book and are able to greatly influence Lola in her decision-making process about love. Anna and St. Clair have both matured which is apparent in the way they project their future life with something both of them can share, that their picture of their ideal future involves the other. The richness of their relationship is no match to Max and Lola’s relationship. Either way, I still vote for Cricket all throughout the story and Stephanie Perkins did not disappoint me.

As much as this is a love story, Stephanie Perkins also discusses the significance of family. Who would’ve thought that a person with gay parents is no different from one with normal parents? I can totally relate to Lola because her gay parents are just as strict as my parents (haha!). In the end, I am glad by the outcome of Lola’s relationship with Norah (her birth mother), her gay parents, and with Calliope (Cricket’s twin sister). As much as I loved Anna and the French Kiss, I came to love this book as well.