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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

When Ugly Duckling Meets the Frog Prince: A Behind the Scenes Story for “Hop and Honk” by I Theatre

A "Behind-the-Scenes" Story written for local family portal Little Day Out.

Little Day Out chats with I Theatre’s Artistic Director Brian Seward to understand how a “Broadway-style” musical is created following the matchmaking of two traditional fairy tales.
 Transformation. That’s the key commonality between The Ugly Duckling and The Frog Prince.

When I Theatre’s Brian Seward was contemplating about which story to adapt into a musical, he read both these stories one after another, and realised the following elements: Both characters had a transformation, and both had a journey; with trials and tribulations. They both lived in the same environment - a riverbank, or a pond, and had the same neighbours, friends and enemies. Allowing his creative juices to flow, Seward considered the following possibility:

“I wondered what would happen if they met each other, and how they might help and guide one another. Everything fell very surprisingly into place. When I began to explore the back-stories of each creature, it became clear that there may have been connections between the two quite far back, even before the birth of the duckling, or the transformation of the Prince into a Frog!”

It was then that Hop and Honk was born. Notwithstanding the different roots of the two fairy tales (The Ugly Duckling was written by Danish storyteller Hans Christian Anderson while The Frog Prince was a creation of the German Brothers Grimm), Seward  felt that both stories, stripped of their styles, actually came together nicely. Moreover, he realised that each story actually answered some questions raised by the other story!

So the creative process began, and Seward started some imaginative work stringing together the “missing” parts of each story, making a few minor adjustments here and there to ensure that the entire storyline maintains congruence. It was then a matter of transforming the revised storyline into a musical with songs and dance.

Seward describes the process in this manner: “The story has to be clear. We have to identify the key points where a song can effectively help the story along. The characters must all have a clear purpose. The story should not be too complex or depressing. It should be long enough, with enough depth to tell through not just acting, but music, song,  [and] dance.”

To ensure that the transformation was smooth, Seward engaged the help of top composers Belinda Foo and Julian Wong. Belinda Foo has been in the music industry for the last 25 years, involved with arranging and writing commercial music as well as working as a pianist and music director for various performances and musicals. As for Julian Wong, he began his musical studies at the age of 4, and has written the scores for numerous musical productions and theatre festivals both locally and overseas.

Seward then ensured that the dancing and singing were of a high standard, using the songs as the means of storytelling. Describing Hop and Honk to be in the “best Broadway and West End tradition”, Seward mentioned that there will be something special for everyone.

“We have classic baddies, who come to a sticky end, we have Princesses, Kings, Princes, a wedding, kidnapping, chases, a frog chorus... and a happy, but very unexpected ending - everything - and maybe even more than you would have in any Broadway or West End musical!”

But the raison d’etre of every I Theatre production is the key themes that provide meaning to the story. For Hop and Honk, the natural theme is that of “fitting in”, with an “ugly” duckling who is rejected by her peers, her siblings and even her teacher; and a Frog Prince who no longer fits in the human world but who also doesn’t fit in the animal kingdom.

Seward however maintains that there are deeper issues that influence the actions and decisions of the key characters. “There are situations that parents may find themselves facing, and having to deal with. There are questions of identity, bullying, destiny, decision-making...”

So will the Ugly Duckling and the Frog Prince find their “traditional” happy ending? Seward hints to Little Day Out that things may not just end the way they are supposed to.

“There are always questions when you read traditional folk tales and fairy tales of 'what if...' the characters made a different decision, or decided to go on another path? How would that effect the outcome? Would they reach their happy ending, or would something else happen? Suddenly the ending is NOT clear, and you really have to wait and see what happens next!”

The Little Day Out story can be found here. Hope and Honk will be appearing at the Drama Centre Theatre (National Library Building) from 29 October to 15 November. It  is recommended for families and specifically for those aged 4 to 104.

11 comments:

  1. I like watching plays as theatre reflects real life. Many meaningful lessons can be learnt from watching plays.

    robert_sim@yahoo.com

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  2. I enjoy watching children's plays with my boys, seeing their eyes lit up in wonder, chuckle in delight, chat gaily about the funny characters and the touching moments. It is a great family bonding activity!

    Carol
    cmeilim@gmail.com

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  3. i like to bring my kids to watch plays so that they be able to see their favourite stories come to live and how it is being interpreted

    Jaime Chan chueimei@hotmail.com

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  4. Watching plays is an excellent way for children to see stories come alive. Many children, like mine, are visual learners and I love how plays are able to convey the story in a way that reading can't!

    3sachu@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. I like watching plays because theatre plays bring out the key essence of the message of a story. I also enjoy the interaction from the performers in theatre plays!

    Gordon Ngiam
    ngiamkm@yahoo.com.sg

    ReplyDelete
  6. I like watching play because it is good for children to see stories come in 'live'and fun way :-)

    Kaye Wong
    kayetky@gmail.com

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  7. Personally, I like to watch play as it brings another dimension to the story by making it comes alive.
    Meaningful plays for the kids are edutainment. They remember better when it's fun and catch the underlying morals without themselves realising it.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love plays and musicals because it is both educational yet provides great entertainment and imagination for the little ones. Nowadays they are more keen on "how did they do that (effect)?" during each show. It keeps them focused and thinking.

    Shirley Yong
    shirley@yong.sg

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  9. Plays are not only entertaining, there's much vocab and sentence structures to learn out of it.
    karen
    heart_ocean03@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  10. We love plays because it's educational and entertaining. It can help my child to learn something from every play.

    Irene Fock
    puffish03@gmail.com

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  11. I love plays because they are so entertaining for the kids. It is great to see their favorite story comes to live on stage.
    Jolin
    Babyhappie@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete