I had the pleasure of watching homegrown musical The Edge by Monday Show Entertainment yesterday at klpac’s Pentas 2.
The musical, which has been brewing in workshops and reworks for years, features book, score and lyrics by Nick Choo and in this production the able direction of Sabrina Hassan.
Even before the first note of the overture rings from the side pit, the audience is signaled by the minimalist and monochromatic set that this isn’t going to be anything like The Sound of Music or Chicago.
The first song, where the musical’s company of six sing around a lit silhouette of a coffin, merely confirms that the subject matter of this musical isn’t going to be quite, well, happy.
And yet happiness and contemporary society’s endless and often futile search for it, is a recurring theme of the musical. The Edge tells the story of Joshua, a man driven to despair and depression, and six characters who confront the death of someone they called son, lover, brother, friend and colleague.
As they repaint stories of their interactions with Joshua stretching back from his desperate final hours to his first moments on earth, they are forced to ponder if any of their actions (or lack of action) had led him to his fall. In reflecting on Joshua’s unhappiness, they are also forced to confront how fleeting and hard to grasp happiness is in their own lives and how when hope and happiness slips away, they can seem impossible to find again.
The central figure Joshua never shows up as a corporeal form—we only imagine him through one sided stories and interactions from his mother, Lilly (Tria Aziz), older brother Jarod (Peter Ong), friends Michael (Sean Chong) and Ryan (Joshua Gui), colleague April (Nadia Aqilah) and girlfriend Deanna (Safia Hanifah).
The Edge is decidedly focused on its story and score, and disciplined in its approach. There is no elaborate set, dance numbers, stunning costumes or casual humour for the production to hide behind.
This minimalist approach amplifies both its strengths and weaknesses. The actors suitably impressed with both their singing ability and the emotional resonance they brought to the roles. Despite playing the invisible colleage April, Safia Hanifah’s insistence that both her voice and warning be heard was a standout for me, no small praise when you are singing along polished pros Tria Aziz and Peter Ong.
Nick Choo’s beautiful contemporary score (think more Jason Robert Brown, less Rodgers and Hammerstein) was confident and musically very sophisticated, his lyrics often clever, sharp and impressively stirring.
And yet in attempting to give each of the six characters a fair share of stage time and backstory on one hand, and on the other hand needing to drive the musical’s plot forward, The Edge does lose its balance (no pun intended).
Each character was given at least one song in which the audience is allowed to peep at their relationship with Joshua. At moments I felt that this equality forced a lot of long expository singing, a dilution in the score and a general feeling of being over-told after the motivations and backstories were already sufficiently clear. The momentum of the musical’s story suffered at these moments.
Perhaps this was most obvious in the second act when I wondered why, when there was a man on the edge (figuratively) and on a ledge (literally), the characters, having already had the opportunity to do so in the first act, still insisted to sing so much about themselves and seemed only obliquely concerned about someone who could jump to his death at any second. Ironically (or perhaps cunningly by design) the only one of them who panicked about saving him before it was too late was the least likely person in his life to care.
Thankfully, The Edge doesn’t ever fall flat (okay, a slight pun intended there). The finale was truly gripping and revelatory, although I wish that that energy had been more evident throughout.
I thought and talked about it with a friend long after it was over. Mind you, I forget about most musicals I watch ten minutes after they’re over. The Edge undoubtedly had a measure of emotional depth, musical inventiveness, thought provoking stories and sensitivity and respect for its subject matter not often found in other productions in Malaysia. It may not be palatable to a mass audience, but for that very reason I found its attempt to be frank rather than crowd-pleaing deeply courageous.
I think it not unsafe to suggest The Edge has reached a new height (call the pun police) in contributing to the local and regional musical landscape.
The Edge has shown the immense talent and potential of its composer-lyricist-librettist Nick Choo. I encourage all musical theatre lovers to experience The Edge, and can only look forward to more work from Nick Choo and Monday Show Entertainment.
The Edge by Monday Show Entertainment
2, 6-9 Nov @ 8.30pm, 2-3, 9-10 Nov @ 3pm
Pentas 2, KLPAC @ Sentul Park
**Ticket Promo: 15% discount for students of ‘The Monday Show’ – tag must be shown at the Box Office to receive discount. Tag holders are able to purchase unlimited number of tickets.
(i) Call 03 4047 9000 or walk in to klpac @ Sentul Park
(ii) Buy online via www.ticketpro.com.my or call TicketPro Hotline: +603 7880 7999 (for normal / adult tickets only)
(iii) Tickets can also be obtained via TicketPro Head Office, The Guitar Store, Rock Corner, Victoria Music Centre, Life Centre, Loud and Clear