KUALA LUMPUR: Award-winning musical theatre composer and lyricist Nick Choo will be presenting his first musical concert at No Black Tie today and tomorrow.
Titled Dreaming Outside The Box – An Evening of Theatre Music by Nick Choo, the concert will showcase a selection of songs from his various musical theatre works.
The live show will see Choo on piano, accompanied by Rohnie Tan on violin and Tan Jen Wei on double bass, electric bass and guitar.
Completing the luminous line up is three of Malaysia’s top musical theatre talents — Cheryl Tan, Stephanie van Driesen and Peter Ong.
When met recently in Bangsar, the 35-year-old Penangite was excited about the show.
“The beauty of show tunes in musical theatre is that it covers a wide spectrum of music genres,” he told the NST.
Expect music that traverses jazz, rock and pop to artsy territory, which include more complex compositions.
“There’ll be upbeat, swinging numbers, as well as emotional ballads and more slower, moving stuff – we’ve got it all covered,” he added.
A serial winner at the Short + Sweet Malaysia arts festival for his musical theatre works since the annual festival’s inaugural edition in 2010, last year Choo also won the festival’s highest honour, the Mercedes-Benz Malaysia Creative Excellence Award.
The upcoming show will also feature selections from two of his quirky award-winning 10-minute Short + Sweet works: Dreaming outside the Box (about the lives of two Jack-in-the-box characters) and Cartography Of A Relationship (that explores the romantic relationship of a young couple from the point of view of a GPS device).
“This is also the first time I’m doing a concert that showcases my work,” he said.
“I have been talking to my good friend Cheryl about doing something for some time now since we haven’t worked together before this and fortunately things just fell into place.”
“I had wanted to work with Stephanie as well and I was really excited when she said yes,” said Choo.
Ong had previously starred in the musical The Edge, which Choo had written. The musical had garnered Choo two awards for Best Original Book/Lyrics and Best Musical Direction at the 2014 Boh Cameronian Arts Awards.
“They’re so talented and it was a pleasure to work with them, without any egos or behind-the-scenes drama – it’s going to be a great show,” he said.
Choo added that the showcase will include a couple of one-off songs he’s composed.
“Snow/Angels is a personal song that is me reflecting on life. I wrote it about three years ago and I wasn’t sure of performing it in public but the gang listened to it and wanted to do it,” he said.
Choo will also perform an upbeat song he co-wrote with Janet Lee titled, You Make Me Nervous.
He explained that the show will feature more group songs, with a few duets and some solos.
“Usually the focus is on solos and a mandatory group song but we seem to be going the other way around,” he said.
Choo’s passion for musical theatre stems from it being a wonderful medium that can convey a lot of emotion and excitement.
“Appreciating it is an experience in itself and it is a live show with not just acting but dancing and singing as well.
“And music is one of the most effective ways to evoke emotion,” he added
Growing up as a teen in the 1990s, Choo explained that his love for musical theatre started when his mother pointed out a music series magazine to him.
“I can’t remember the title but it was a series with a CD that the news agents sold and the one I stumbled upon was the musical theatre series.”
“The first issue featured West Side Story and it had a great story with lots of drama and moving songs which caught my attention, and my interest in musical theatre grew from there,” said the self-taught composer.
Known for his memorable ear worms, Choo’s musical compositions tend to be melodious works that are also complex, yet seemingly accessible at the same time.
But more importantly, they are evocative pieces that touch the heart.
In terms of ideas and inspiration for his compositions he explained that he likes to write musical theatre that feature stories touching on humanity.
“I do like stories that explore something controversial or not talked about or just moving – moving in a happy positive way or in a darker reflective way.”
“Lots come from talking to people and reading things online and in the newspapers,” he said.
Dreaming outside the Box came from a conversation he had with a friend on how a Jack-in-the-box would feel and think in a span of 10 minutes.
“It was about old fashion toys neglected in today’s modern world and about loneliness and finding a soulmate as well,” he said.
The Edge focused on the taboo issue of suicide and another called, Extraordinary People, has a superhero slant.
“I like to put in subtle messages and explore human relationships even if they are in fantastical settings,” he said.
Choo will be heading to Gwangju in South Korea on Sept 5 for a week to restage the first children’s musical he wrote, titled Zak Zebra’s African Safari.
A collaboration with Jenny de Reuck (playwright, director and Associate Professor at Murdoch University in Australia), Zak Zebra was produced by The Actors Studio and first staged in February at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre.
“We were invited to be part of the festivities in conjunction with the launch of the Asian Cultural Complex there, which also includes a Children’s Centre,” he said.
“I’ve been working with Jenny in Perth on children’s musical theatre since 2003 and hopefully I can bring more shows here,” said Choo, who studied at Murdoch University.
In November, Choo will be doing a month-long residency at Singapore’s Lasalle College of the Arts.
“I’ll be working with second year musical theatre students there to develop and rehearse my songs with the aim of putting on a showcase, so I’m looking forward to that,” he said.
Aside from that, Choo is working on SIBKL’s Esya: The Musical which will be staged in December. He also plans to stage a concert version of his Christmas musical, Follow The Light.
“It’s been a decade since it was staged in Australia and five years since it was presented at the PJ Live Arts, so I want to do a small scale show to commemorate it.”
“Well, that is if everything goes according to plan,” he said.
Dreaming Outside The Box – An Evening of Theatre Music by Nick Choo
When: August 12 and 13
Where: No Black Tie, 17, Jalan Mesui, Off Jalan Nagasari, KL
Admission: RM40 & RM30 (students)
Call 03-21423737 or visit www.noblacktie.com.my