Cải lương play on culture of northern ethnic people staged for Tết

January 04, 2023 - 09:00
Cải lương star Võ Minh Lâm of HCM City is performing in a new experimental play featuring the culture and costumes of northern ethnic minority groups. 


MODERN CẢI LƯƠNG: Cải lương star Võ Minh Lâm as hero Sa Mộc in Truyền Thuyết Chàng Sa Mộc (The Legend of Hero Sa Mộc), a cải lương play based on folk stories by the ethnic people of Thái Đen in the North.  Photo courtesy of the theatre

By Thu Anh 

HCM CITY— Cải lương star Võ Minh Lâm of HCM City is performing in a new experimental play featuring the culture and costumes of northern ethnic minority groups. 

He plays a lead role in Truyền Thuyết Chàng Sa Mộc (The Legend of Hero Sa Mộc), a production staged by Đại Việt Troupe, one of the city’s leading private theatres. 

The 150-minute play highlights bravery and patriotism based on folk stories by the ethnic people of Thái Đen in the North.  

It tells stories about a young hero named Sa Mộc, who fights to protect his villagers against invaders. 

The play is written by Hoàng Song Việt, a founder of Đại Việt Troupe. 

"I hope the traditional culture and lifestyle of ethnic minority groups will attract urban audiences. My staff and I provide an interesting story, and new, modern styles," said the play’s director and Meritorious Artist Hoa Hạ. “In our play, Truyền Thuyết Chàng Sa Mộc, the artists will offer a new style of cải lương combined with modern concepts in structure, conversation and directing style.” 

NORTHERN CULTURE: Artists from the private Đại Việt Art Troupe perform a new experimental play on the culture and costumes of northern ethnic minority groups called Truyền Thuyết Chàng Sa Mộc (The Legend of Hero Sa Mộc) celebrating the New Year in HCM City. Photo courtesy of the theatre 

Director Hạ used famous artists Lâm and Tú Sương to perform with young talents such as Cao Thuý Vi, Phương Cẩm Ngọc and Chí Cườngas as supporting characters. 

“I have worked several hours daily to perfect my role in Truyền Thuyết Chàng Sa Mộc, trying to feature the beauty of cải lương, a 100-year-old art genre of Southern theatre through my role on stage,” said actor Lâm, who plays Sa Mộc. 

Lâm began his career in Cần Thơ Province when he was 15 years old in 2004. 

He attended and won the first prize titled Chuông Vàng (Golden Bell) in 2006, a national cải lương singing contest organised annually by HCM City Television. 

He works for Trần Hữu Trang Cải Lương Theatre of HCM City, the leading and State-owned traditional art troupe of the region. 

He has played leading roles in 12 dramas and performed in many TV shows and videos.

Lâm is working for a TV programme about Vietnamese theatre produced and aired on Vĩnh Long Television’s THLV1 channel. 

He performs in a famous show called Sao Nối Ngôi (Bright Stars) with performances of vọng cổ (nostalgic tunes), cải lương and tuồngor hát bội (classical drama), traditional theatre genres from the southern and central regions. 

Since its release in 2016, Sao Nối Ngôi has become one of the hottest entertainment shows on Vĩnh Long Television. 

It has attracted millions of people in HCM City and the Cửu Long (Mekong) River Delta region back to Vietnamese theatre and has offered many shows staged by veteran and young actors.

“I will try my best to bring the original tunes of traditional theatre to audiences. Only quality shows bring cải lương closer to youngsters,” said Lâm. 

The play Truyền Thuyết Chàng Sa Mộc takes place at 8pm on weekends starting January 1 at Trần Hữu Trang Cải Lương Theatre in Trần Hưng Đạo Street, District 1. The show will open every night during Tết holiday, which begins on January 22. 


VETERAN SKILLS: The Đại Việt Art Troupe attracts 30 veteran and young actors who have performed in several hundred plays and TV shows. Photo courtesy of the theatre

Private Troupe 

Đại Việt Art Troupe attracts 30 veteran and young actors, including Meritorious Artists Lê Tứ and Quế Trân, both of whom have performed in several hundred plays and TV shows.    

The theatre is managed by scriptwriter Việt and his partners, Triệu Trung Kiên and Quang Khải of the Việt Nam Cải Lương Theatre, who have several years of experience in the industry. 

The troupe offers shows aimed at young people. 

Its artists are working to offer a series of shows on Vietnamese history, such as Câu Thơ Yên Ngựa (Poems on the Saddle), Ngọn Lửa Thăng Long (The Flame of Thăng Long Citadel) and Tiếng Gọi Non Sông (The Call of Nation).

“We hope to satisfy audiences who want to enjoy cải lương with something new," said the troupe’s manager Kiên in an interview with local media. “Cải lương will attract younger audiences if it provides a new and modern style. I believe in our troupe’s future.”

HCM City has nine private cải lương troupes, including Đại Việt Art Troupe, that are mostly owned by veteran artists. They need more support from local authorities and fans to develop their business. —VNS