The musical theatre production is in performances at L'Espace in Ha Noi until tomorrow. The play, by Nguyen Phi Phi Anh, includes 17 international pop songs with new Vietnamese lyrics by Anh and his collaborators. Born in 1991, Anh is studying directing at the University of New Hampshire in the US. He spoke to Culture Vulture about the premiere of his show on Monday night.
Were you happy with the premiere?
The theatre was packed with people who applauded the show. I think it was a good response from the audience, which included both young and older people. I also read many good comments from young people online. But as the producer, we saw small mistakes from the amateur cast. I believe that with more rehearsal and better preparation, I could do better.
Could you tell why you wanted to do this project while you are busy with your studies?
Musicals have been performed in Viet Nam many times before but they were probably better produced. The scripts were Western stories reflecting Western culture. The songs were also performed in foreign languages so Vietnamese audiences could not understand. Some others were performed with Vietnamese music and stories, but the stage design and costumed did not look like a musical.
In L'Avenue, foreign songs are sung in Vietnamese. Why is the story still a Western story?
Broadway is a very Western style. I'm not mature enough to match Vietnamese music with a kind of Western art. I'm living abroad and grew up there for nearly six years, so I'm familiar with international culture. But my understanding of Vietnamese culture is not good enough to write a Vietnamese story. I hope, however, that Vietnamese audiences will understand my stories. The are about human issues like ambition, envy, inferiority and conflict.
I confess that I want to please those who are fond of exotic music. I think characters like Roxanne Trinh, Flint and Rudolph are more attractive than Lan, Hue and Hong.
When did you begin this project?
The idea for the musical came to me four years ago when I was in high school. I spent time taking part in musical activities at school to get experience. I practised writing Vietnamese lyrics for my favourite songs. I began to write the play at the end of 2011 and finished in January. Right afterward, I called my close friends to join me in setting up a long-term plan. I began seeking financial support and chose Le Bros because it is always ready to support young people. Luckily, they liked my project. I came back to Viet Nam in mid-May and was in casting until late June. About 30 amateur performers were selected from 200 applications. We went through ten hours per day of rehearsals during July.
Your project aims to encouraging independent thinking. How does it fit in with contemporary Vietnamese art?
Not many people are brave and love their jobs. They don't dare to make something new and strange. Some people want to be safe following the successful people. So far, tickets may not be sold out and the show has not been acclaimed. But at least I'm successful in connecting people and have received support from powerful people. I have nothing to lose by being independent and creative. In the contrary, I have experience, relationships, and do what I like.
What's the future for this production after its four-night run in Ha Noi?
I hope L'Avenue will be performed more as a fundraiser. I would also like to see L'Avenue run at different times of the year in different places for more audiences. I have some other ideas. And I hope to be supported in daring to carry them out. — VNS