The Star Online
Sunday January 11, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
BY ROUWEN LIN
In this musical, it’s entirely possible for pink lotus flowers to stretch on for all eternity in high definition, if the producer so desires – thanks to an impressive virtual reality stage set-up.
Painstakingly created by the folks at the Shanghai Virtual Performing Art Lab at the Shanghai Theatre Academy in China, this production integrates artistic content with scientific and digital technology, presenting a virtual reality stage in breathtaking 3D magnificence.
“Having a virtual reality stage really enhances the experience of watching the musical,” says Datuk Tan Swee Lai, producer of Guan Yin Pu Sa: A Musical, during a chat ahead of the musical’s opening.
“With these beautiful 3D effects, it feels like you are actually part of the scene. It feels very interactive. It is a big difference compared to when you utilise just props and conventional multimedia as we did in our previous productions,” she explains.
Shanghai Virtual Performing Art Lab was founded in 2004 with sponsorship from the Shanghai Scientific Commission and the Ministry of Culture.
According to Tan, its students and lecturers took upon the stage design of Guan Yin Pu Sa as a project for the academy. “They did the design, they created everything, they worked day and night for many months. We are very fortunate to have them lend us their support this way,” says Tan, who is a dharma speaker. She has made propagating Buddhist compassion, kindness, art and culture, her life’s work.
“I love watching musicals and thinking about the messages they impart. I think they really influence one’s life and way of thinking. Therefore, I want to spread positive messages on love, compassion and understanding through the productions we stage,” shares Tan, who is secretary-general of Yayasan Guan Yin, a joint-organiser with the Shanghai Theatre Academy for this musical.
Yayasan Guan Yin has previously staged Magic Mirror The Musical, Thousand Arms Thousand Eyes, andQian Shou Qian Yan.
No doubt, Tan is indeed a firm believer that musicals have great potential in reaching out and touching hearts and minds. A responsibility, almost, for those who find themselves in a position to initiate change. No surprise then, that it was this very philosophy that guided the inception and development of Guan Yin Pu Sa every step of the way.
“As the producer, I always keep in mind what the audience wants to see. But I also want the musical to be something that imparts positive values that will benefit them,” she says. “I always think about how, with this small gesture, I can help society be a better and more peaceful place for everyone.”
With a production cost valued at RM20mil, Tan says Guan Yin Pu Sa is truly a big-scale production that would not have been possible to put together without the assistance of various parties, including the Shanghai Theatre Academy for its virtual reality work and Genting Malaysia Berhad for its RM1mil contribution towards the musical’s production cost.
Boasting a 129-strong cast from Malaysia and China, including 18 Chinese acrobats, the musical is set to dazzle audiences when it opens on Jan 15. Guan Yin Pu Sa has 15 original songs, composed by local musician and songwriter Chow Kam Leong who is music director of this production and the head of the Culture and Arts Bureau of Yayasan Guan Yin.
Notably, Prof Yu Xiao Xue from the Beijing Dance Academy, director of this musical, will be performing a solo dance piece in the third segment of Guan Yin Pu Sa, which delves into topics like attainment of happiness and alleviation of suffering.
“When I first saw him dance in 1997, I was mesmerised at how even a simple movement, a simple gesture, can be manifested so beautifully in his body,” says Tan, who praises the level of dedication required to hone one’s craft so well.
But special effects, skill, entertainment value and collaborative synergy aside, Tan expresses that at the end of the day, what is of number one priority for this musical is to relay the wisdom and insight contained in these four cornerstone virtues – kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity – for a happy and fulfilled life for all.
“These messages are universal, love is universal, compassion is universal. So everyone can watch this musical and I hope they will take away something from it,” Tan concludes.
■ Guan Yin Pu Sa: A Musical runs from Jan 15–25 at Istana Budaya, Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur. Tickets are RM100, RM180, RM280 and RM380. Call (03) 8025-1557, 017-8717108, 017-8717263, 017-8717193, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for purchase. The show is in Mandarin, with English subtitles, and runs 108 mins without intermission. For details, go to guanyin.org.my or facebook.com/GuanYinFoundation.