Priscilla soars, HK Ballet dives into dark themes

October 13, 2017 17:35
Ricky Hu's Demons (left) and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Photos: Conrad Dy-Liacco,

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, a feel-good musical based on an Oscar-winning movie of the same title, is being staged in Hong Kong.

Carrying the LGBT theme, the musical, which received good reviews at West End and Broadway, will continue to run at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts until Oct. 22.

Divided into two acts, the musical is an uplifting story about three friends who board an old bus named Priscilla, searching for love and friendship. Tick is headed to Alice Springs to put on a show and meet his young son for the first time. Joining him are the transgender Bernadette and the narcissistic Adam.

On the journey across Australia's Outback, the three achieve self-discovery while deepening their friendship.

In Act 1, the Go West scene is particularly rousing, while True Colours is stirring. There is even a mock opera number in homage to Verdi’s La Traviata. I will Survive provides an uplifting ending to the first half.

Act 1, however, feels like a series of musical numbers loosely based on the story. It is not until Act 2 when the narrative becomes tighter.

In Act 2, the unexpected bonding between Tick and his son is movingly conveyed. Bernadette’s attachment to the mechanic Bob is another dramatic high point. The finale is dazzling, sending everyone home happy.

In the leading roles, David Dennis is sassy and full of compassion as Bernadette, while Phillip Schnetler is as playful as the narcissist Adam. Daniel Buys and James Borthwick also impress the audience as Tick and Bob respectively.

The show is spectacular, full of gorgeous costumes and ingenious lighting. The old bus seems to have different colorful outfits thanks to the LED lighting effects. The choreography is effective, though not particularly memorable. Don’t miss the show.

Hong Kong Ballet choreographers’ showcase

The Hong Kong Ballet showed off its mettle in choreography in mid-September. This year's  Choreographers’ Showcase included eight new works by its own dancers.

The overall mood conveyed by these shows is unexpectedly grim and bleak.

The exception is a short piece by Jonathan Spigner, entitled Bubble Goose. According to the program notes, the theme is about indecisiveness or uncertainty. This is represented by an allegro duet, which sees two women mirroring each other. Though it is not an exceptional piece, brevity is always a virtue that I value.

Another, much better duet forms Ricky Hu's new work Demons. This powerful erotic pas de deux, which contains a lot of lifts, is superbly danced by Lucas Jerkander and Chen Zhiyao as "the lady in red".

Jerkander himself created a piece for the evening. Same Old Joe is about a dying leukemia patient. It is full of recorded dialogue and video images.

It is ambitious of Jerkander to tackle such a serious theme, but the choreography isn’t particularly memorable.

Fear is the theme of With-IN, created by Luis Cabrera. Another depressing work is L’Espoir choreographed by Leung Chunlong. This average work depicts a community lost in despair and desperation until the upbeat ending, which perhaps symbolizes the light at the end of the tunnel.

A Rebel At Heart, choreographed by Yang Ruiqi, features seven female dancers. It's such a simple and forgettable group dance.

Infinity Awaits, jointly choreographed by Li Jiabo and He Chaoya from Hong Kong Dance Company, tells the story of a beautiful lady in Shanghai who is so much in love. However, her lover is attacked by a gang, never to return to her again. The choreography is a skillful blend of ballet and Chinese dance. Li Lin is impressive as the lady’s lover.

The best work in this year’s Showcase is The Bow created by Li Lin himself. It is a fluent work with imageries flowing smoothly. A sense of suspense is evident throughout. At its heart is a powerful pas de deux impressively danced by Ye Feifei and Wei Wei.

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Priscilla Queen of The Desert, The Musical. Photo: Lunchbox Theatrical Productions

veteran dance critic