6 Nov 2014 by Adeline Lum CM-
From the 23rd to 26th of October, TAPESTRY delivered a compelling a cappella performance ‘Human After All’ that tugged at the heartstrings of the audience. The show touched on the irony of technology in making this world smaller and faster, yet turning the hearts of men lonelier and icier.
With vignettes directed by award-winning Michael Xavier Voon and apparel designed by fashion designer Kenny Ng, TAPESTRY successfully experimented with the bold interplay and integration of song, dialogue, dance, multimedia and lighting this year.
“I like how they rewrote songs that are not traditionally meant for a cappella. For example, Daft Punk is not something you can find or download as an a cappella music score online. So, it’s unique how they rearranged everything to make it singable,” says Wong Eu Bing, an audience member of ‘Human After All’.
Through TAPESTRY’s clever selection of songs from various genres since the 1960s, the audience was brought on a roller-coaster emotional ride from despair, to joy, to hopelessness, before the show concluded on an uplifting note of hope and strength.
With the songs clustered into four distinct themes, TAPESTRY began their performance with the concept of Virtuality by singing ‘Aerodynamic’ and ‘Television Rules the Nation’ by Daft Punk (a 1990s electronic dance music duo from France), followed by ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ by The Buggles (a UK synthpop or new wave group), led by soloist Wyzek Wong.
Accompanied by the country’s top female beatboxer Kim S’ng who accentuated the robotic impression of the first few songs, the group delivered a chilling reality of a digitized life through ‘Virtual Insanity’ by Jamiroquai (a 1990s funk and acid jazz band from the UK) with music director Charity Lee on lead vocals.
“Futures made of virtual insanity now
Always seem to be governed by this love we have
For useless, twisting, of our new technology
Now there is no sound, for we all live underground.”
TAPESTRY continued with ‘Tribute to Daft Punk’, which was partially based on the arrangement by YouTube a cappella stars Pentatonix, with breathless and choppy beats mirroring the insane speed that we live in to make us “harder, better, faster, stronger”.
Yet, despite the added prowess that technology has endowed us, duo soloists Joanna Ooi and Ong Kah Yee sang with the group about loneliness in ‘Eleanor Rigby’ by The Beatles. The song tells the story of the unlikely but lonely churchgoer Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie who appeared to have lived and died alone.
TAPESTRY transitioned into ‘Mad World’ by Tears for Fears (a 1980s new wave synthesizer band that branched out into mainstream rock and pop) with soloist Jamie Loo and the group. Singing expressionless in predominantly stationary positions, TAPESTRY personified the meaningless and directionless life we have through this song.
“All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for the daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere.”
But the group did not dwell in the depressive state of the technological era for too long as they closed their virtual theme with the 1970s musical ballad ‘Send in the Clowns’ from the musical ‘A Little Night Music.’
As the group sang about the sorrow of not being able to be with one’s lover, they got the audience thinking, “Could romantic love be the answer to the loneliness in my heart?”
The Love chapter kicked off with a light-hearted vibe of how love feels like through a short monologue, before Charity Lee took centre stage with ‘Maybe This Time’ (from the 1960s musical ‘Cabaret’). In this musical, the female protagonist sings about falling in love for the first time.
Soloists Dana Lee and Benjamin Gan then continued the romantic lilt with ‘Change the World’ and ‘The Longest Time’ in the ‘Love Medley’, backed by the group.
An interactive performance with the audience ensued, where a couple was invited on stage to be unabashedly serenaded by TAPESTRY with Disney’s all time favourite, ‘Kiss the Girl’ from ‘The Little Mermaid’.
But while we may think that love is the answer to fulfilling the emptiness in our hearts, TAPESTRY begged to differ as Dana Lee and Nah Swee Wayne together with the group brought the chapter to a close with Irish rock band U2’s ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’.
Transitioning into the Fracture theme, TAPESTRY injected some humour with ‘Getting Married Today’ from the 1970s musical ‘Company’. The original plot revolves around a single man who has commitment issues, as he goes through life with his five married best friends and three girlfriends.
Soloist Charity Lee opened this segment by playing the distraught bride who is reluctant to get married to her excited but clueless groom in the presence of their solemn priest, played respectively by Jason Voon and Nellie Chan.
TAPESTRY continued their candour with their rendition of ‘Agony’ from the 1980s musical ‘Into the Woods’ that debuted in San Diego. Taking the audience back to their childhood fairy tales, Jason Voon and Nah Swee Wayne respectively played Cinderella’s and Rapunzel’s princes, which invoked roars of laughter as they sang about their agony of not being able to be together with the girl of their dreams.
The comical atmosphere took an unexpected turn when Nellie Chan took centre stage with her realistic performance of ‘Still Hurting’ – a song from the musical ‘The Last 5 Years’ that premiered in Chicago in 2001. With her soulful voice, Nellie brought the audience to a place of sorrow as she sang through her tears about failed love. The original musical talks about the distancing relationship of a rising author and a struggling actress over the years.
Continuing the theme of emotional descent, TAPESTRY with beatboxer Kim S’ng led the audience to reflect on break-ups in relationships via a medley comprising mid-tempo and indie pop ballad ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ by Gotye, up tempo pop song ‘Since U Been Gone’ by Kelly Clarkson, and ‘Go Your Own Way’ by the 1970s rock band Fleetwood Mac.
TAPESTRY once again brought their audience to a place of loneliness when soloist Charity Lee sang ‘A House is Not a Home’, a song originally recorded by American singer Dionne Warwick in the 1960s. The song tells the story of how a house is not a home, vividly painting a picture of the pain of separation with a lover.
At this point, the audience was led to think, “If romantic love does not work, then where can I find strength and hope?”
As a prelude to the next section, TAPESTRY closed the Fracture theme with ‘Waiting on the World to Change’ by John Mayer, with soloists Nah Swee Wayne, Elaine Lee and the group echoing the limited power of an individual to change the world, leaving mankind to wait on the world to change.
The sense of hopelessness evoked by the songs in the earlier section was quickly turned into hope and strength through the final theme on Reconnection.
Benjamin Gan together with the group sang ‘Being Alive’, another song from the musical ‘Company’, which speaks of the man with commitment issues taking a leap of faith to fall in love again, in spite of pain and disappointments.
Soloists Joanna Ooi, Wyzek Wong and the group then took to the stage with ‘Man in the Mirror’, a song popularized by Michael Jackson, encouraging the audience to change the world by first changing themselves.
And when we give up fighting each other and instead come together as one, that is when the power of change truly happens, as soloists Jamie Loo, Ong Kah Yee, and Nah Swee Wayne enthusiastically sang with the group on the rousing ‘21 Guns’ by American rock band Green Day.
Completing the theme of Reconnection, Charity Lee and Nellie Chan sang about how friends would help each other when falling.
Written by American music duo Simon and Garfunkel in the 1970s, TAPESTRY reminded the audience of loved ones who care about them with the song, ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’.
And from bearing each other’s burdens, TAPESTRY transitioned into singing about how we can build a ‘Beautiful City’ (from the 1970s musical ‘Godspell’) ‘brick by brick’ and ‘heart by heart’, thus breaking the passiveness of standing by and ‘waiting on the world to change’.
The performance closed with ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’ by The Beatles, led by soloists Jason Voon and Joanna Ooi together with the group. They reminded the audience that ultimately, we are not alone in this world and have people around us who care for us.
The show also featured the sharing of the Christian faith by Betsy Yeo and Charity Lee which was tactfully woven into the performance.
“They have set the standard for what a talented group of young people can achieve with a small budget, lots of hard work, and sacrifice. Among international plays and productions, ‘Human After All’ is evidence that Malaysia’s youth still has what it takes to be artistically relevant and exciting,” said Jared Wong, audience member of ‘Human After All’.
Let us look forward to TAPESTRY’s performance next year!
All pictures are credited to TAPESTRY.
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