Review: Melodia is a delight that raises the bar high for original local productions

YAF should consider restaging this gem – or even taking it on tour. It’s a top-notch professional production at every level

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 May, 2017, 11:48am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 May, 2017, 11:48am

Lindsey McAlister, founder of the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation, has pulled off quite a coup with this new YAF show, Melodia, which not only delighted audiences young and old over the weekend but also raised the bar for original local musical productions.

An English-language collaboration between McAlister (script and lyrics), composers/vocalists Rose Winebrenner and Violaine Corradi (who had penned music for Cirque du Soleil) and a cast of 100, Melodia is a top-notch professional show at every level. The score – an eclectic mix of rap, pop and world music – is so gorgeous and catchy it is worthy of a record contract; the singing and dancing was of such high quality that I forgot most of the performers on stage are still at school.

And the story? The planet of Zymbalia is in danger and our eponymous protagonist is to save it, and all its inhabitants, from destruction. But Melodia is not your typical heroine – she’s reckless and full of self-doubt. It’s only with the help of friends from three different tribes that she eventually finds victory, and some answers to her mysterious background (well, kind of).

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Aoi Toba is astonishing as Melodia. Not only does she have the voice, she practically led the 90-minute show from beginning to end. With only one cast, to sustain half a dozen performances is no mean feat. On Friday evening, Giancarlo Samson (who played Marbo) showed signs of strain in his voice in What’s in a Name, a duet with Toba towards the end of the show. He still managed to hit all the high notes though.

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Felicity Low (Mook), Nicolas Yu (Raff) and Peony Sham Pui-yan (Pit) were cute and stole all their scenes, while the two (adult) voices for the Enchanter, Daren Durkin and David Allen, were superb. Their number Mercy is very touching and one of the best tunes in the show. Other fantastic vocals were provided by Winebrenner as Grand Ora, Jessica Peralta as Alvar, Eimear Burns as Onka and Freddie Fawcett as Toot.

There is just so much to like about Melodia – the music, the singing, the acting, the dancing (choreography by Giselle Liu and Kirsten Ho), the colourful costume and the functional set (both by Marsha Roddy), the acrobatics, the puppetry, the energy – that everyone is quite happy to overlook some minor flaws in the story: so who is Melodia’s dad and why does she have a giant brother with two heads? But I’m nitpicking.

Director McAlister paces the show evenly, with the exception of the scene featuring the Acro Family – Daniel Sierralta, Corina Sucre and their young daughter Ainara Mireya – which was breathtakingly fast. The trio met up with the challenge and wowed the audience with their awe-inspiring, high-energy acrobatic acts.

Melodia , which YAF should consider restaging if not taking on tour, is a theatrical gem that the cast, their parents and teachers should feel very proud of.

Melodia , Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation, Queen Elizabeth Stadium. Reviewed: April 28.