Good morning Hong Kong
HK Academy for Performing Arts
Remember when the dollar in your pocket was worth much more, when food scares were only over excessive calories and "clearing the air" didn't have a literal meaning?
"It's going to be a sentimental journey for a lot of people," says director Frank Howson of his latest work, Good Morning Hong Kong, a musical about this city that promises to take audiences on a nostalgic rock'n'roll trip back to the summer of 1997.
We may have fretted over the handover, but it didn't stop the wild partying on that rain-soaked night on June 30 when the Union Flag was lowered and the British sailed out of Victoria Harbour.
Based on a book by Allan Payne, Good Morning Hong Kong is the story of Rick (Michael Pickering) and Fanny (Celina Jade) Moon, owners and singers at the Waterfront Bar, and their musical efforts to save a marriage undermined by deceit and confusion.
While the show promises "romance, rock'n'roll, lots of rain and a little bit of rugby", the city of Hong Kong, at a moment of historic change, plays a key role in the story, according to its creators.
"Hong Kong is a major character in this show,'' says Howson, a fedora-sporting Melbourne native who is said to have discovered Iron Man 3 actor Guy Pearce. "The city is central to the story."
This is a proudly local production - the brainchild of Payne, a former Hong Kong Rugby Football Union executive director who invested four years in the project - that seeks to deliver the Broadway and West End experience to audiences here.
The multicultural cast is led by Hong Kong-born Jade, who can be seen in the latest season of The CW Network series Arrow, and Pickering, whose past credits included roles in the London productions of Wicked and High School Musical.
Students and graduates of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts have been cast in many of the other roles. "We're creating a new show from scratch. This isn't about directing another version of Les Mis," says Howson, referring to the international hit musical Les Misérables that was made into an Oscar-nominated film last year. This show's been a new journey for a lot of people. It's a process of trial and error.''
At the time of writing, a final version of the show wasn't available for review but recent rehearsals indicated a high-energy production of 26 original songs.
"Although this is a feel-good show we have a genuine musical that has a lot to say," says music director Warren Wills, who has previously worked with Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company and film director Woody Allen.
"This will have something for anyone who likes musical theatre and for people who are proud of Hong Kong," says Wills.
HK Academy for Performing Arts, 1 Gloucester Rd, Wan Chai, May 22-26 (matinees on Sat and Sun), HK$320-HK$690 HK Ticketing. Inquiries: 3128 8288