Arts preview: A Beautiful Day

Vanessa Yung

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 July, 2013, 12:46am

A Beautiful Day
Actors' Family

American playwright Thornton Wilder's 1938 play Our Town - a minimalist drama that deals with the themes of daily life, love, marriage and death - seems an odd choice for a musical adaptation, but local composer Cynthia Wong Chi-wing believes the art form will make the piece more emotionally powerful.

"I've seen various adaptations before, and I'm always touched by a story that inspires us to reflect on life and death," she says. "When it's turned into a musical that impact is intensified. Ideas that are mentioned briefly in the play become a lot more dramatic when we build them up into a solo or a number. Music has this special ability to engage and influence."

While staying faithful to the original play's central themes, A Beautiful Day, the retitled Cantonese adaptation from Actors' Family, has shifted the action from a fictional town in New Hampshire in the early 20th century to a fictitious village in Sha Tin in the 1950s. Another change sees the mothers of the two protagonists - George (Jordan Cheng Kwan-chi) and Emily (Margaret Cheung Kwok-wing) - go from singing in a church choir to practising Cantonese opera in the village commune house. The two lovers tie the knot at a traditional Chinese wedding.

Wong says most of the play may seem ordinary and mundane but that is to contrast with the powerful final act.

"The line that struck me most the first time I saw the play was 'To spend and waste time as though you had a million years.' It reminds us to live our lives to the fullest and treasure every moment and every person around us. When you're dead, you can't do anything - not even small and ordinary things," says the composer.

Director Victor Pang Chun-nam, who is handling the adaptation, and lyricist Chris Shum Wai-chung complete the creative team.

Hong Kong Arts Centre, 2 Harbour Rd, Wan Chai, July 26-28, 8pm, July 27-28, 3pm, HK$180, HK$240 Urbtix. Inquiries: 6715 4437