Home-grown high

IMAGINE a world without music. These words are spoken chorally at the beginning of Orpheus, a remarkable show that contains some excellent music. Presented at St Mary's Canossian College Hall, and directed by Geoff Oliver - who also wrote the book and lyrics - this brand new musical is an exciting enterprise.

Mr Oliver and the students of St Mary's have moulded the Greek legend of Orpheus, the inventor of music, into a show that is much more enjoyable than, say, Joseph and His Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Orpheus' music, played on his lyre, had special, beneficial powers which affected everyone and anything that heard it: animals, plants, rocks and even the elements. His music could not restore life, though, to his wife, Eurydice, who was murdered by a jealous shepherd, Aristaeus.

Orpheus visited the Underworld where Pluto, ruler of the dead, was charmed by the music into resurrecting Eurydice. Pluto made the condition: Orpheus should never turn round to see if Eurydice was following him as they returned to the land of the living. Unable to hear her footsteps, Orpheus looked back as they were about to leave the Underworld; whereupon, Pluto instantly reclaimed Eurydice.

There were treats galore for those who had the opportunity to see this effervescent show. The text itself was written in English , which gave the speeches an added sparkle. The ease and confidence with which the students, all Chinese, delivered their lines was marvellous. They gave the choral speaking, for instance, a precision that comes from an acute sense of timing and rhythm, and also from a clarity of diction.

The music, composed by six of the students, varied in style, from rock'n'roll to romantic ballads; and Orpheus' pleading with Pluto had more than a touch of Celtic air about it. Quinnie Yu, who played Orpheus, proved her versatility when she belted out a rock number that would have had a Coliseum audience on its feet. Mable Wong as Pluto was equally impressive, glittering fom head to toe in her costume, and strutted her stuff with amazing panache.

The choreography of Clara Ho, Janet Kwong and Connie Yam was essentially simple, yet splendid. Musically, everything was held together by the MD, Temmy Chan, who was also one of the composers. This brilliant show almost slipped by unnoticed, but everyone involved can be proud of the fact that they have set new standards for home-grown musicals in this town.

Orpheus, St Mary's Canossian College Hall. April 11-16