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Good History, A


A Good History
Reviewed by Kenneth Lyen

Book and lyrics: Wong Chen Seong
Music: Justin Chew, Adrian Lee, Tham Howen
Directors: Wong Chen Seong, Shahrier Sarker Fazal
Choreographer: Muhammad Taufik, Flora Lee, Stephanie Young
Producers: Wong Chen Seong, Lao Zhentang, Shahrier Sarker Fazal
Dates: 29-31 July 2005
Venue: Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel

There is no doubt that doctors and doctors-to-be are multi-talented. This is amply confirmed by the medical school's production of the musical, A Good History. It is fitting that this is an all medical students affair, celebrating the National University of Singapore's 100th Anniversary, because the very first faculty that was established in 1905, was medical.

The story revolves around the 10th anniversary reunion of a group of medical students. Their relationships, their loves, and their aspirations, are all recaptured as flashbacks. One of their colleagues was expelled from medical school, and wants to wreak revenge.

The musical is intelligent and witty. Wong Chen Seong, who also directed the musical, is a gifted writer and someone to look out for in future. The music is well-written and arranged, and the composers must be congratulated. The dances are well choreographed, and enlivened the musical. The costumes are imaginative and the designers have a good sense of humor. The sets are simple but effective. Even the technical side of things, the sound and lighting, were good.

Ivan Ho was brilliant as the villainous Mr. Black, and displayed his triple threat by being able to sing, act, and dance, even tap-dancing. Charles Goh was excellent as Kok the blur but well-meaning student, and sung very well. Amanda Lam played Angeline, the girl who emigrated to Australia, and she has a fine voice. Bernard, Angeline's boyfriend was played by Ian Matthews with great aplomb. His buddy, Daniel, who joined Doctors-Without-Frontiers in Africa was well played by Sarker Shahrier Fazal. He had a secret liking for Ling, played by Elaine Neo, who also had a fine voice. The other members of the ensemble cast were Nicholas Cheok, Chong Shang Yee, and Lynette Govinden, who acquitted themselves admirably. The supporting cast was equally excellent.

The scenes that worked best are all the medical-related scenes such as the scenes in the dissection room, the ward round, and the microscope scene. The dialogue was witty, and there was even a reference to gold taps.

But I would not be doing my job if I didn't at least find some holes to pick. Sorry lah. So if you don't want to hear anything bad, please stop reading now.

There are some very obvious statements to make. The musical lasted three hours. Almost as long as Les Miserables. Unfortunately it is one hour too long and became tedious. And yet, despite its length, there are not enough songs... I counted nine songs without reprises. It really needed a lot more songs. What's the meaning of this paradox? It means that there are too many plots, too many scenes, too many words.

In fact, A Good History is two musicals rolled into one. There is the reunion story with all the flashback histories, and there is the revenge story. I would suggest that it be written as two musicals, separating the two stories, which really do not fit together. I realize that separating conjoined twins can be a tricky operation. But it might solve the problem of this musical. So Operation Theatre, the name of the production company, may need to sharpen its scalpels.

Finally I think there need to be more interweaving of voices types of songs. This can be particularly effective in scenes like the microscope scene when there are two pairs of lovers singing about each other.

But having said all that, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Don't get me wrong, A Good History is a good musical. I look forward to many more from the medical students.