BWW Previews: TEMAN to Bring the Big and Beautiful HAIRSPRAY to Jakarta with Morgan Oey, Lea Simanjuntak, And More
(This article is the part one of two. Read the second part here.)
After their impressive debut with INTO THE WOODS last year, musical company TEMAN (Teater Musikal Nusantara) announces their 2019 show: HAIRSPRAY. As fitting of the musical's bombastic reputation, TEMAN is going bigger and glitzier. The show will take place in the grand 1.157-seater CIPUTRA ARTPRENEUR theatre and feature a celebrity heartthrob.
Hairspray is a 2002 musical with music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman and a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan. It was adapted from a 1988 film and the musical itself got a recursive adaptation in a 2007 movie adaptation starring Nikki Blonsky, Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, and Zac Efron. The original Broadway production earned 13 Tony Award nominations, including winning the prestigious Best Musical award.
It tells the story of Tracy Turnblad, a teenager living in the racially segregated 1960s Baltimore. She dreams of making it into the Corny Collins Show, a popular dance TV show. Though she was initially met with disapproval due to her bigger size, her resilience and eagerness to learn from everyone finally earned a spot in the show and much more.
TEMAN introduced the musical at a press conference held on Thursday, October 24th, 2019 at Galeri Indonesia Kaya. Attending speakers were HAIRPSRAY's producer Chriskevin Adefrid and cast members Venytha Yoshiantini (artistic director of TEMAN), Morgan Oey (actor and former member of boyband SMASH), and Lea Simanjuntak (MUSIKAL LASKAR PELANGI, INTO THE WOODS). Indonesia Kaya's Billy Gamaliel was the guest speaker. On this occasion, TEMAN also unveiled their official poster.
Producer Chris shared the reasoning behind their decision on choosing HAIRSPRAY..
"With Into the Woods, we looked to establish a standard of quality. [Into the Woods] was a well-known show with high artistic value, but the plot also required some effort to digest. With Hairpsray, we are going for a lighter show that anyone can enjoy.
It's a show for all ages. It's family-friendly. It's also very easy-to-sell because it has this magical sense of familiarity to it. Almost everyone seems to have heard of the show."
But the decision to choose HAIRPSRAY was not merely a commercial one, he added.
"We have two values we'd like to promote with Hairspray: love and unity. Hairpsray is a story about love and how the act of loving someone, or something, can be full of obstacles. The main character, Tracy, has to overcome challenges to fulfill her love of performing."
"Furthermore, it's about unity. It's about how differences can either break us apart or can band us together. And we think it's very relevant with Indonesia today."
Venytha further elaborated on the themes:
"The story takes place in the 1960s, an era when racial segregation is still alive and real. In Tracy's journey to make her dream come true and find her love, she also brings everyone together. It's a call to fight for what you think is right."
On the artistic side, she plans to bring the Broadway experience to Indonesia.
"We are thankful to have this beautiful and huge venue at Ciputra. The art direction we're going for with Hairspray is commercial Broadway, with big sets and plenty of set changes, colorful costumes, big songs and dance numbers, and huge wigs.
This year we are also working with more local talents. The cast is composed of 90% Indonesians, with many graduates of the Indonesia Mencari Broadway program; they are all amazingly talented. So it's got a local touch but with international standards."
To produce such an ambitious project, TEMAN is partnering with several sponsors. One of them is Indonesia Kaya (a program by Bakti Budaya Djarum Foundation), whose representative Billy Gamaliel attended the press conference as a guest speaker. He shared what made Indonesia Kaya eager to support TEMAN's production of Hairpsray.
"We were introduced to TEMAN last year, but as they were already far in the preparation for Into the Woods, we weren't involved much in the process. But after further dialogues with them, we are excited with the prospect of helping them bring international quality performing arts to Indonesia.
Earlier this year, we brought the program Indonesia Menuju Broadway. Thirteen of IMB students were flown to New York City to get musical training from Broadway professionals, while in the previous round 70 of them got a similar training here in Indonesia. After those trainings, we want to give them more opportunities to showcase what they've learned through musicals such as Hairspray.
It's also another step towards developing the Indonesian theatre industry. Ever since 2010's resurgence of modern Indonesian musical theaters with titles like Onrop! and Musikal Laskar Pelangi, more and more Indonesian youths are taking up performing arts as a hobby.
But oftentimes they had to stop pursuing their passion because of this perception that performing arts or musical theatre isn't a viable career. Indonesia Kaya hopes to facilitate these young and talented creatives to put on more shows, including by supporting professional companies like TEMAN. By introducing them to these channels where they can realize their passion and pursue a career in it, we are building the industry together."
Regarding the challenges of scaling up from their more intimate production of Into the Woods, Chris stresses on the importance of tackling it professionally as a business.
"We are not making a show for its own sake. We are considering it as only one part of our long term plan. Each show must contribute to our long-term sustainability -- we are considering how each resource can be repurposed in the future. That's why we had to make a timeline even for, say, 5 years in the future.
We also have all the business functions required - business development, human resources, and others - basically, we run it as a company. And to promote our show, we consider which marketing channel is most effective for each of our target markets. We need to make people scrolling their web feed stop when they see our promotional material and consider our show one worth going to.
In the long term, we hope to make our own original musical. One that draws from local stories and even written and performed in Bahasa Indonesia. But we don't want to rush the creative process. So once it's ready, it'll be worth the effort."
On the creative side, Venytha is preparing the larger cast with more training sessions. As an artistic director of TEMAN, her responsibilities include overseeing all creative aspects of the production, working with the show's director, set designer, costume designer, lighting designer, and others.
"Back during Into the Woods, we worked with mostly professionals. As we are now working with actors and actresses of varying experience, we allocate more time for trainings such as vocal or speech training before getting into the rehearsal with the script itself. Even after only our fourth rehearsal, we have seen major improvements from those who have never had professional musical theatre training before. Those who've got the passion will work hard to catch up to their fellow cast members."
Two of the professionals she's working with are the dreamy Morgan Oey (in his stage debut) and renowned singer Lea Simanjuntak (returning from INTO THE WOODS, where she played The Witch). See what they think of the production in part 2 of this article here.
HAIRPSRAY will run on December 21-22, 2019 at Ciputra Artpreneur theater, Jakarta. For more information and ticket purchase check out @teman.musicals on Instagram. (photos: Mia Namira)