BWW Review: Indonesia's Triple Threats Share the Stage in WHAT I DID FOR LOVE by Bakti Budaya Djarum Foundation
Visiting the Great White Way is any musical theatre lover's dream. Last July, that dream came true for 13 winners of Indonesia Menuju Broadway (IMB) as they attended musical theatre workshop on Broadway. Now they return to perform WHAT I DID FOR LOVE, a musical showcase featuring Broadway hits.
As stated on the official press release:
"Indonesia Menuju Broadway is a training scholarship program aimed at providing Broadway-standard theater education for young artists in Indonesia. This inaugural activity was held as part of the Bakti Budaya Djarum Foundation's creative space program in collaboration with the Premiere Award-Winning Global Arts Education Organization StudentsLive and Passport to Broadway, New York founded by Artistic Director Amy Weinstein in 2000.
For 5 days, the participants had an exclusive opportunity to collaborate with the best musical theater specialists and performing with Broadway musical works created by the best writers and composers from the United States. The selected participants also had the chance to watch several Broadway live shows and meet with renowned Broadway artists."
Although 16 participants (read here for their profiles) were originally selected after a rigorous training and audition process, three (Kathrine Permatasari, Ken Samsara Ajisiwi, and Dea Panendra Larasati) had to drop out due to various reasons. The following 13 INDONESIA MENUJU BROADWAY awardees are flown to New York for the Broadway training:
1. Adyla Rafa Naura Ayu
2. Aldafi Adnan Hutomo
4. Desmonda Cathabel
5. Elhaq Latief
6. Evelinn Kurniadi
7. Galabby Thahira
8. Gerardo Cristopher Jonathan Tanor
9. Lil'li Latisha
10. Ni Made Ayu Raharsini Gurnitha
11. Palka Kojansow
12. Putri Indam Kamila
13. Stephanie Mariska Setiawan
The press release follows:
"At the end of the training, the participants showcased their newly-gained knowledge through What I Did for Love, a unique musical performance that featured more than 40 Broadway songs. The show, was designed specifically to demonstrate their musical theatrical abilities, was originally performed on July 12th at Symphony Space on Broadway, New York."
Upon returning to Indonesia, the 13 artists entered another rehearsal period for the show involving a local production team. And on Tuesday, August 27th, WHAT I DID FOR LOVE was performed for the first time on Indonesian soil at the uptown Soehanna Hall, SCBD, Jakarta.
WHAT I DID FOR LOVE is presented as a musical revue with an opening narration telling the story of Indonesian musical actors hoping to make it to Broadway, a clear parallel to the cast's own journey. The show is divided into three acts; as the show serves as a showcase first and foremost, each act is bound together with a mood or style rather than narrative progress. Seth Weinstein, the music director himself, provides the musical accompaniment.
In the first act, the cast are clad in bright, colorful, and slightly-oversized outfits reminiscent of loud 1980s fashion. They are hopeful students of the performing art, studying under the watchful eye of a tutor (played by Palka Kojanshow). The students, however, keep getting distracted by blossoming romances among themselves.
A Funny Thing Happened on Way to the Forum's "Comedy Tonight" opens the show, setting a jovial tone for the rest of the act. As for the love duets between the students, the song employs many traditionally romantic show tunes including West Side Story's "Something's Coming" and "Tonight", A Little Night Music's "A Weekend in the Country".
It also has a rendition of the playfully neurotic "Getting Married Today" from Company (quirkily, Amy's part was split between two people - herself and a bridesmaid) although the soprano role was transposed way down. From the same musical, "Being Alive" was also featured, arranged to be a duet between Gerardo and Putri - a highly unexpected choice, considering the song's original context. This will be a recurring theme throughout the show, as songs seek to highlight all 13's acting, singing, and dancing capability, therefore requiring creative rearrangements.
The second act takes a darker turn to the sexy and seedy side of Broadway musicals; songs include Man of La Mancha's "Dulcinea", Chicago's "We Both Reached for the Gun", "Razzle Dazzle", and perhaps the most iconic Broadway jazz song, "All That Jazz". The actors likewise dressed up in black shirts and mini-dresses, showing off their more sensuous charm, although never inappropriate (there are minors in the cast, Naura and Lil'li, who are always able to keep up with their older peers).
WHAT I DID FOR LOVE's third and final act serves as both the culmination and recap of the thirteen young actors' journey. Matilda's "When I Grow Up" and "Naughty" become the theme to their childhood dream of becoming Broadway performers. Part of Jesus Christ Superstar's "The Temple" is staged as shadowy, hooded figures trying to tear apart the dreamers from each other and from their dream.
The cast stands tall and the nightmare ends. They then perform Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat's "Any Dream Will Do" as a testament to their dedication. And finally the cast reflects on the sacrifices they have made along the way to their Broadway dream with the song that becomes the show's title, A Chorus Line's "What I Did For Love".
The show's main theme, appropriately, is ambition. Interspersed throughout the show are monologues from the cast, inspired by A Chorus Line's own hopeful artists (and oftentimes followed by an excerpt of "The Music and the Mirror" ).They talk of their goals in life and the obstacles they have conquered. It is a love letter for the "l'art pour l'art" philosophy - that performing in itself is noble and fulfilling. The money, the fame, the tears, and everything that come with it is simply a corollary for these artists.
But WHAT I DID FOR LOVE's main purpose is to showcase the talent and training of the thirteen INDONESIA MENUJU BROADWAY's awardees. In that regard, sharing the spotlight between so many triple threats was in itself a Herculean task. The production team did their best effort, including splicing solo parts to account for the multitude of voices needed to be heard.
However, the creative choices taken can sometime backfire, leaving some actors and actresses with songs that don't fully highlight their potential. Nevertheless, the immense amount of sheer talent and theatricality in the room were undeniable simply from how at ease the actors were while they were singing, acting, and dancing their hearts out.
WHAT I DID FOR LOVE should be taken as an appetizer for fully fleshed-out roles in future productions where these actors and actresses can truly shine.
It is inspiring to see the Indonesian-born musical triple threats performing nearly on Broadway level. As they were all outstanding, it is futile, if not impossible, to pick out favorites. However it needs to be said that some actors have stronger vocal power due to more polished projection technique. Likewise, some others are better and nimbler dancers, while others are more confident and charmingly intense actors.
On the flip side, it is also thrilling to see less mainstream classic show tunes performed on Jakarta stage, including those I personally thought would be impossible to see here.
This collaboration between Americans and Indonesians, benefactors and awardees, and professionals and hopefuls, is a very big step in shaping a proper musical theatre industry in Indonesia, one that can contribute to the well-being of not only the actors but also the nation at large. It is encouraging to know that Bakti Budaya Djarum Foundation has extended its partnership with StudentsLive and Passport to Broadway through 2021, paving the way for undiscovered musical talents of Indonesia.
Naura, Dafi, Das, Monda, Eve, Abby, Gerardo, Lil'li, Elhaq, Ayu, Palko, Putri, and Stephanie, have shown their passion through WHAT I DID FOR LOVE. It is a momentous occasion that these young stars - most of them already have achievements and musical portfolio of their own - share a stage.
And whatever lies ahead of them, although they might diverge personally and professionally in the future, for a moment all they needed was the music, and the mirror, and the chance to dance - and it was perfect.