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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

An exhilarating leap ahead ...

Karachi's long-lost "Musicals" scene is finally back. And how! Director/Choreographer Nida Butt - and everyone else behind the scenes - must be thanked profusely for the Herculean effort Chicago must have taken to provide us with the kind of delightful evening it turned out to be.
The sounds of genuine old-time Jazz in Karachi, alone, would have made my evening. But the talent. Wow. What a delightful surprise to see the songs and the music being actually performed on stage and not the lipsync and miming that some other productions have so far made do with. Here's to the band! You rocked, guys! The choir - so easily overlooked because of its lack of visibility - needs a special mention. You were great!
The cast was brilliant I wonder how many rehearsals and time it took to get the essential 'timing' - so crucial to the deliveries - just right. But you did it. (The little extra pause by Momin, before his last line in Mr. Cellophane was better than in the movie. I just replayed the recording to check!) Nida, Faraz, and Ahmed Ali did full justice to their parts and Omar's dual responsibilities of conducting and delivering the chorus-like announcements were handled perfectly. 
Sanam Saeed: You deserve a line just for yourself, which is why you are not in the above paragraph. You stole the show and, if the buzz in the intermission is to be taken at face value, several hearts, too!
The limitations of putting up anything like this are colossal: Sound Engineers who do not treat every event as if it were a mehndi celebration, or a political rally, are hard to find. When coupled with architecture that considers the aural experience secondary to the visuals on stage, things really get bad. The Arts Council Auditorium, presumably designed for the performing arts, is acoustically awful at the best of times unless one has choice seats. I did not :~( (having gotten the tickets at the last minute with great difficulty and string-pulling) and, so, was unable to hear some of the dialogue and the vocals, unless they were on my side of the theatre. I say this not to knock or fault the production in any way. If economics would permit such ventures, ideally (impractical though the suggestion is) several seats would be blocked off as being detrimental to the experience.
Perhaps, having imported an energetic dance troupé from India, the sound set-up, too, should have been left to the pros from across the border. (Hint: Maybe that's what the Lahore production should do ... and, while I am at it, one request: Leave the stupid smoke machine back in Karachi. It adds nothing.)
There was some talk of the tickets being a bit pricey at a thousand bucks, not that it stopped people, at every performance, from lining up for hours to get them. Given that, these days, a straight-forward play, amateurishly performed, with a fairly bare stage-setting at the PACC, is charging 500 bucks, I think that, relatively speaking, this was fine ... even without part of the proceeds that, I believe, are going to a hospice. Sure, not everyone can afford to pay that much ... but why assume that such plays are for 'everybody', anyway?Entertainment, good live entertainment, costs! Everywhere.
Among the many things, other than the sound quality, that need to develop around our performing arts culture are Reviews. C'mon guys/gals. Your access to writing in the skills-starved popular press does not take away from you the onus of responsibility you have towards your readers for providing them with a review. Don't pass the blame to equally clueless, editors. It's YOUR review. YOU have to get it right. First off, remember, it's not meant to be an article padded with internet extracts. Of course that may have something to do with being paid by the word if that's what your arrangements are. Secondly, 'spoilers' - revelations that give away the plot or ruin surprises, as did the mention of "the twist in the end" in one review - ensure that people will not read your review before watching plays again (I won't!) ... and who reads your reviews after seeing the plays, anyway! Thirdly, get the basic lingo right: Sanam Saeed did not play the "title role", dear reviewers. That would have happened only if either the play was called Roxie or the character she played been named Chicago. To be fair, all of these things are interdependent and will get better with time and more exposure.
Once again, thank you Made for Stage Productions! Good luck in Lahore and India!!! (Oh ... I now anxiously await your production of Hair ... if anyone can do it, you guys can!)

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Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

Interesting 'joint venture', that one...


08 August, 2008 23:54


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