On the evenings of November 2 and 4, the Hanoi Opera House was filled with audiences of various nationalities who came to watch Shrek The Musical in English with Vietnamese subtitles on display. This is the first project fully licensed from the US, encompassing both the script and music.

Backstage, Meritorious Artist Dang Chau Anh, the project’s artistic advisor, had a conversation with The Hanoi Times about the recent developments in Vietnamese musicals.

Broadway standard musical

Shrek The Musical is an officially licensed production from the renowned hub of musicals, Broadway. How has its premiere in Hanoi influenced the musical landscape in Vietnam?

Being the first Broadway musical to be staged in Vietnam, The YOUniverse Production obtained all the necessary copyrights from Music Theater International (MTI). The objective is to introduce international works to Vietnam and promote musicals to the Vietnamese community.

Last year, The YOUniverse acquired the rights to perform Alice in Wonderland in Hanoi. However, it was a school version, whereas Shrek The Musical is a professional rendition, featuring comprehensive set design, music, and script.

The show delivers a straightforward and human message that prompts contemplation. Despite Shrek and Fiona not being the conventional protagonists as seen in fairy tales, their love story still concludes splendidly, demonstrating the power of love beyond gender limitations and social expectations.

This musical boasts the participation of numerous foreign artists in the creative team. Might their expenses create pressure for the producer to secure revenue?

For The YOUniverse, this is the largest art project of 2023. It encompasses all aspects, including expertise, costumes, and staging, showcasing true professionalism and grandeur.

The production involves a team of Vietnamese-Australian musical experts, such as Director Ylaria Rogers, Choreographer Madison Price, Music Director Nicholas Gentile, Vocal Coach Craig Haggart, and especially the legendary figure of Broadway musicals, Philip Quast.

These individuals are deeply enthusiastic about being a part of this project, understanding that it conveys a positive message to young people and, more importantly, introduces them to the world of musicals. They recognized their mission to support Vietnamese art and accepted our invitation wholeheartedly. Hence, the budget required to invite them is not as significant as one may assume.

When it comes to The YOUniverse Production, their love for art drives them to invest in quality works, disregarding monetary concerns.

Making the show a success is no easy task. Does the production team have any plans to take the musical to other locations besides the three performances at the Hanoi Opera House?

Of course, we have this intention. Around the globe, musicals are staged regularly each year. Classic musicals like Beauty and the Beast, Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, and Miss Saigon draw large audiences night after night, continuously running for decades.

Through Shrek, we aspire to bring theater experiences to students and families. Thus, we are actively searching for sponsors to support this endeavor.

Professional musical theater training is crucial

How do you perceive the current state of Vietnamese musicals?

In recent years, we have witnessed positive signs of Vietnamese musicals’ development, with classic and modern Broadway-style musicals attracting substantial audiences in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and other major cities.

In addition to licensed plays like Alice in Wonderland or Shrek, Vietnamese creations such as Song (Waves) and the upcoming Vien Da Ngu Sac (The Five-Colored Stone) have also emerged.

It can be said that musicals are gaining increasing popularity.

What factors do you believe are imperative for the advancement of Vietnamese musicals?

Musical theater is an immensely challenging genre, as it unifies music, dramatic situations, stage design, lighting, sound, choreography, acting, dialogue, and the emotional expressions of actors.

Unlike the acoustics of chamber music, musicals entail extensive microphone setups to project the sound of the orchestra. Simultaneously, on stage, sound engineers must adjust the volume of each microphone for the actors.

On stage, numerous maneuvers transpire, including sound, lighting, actors, and stage decorations. Thus, the director must possess versatility and meticulousness in overseeing all aspects.

Presently, Vietnam does not possess dedicated venues or stages for musicals, lacks professional musical actors, and lacks specialized training programs for musical personnel.

This is why I hope that Vietnamese art institutions will provide such training.

Could you enlighten us about your upcoming artistic projects?

I am collaborating with the Interkultur World Cultural Alliance to develop choirs in Vietnam. Additionally, I teach conducting at the Vietnam National Academy of Music.

At present, my primary focus revolves around providing artistic guidance for The YOUniverse’s musical project. We aim to continue bringing licensed Broadway shows to Vietnam, fostering widespread popularity of musicals in the country and establishing a community of musical enthusiasts.

I hold great confidence in young Vietnamese artists. Although 90% of the actors involved in Shrek The Musical are amateurs, they possess exceptional English singing abilities, excellent voices, exceptional choreography skills, and the ability to act.

They harbor immense passion for the stage and approach their work earnestly. By nurturing their love for musicals, they contribute to its proliferation, inspiring everyone they encounter.

Thank you for your time!