Lao Jiu(老九) was first premiered in Singapore as a play in 1990. It became a Musical in 2005, restaged in 2012. Some 27 years later, the play by Kuo Pao Kun still has relevance today as it was back then.
The boy born to a family of eight sisters before him, hence he was nicknamed Lao Jiu (老九), held so much hope for the family. Being the only male and very academically smart, all members of the extended family hope that he would gain scholarship and honour for the family. But Lao Jiu has a burning passion for the dying Chinese hand puppetry art that ran counter to academic pursuit. He was torn between his passion for the art and his wish to fulfill his filial piety to his parents.
This is so much the landscape in the 1960s, 70s. Hand puppetry and opera were losing their allure. Gaining scholarships and academic pursuits were the only way for poorer families to get out of their poverty trap. This was Singapore back in that era. This tussle between art and academic excellence is still seen today.
As for me, I feel for the lost heritage of our art and cultural scenes of yesteryears played out on stage. The Musical in Chinese, Hokkien dialect was a delight to watch. It was touching and you could feel the strong emotions of the characters on stage. The music, songs and the choreography were easy for the ears and your eyes. The casts played well and my favourite was Johnny Ng (黄家强) playing the role of the patriarch of the family.
Lao Jiu, The Musical started on 6 April and ends this Sunday 23 April. There are 6 more sessions to go and there are still seats to catch this Musical. Re-live and reminisce the past. I was brought back to the era when I was growing up, right before my eyes on stage. Don’t miss it. I am not too sure when it would be re-staged again in the future.