"FIREFLY IN THE LIGHT —A NEW MUSICAL", an original pop musical by 17-year old Singapore composer, lyricist, author Shayna Toh, tells the story of Wendy, a beautifully talented school- girl, who knows she is destined for great things. In her shadow, is her childhood "friend", Jake, unassuming and insecure – who (finally) finds his strength in Wendy. Beckoned by the brightness of a future in a far away city, Wendy leaves her small hometown to follow her dreams. A protective mother, her elusive husband in the entertainment business, a shrewd artist manager and adoring friends and fans, all wittingly or unwittingly direct the destinies of Wendy and Jake as they search for themselves, love and success, finding themselves treading on similar grounds but taking very different paths, not once but twice in their young lives.
Don’t fireflies invoke a whimsical and magical feel? The storyline seems pretty dreamy too – boy meets girl, they fall in love and chase their dreams together in a rags-to-riches story. That’s what we thought…until the premiere last Saturday. The show featured a plot twist and a bittersweet resolution.
Here’s 5 ways how FITL warmed our hearts.
1. Firefly Motif
According to Shayna, this is what the title meant:
‘Fireflies are known for their magical glow. They thrive in a warm, natural environment, mostly in fields, forests and suburban towns and they die in a polluted environment, especially when there is too much night light- from street lights, car lights...human light pollution is believed to interrupt the flash patterns of the fireflies, eventually causing their disappearance.
An analogy is drawn with Wendy. In her natural, nurturing, small town habitat, she emits her own fire, her own glow and she flourishes. However, once she is exposed to the artificial night light and the pollution that is the night scene (the nightclub lights, the smoke, the drugs of the big city) that her father roots her in, she starts to decay and eventually perishes.
Wendy is that "Firefly" and her sleazy night life is that night "Light".’
These parallels are very aptly drawn.
The stage was decorated with firefly jars and the title song was simply unforgettable, especially when performed by the dashing Linden Furnell.
2. Breaking the Fourth Wall
The actors were not entrapped in their make-believe world. The space of the chambers was fully utilized. The small stage was occupied by the band so the cast performed on the runway. The stage blocking was effective and interactive. The views of the audience from the left and right of the runway were not obstructed even during all the action. The cast was spread out amongst the audience members for the opening song. The male audience members were even given a free lap dance by Wendy’s father’s showgirls! Too bad the spotlights also shone on the front row, we caught a couple of them blushing tomato red.
3. Catchy Pop Songs
The songs minted were upbeat and catchy as they propelled the plot. They are the kind with the lively beat that sticks in your head and become your shower encores.
Set in a small unnamed town, it offers no restrictions to who it may be applicable to. It also features the rebellious teenager (Wendy). The plot is about growing up, pursuing your dreams, finding yourself and falling in love. Isn’t that what every single teenager is experiencing?
5. Plot Twist
It is not just another romantic fairytale. Nor is it fully family friendly. We loved the juxtaposition between the innocent high school students look to the dark sleazy side of Hollywood. Even though the leads fell in love, they went separate ways to pursue their aspirations. Eventually, it was Jake who shot to fame and success. Ironically, the fearless Wendy had fallen from grace, her disillusioned self whereas was insecure and self-reproaching. She became a drug-addicted showgirl under her abusive father’s oppression. There is always sugar and spice in FITL, and we are diggin’ it.
There were a couple of flaws that made us furrow our eyebrows in confusion but fortunately did not dramatically affect the performance overall.
1. Relationship between Wendy and Mother
While it was evident that there was conflict between mother and daughter, it kept us wondering just why the mother never made eye contact while she was reprimanding her daughter. She was merely staring into blank space.
2. Sound Balance Between the Band and Vocals
This was quite a bother sometimes especially when the drums were played. In a musical, the songs are instrumental to plot development. When we can’t hear the lyrics, it becomes puzzling. Some instances when there were dialogues inserted in between instrumentals, we are unsure if the projection was not strong enough or were the instruments really just too loud?
3. Wardrobe Malfunction
The costumes were generally quite flattering (we especially loved the red and black laced corsets). However, the girls’ uniforms looked like baggy nightdresses. Why?