There was a time in the Thai film industry when most of the directors and actors came from the theater, rather than television.
And it's heartening to know that a few of those folks are still around, and are actually working.
Among them is Euthana Mukdasanit, director of such classic 1980s Thai films as The Story of Nam Poo and Butterfly and Flowers. He also worked in theater, and back in the day one of his big productions was a Thai-language adaptation of Man of La Mancha.
That acclaimed production has been revived, again with Euthana directing.
Chalee Intharawichit serves as musical director. Chalee was recently on hand at the Ratana Pestonji centennial celebration at the National Film Archive. From a solid background in theater, Chalee had the lead role in Ratana's Dark Heaven back in 1957. It was essentially a filmed version of a musical drama by celebrated playwright Suwat Woradilok.
For the past year or more, Bangkok has been in the midst of a musical theater revival, spearheaded by the opening of the Muang Thai Rachadalai Theatre at the Esplanade Cineplex on Ratchadaphisek Road. Among the acts that have passed through was the touring production of Cats, but there have been several Thai productions as well, mainly adaptations of TV series and variety shows.
Man of La Mancha opened at the theater last weekend. Daily Xpress drama critic Pawit Mahasarinand reviewed it. Here's an excerpt:
Euthana Mukdasanit's legendary film Nam Poo gave teens great memories that have lasted into their middle age, and his La Mancha belongs on the same page of history. It inspires us to stay true to what we believe in, to dream for the better and relentlessly fight for it, no matter what the outcome.
These messages are as relevant in Thailand today as they were 21 years ago when the musical was first presented at the National Theatre.
The thunderous applause on Wednesday night proved that theatregoers, after being spoon-fed visually extravagant but dramatically shallow soap operas and mindless comedies at this playhouse for more than a year, welcome quality musical theatre.
If your time and budget allow for only one grand-scale musical this year, Man of La Mancha is my highest recommendation.
James Roengsak Loyshusak and Ben Chalatid portray Don Quixote and Sancho. Always-watchable actress Patharawarin Timkul is Aldonza/Dulcinea. She's been seen burning up the screen in Jan Dara and Body #19. She was in the original Bangkok Dangerous too. And, she has a theatrical background, being the daughter of Patravadi Mejudhon.
Man of La Mancha is running until Sunday at the Rachadalai Theater.
Update: Two other upcoming musicals are Academy Fantasia the Musical: JoJoSang, adapted from Madame Butterfly, and the romantic drama Khang Lang Phap (ข้างหลังภาพ) -- Behind the Painting.
Adapted from the classic novel by Kulap Saipradit, Behind the Painting has been made as a film twice -- in the 1970s by Piak Poster, and in 2001 by Cherd Songsri. Cherd's version is probably the best known worldwide because it has been released on English-subtitled DVD.
(Via Bangkok of the Mind)