Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mae Nak to burst out in song

The musical theater revival in Thailand continues unabated, with Thailand's most-famous ghost story, Mae Nak Phra Khanon, about to get the song-and-dance treatment in a slick-looking production.

Produced by Scenario, Mae Nak Phra Khanon -- The Musical (แม่นาคพระโขนง เดอะมิวสิคัล) will be staged from May 20 to June 7 at the Muang Thai Rachadalai Theater at the Esplanade on Ratchadaphisek Road.

Some performances will have English surtitles, according to

Nat Myria Benedetti stars as the titular ghost -- a woman who dies in childbirth while her husband is away fighting the war with the Burmese. So strong is her love and devotion to her husband Mak (Anuttaphon Sirichumsang), when he returns from battle, she appears to be alive, even as the rest of the village around her is decaying and neighbors are all keeping their distance and acting strangely.

The cast also includes Suda Chuenban, Tik Shiro, Pakhachon Wo-onsri, Tong-Tong Mokjok and Ood Pentor. It's directed by Takonkiet Viravan.

Mae Nak's story has been depicted on film and on television many times, with the best-known contemporary iteration being 1999's Nang Nak by Nonzee Nimibutr. There was also 2005's Ghost of Mae Nak, which had the ghost wife haunt a young couple in modern-day Bangkok. It's pretty good too. And last year there was Nak, an animated featured that made the ghost a kid-friendly superheroine battling foreign-horror-movie demons. Oh, and don't forget about Pimpaka Towira's 1998 short, Mae Nak, which I'd like to see someday.

The story was also adapted by composer Somtow Sucharitkul into the 2003 opera, Mae Naak.

It's supposedly based on actual events that took place sometime during the 1800s, and there's a shrine to Mae Nak in Phra Khanong, a district in Bangkok that is an actual place. So it must be true, right?

And, I'm told that there is another Mae Nak musical planned by the rival M Theatre. Thailand's musical revival is boundless. I hope to find out more about that soon.

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