ONE of Asia’s most highly-awaited television shows of 2011 has been an unusual but surprisingly right-on-the-mark combination of the MasterChef and Glee phenomenons.
The Kitchen Musical has played on Asian audiences’ passion for culinary delights to present an entertaining drama involving hit songs and fresh dance moves.
Producer CheeK says the Singapore-produced show is the first musical drama the country has produced for international audiences.
“The Kitchen Musical is the first of its kind,” CheeK tells Meld.
“No one has ever done this, in terms of fusing food, dance, music and drama, and putting it together in a coherent project like this.
“It is a mouth-watering and compelling drama, infused with popular music and dynamic choreography, topped with delicious cooking.”
The show revolves around the lives of characters working in a fine-dining restaurant, who burst out into song and dance during episodes.
Now two months into its first season on nTV7 (Malaysia), Studio 13 (Philippines), Metro TV (Indonesia) and AXN (international), the musical drama features international names like the UK’s Stephen Rahman-Hughes (The Malay Chronicles and US television show Doctors), Hong Kong supermodel Rosemary Vandenbroucke and the Philippine’s Karylle Tatlonghari, Christian Bautista, and Arthur Acuna.
“The role of Maddie (Karylle Tatlonghari) was cast right off the bat. Karylle did the test pilot, and she was amazing,” says CheeK.
He says the actress actively sought the role after first hearing of the show.
“I didn’t get invited to the audition so I looked for it,” she tells Meld.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to be in a musical. When I learned about the project I knew I had to be in it.”
Like most of her fellow cast-members, Karylle (as she is simply known in the Philippines) is a triple threat; a powerful actor, talented singer and terrific dancer.
“My theater background definitely helped because I find it natural when people burst out into song randomly,” she jokes.
But alongside Karylle and the other more famous faces, a number of The Kitchen Musical‘s cast-members are recent students of Singapore’s La Salle College of Arts and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.
Carla Dunareu, Erwin Shah Ismail, Gayle Nerva and Nadiah Mohammed are recent graduates who all seem to have taken similar experiences from their roles in the show. The transition from studying to performing was natural, they tell Meld, as they were well prepared for their roles.
“The only new challenge I faced was the dance aspect of The Kitchen Musical,” says 25-year-old Erwin.
“My key skills are primarily acting, singing, hosting and not so much dancing. Fortunately the choreographer, Jason Coleman, made my dancing experience very comfortable.”
But 22-year-old Carla says the adjustment to working on a set was a big change from the student lifestyle.
“Waking up at 5am to make it for hair and make-up by 6am is something you never have to do when you’re still in school. But the experience is definitely something I will remember for the rest of my life, as it has made me grow so much more as a performer.”
“It did not feel like work when we were doing what we love,” says Gayle, also 22.
“And better yet, when we were surrounded by brilliant and beautiful souls to learn from and share ideas with.”
Twenty-one-year-old Nadiah agrees that working with the other cast and crew members was a highlight.
“We met new people and worked with other professional actors, and got to use the technique and the skills that we learnt in school.”
It’s not just the cast that serves as a tasting platter for pan-Asian and international talent, but also the crew. Filipino musical director and conductor Gerard Salonga has been responsible for arranging the soundtrack, while Australian choreographer Jason Coleman has been the creative force behind the cast’s smooth moves and Italian Massimilano Della Maggesa has been in charge of make-up.
A second season of The Kitchen Musical has been confirmed, and a US release is on the horizon. While international students can check it out if they’re home for summer, CheeK would love to make the show more accessible to them during the year.
“We would love for the series to be aired in Australia and we are talking to some broadcasters there. [Meld] will be the first to know when we have signed any contracts!”