In late May 2007, I had an opportunity to go to Bangkok and see a fine stage performance of "Fah jarod sai the musical" at the Muang Thai Rachadalai Theatre.
A red curtain opened on the first scene, set in the Middle East. As the sun rose over the desert to the stunning sound of Arabian music, the city of Hilrafa was filled with the new day's light. Entering into this sublime setting was a huge cast of dancers and musicians, along with prominent stage actors who worked to make every scenic transition flawlessly smooth.
Fah Jarod Sai
Michelle, a half breed orphan girl, who grew up in the convent school until her graduation, followed her friend Kashfiya, a teacher at Hilrafa, the distant city empire in the desert. Kashfiya was already destined to be a concubine of Ahmed, the Sultan of Hilrafa, whose royal astronomer had predicted would be the woman to give birth to the future crown prince. However Kashfiya had a French boyfriend named Robert and in a complete misunderstanding that Michelle might take Robert away from her, she planned to send Michelle to be a concubine instead. Colonel Shareef, the royal bodyguard of Ahmed, brought Michele to Ahmed according to royal tradition.
On the wedding night, Oman, the younger cousin of Ahmed, rebelled, murdering Ahmed. Colonel Shareef, distraught in sorrow and anger, fought the rebel and took Michelle with him, fleeing into the vast desert. Both Michelle and Shareef struggled together against many hardships, eventually falling in love. The hardest obstacle that Shareef confronted was the mission to restore the city of Hilrafa to its former glory.
"Fah-jarod-sai the musical" was a huge production for its first time at this theatre. It took two years of preparation before the theatre was ready to present the show. The founder, Takolkiet Wirawan or "Boy", was a strong supporter of live theatre for over ten years. He decided to create the Muang Thai Rachadalai Theatre conspicuously on the 4th floor of the high-profile Esplanade department store with joint funding from the Muang Thai Life Insurance Company and the Siam Commercial Bank.
The novel "Fah jarod-sai" was written by Sophak Suwan, a prominent Thai novelist and was widely published. It is more than just a romantic adventure in the desert, it also portrayals the better side of human nature.
When Virawan selected the novel, he intended to create a magical stage performance to honor the grand opening of the MuangThai Rachdalai Theatre. And he featured two of Thailand's most famous singers, Nat Myria and Mos Patipan.
Virawan, a director who has heart of a marketer, banked on the fact that theatre is a crucial entertainment for urban people in Bangkok even though ticket prices are quite high for common people who have low or medium salaries—500 - 2,500 Baht ($15-78USD) with international stage performances ranging from 1,000 - 4,000 Baht ($30-125USD) per ticket.
Nevertheless, he was adamant about creating a "Broadway standard theatre" for Thai life , And he wanted a comfortable environment for Thai audiences. That was the main objective in building the theatre in a "Thai way."
Fah Jarod Sai enjoyed 40 performances and then was extended another 13 performances. In Thailand, that is a very successful run.
Selecting a good and interesting stage performance for Thai people is not easy. Virawan decided to revive Banlang Mek, a high-budget, successful musical which he directed for the "Exact Company" five years ago. It is a satire of Thai high-society. Parnrung is the self-indulgent daughter of the owner of an ocean liner company. The family business however went bankrupt in Parnrung's hands because she trusted her first husband, a playboy gambler, to manage her properties.
Her life totally changed when she had her first son, Parnthep. They were thrown out of the house and went to live with the son of the family driver, who became her second husband and the father of Prok.
With two children, Parnrung had to find work to give them a good life. But a better way out of hardship was to marry a rich ex-fiance whom she dumped for a playboy hubby. Happiness does not follow. The story goes how a mother's power of love can lead to tragedy.
Once again, Sinjai "Nok" Plengpanich stars in the 2007 production as Parnrung.
A legendary actress, she's back on stage after five years since doing this musical.
With Takonkiet Virawan doing his usual good work and now in this new, beautiful structure, one can expect to see a wonderful evening of theatre.