The music swelled; the curtains rose; and Jacky Cheung Hok-yau made a rather unusual singing entrance, eliciting delighted squeals from his fans. Then, he started waving and talking to them amid screams of "Jacky!" and "Hok-yau!".
Excuse me? Wasn't this supposed to be Snow.Wolf.Lake,,Hong Kong's first home-grown "Broad-way musical" with a musical" with a Canto-pop twist?
I dreaded to think what was next, but it later became apparent that it was precisely for those reasons that Cheung felt the need to have an "interlude" to the musical-proper.
With an audience mainly used to the screaming and irritating whistle-blowing at concerts, house rules had to be laid down: there would be no screaming of his name and no distracting camera flashes.
But even without the warning, it was apparent by the first half-hour of the near three-hour show that the audience had become so enthralled by the music and the story that the Coliseum, for once, was strangely silent but for the sound of music.
As the story unfolded of the ill fated love between a poor gardener Wolf (Cheung), and rich boss' daughter, Snow (Sandy Lam Yik-lin), being destroyed by a jealous third party and a greedy mother, three were many sniffles in the house as well.
Snow.Wolf.Lake is an extravaganza in all senses of the word. No expense was spared, from the specular set to the colorful costumes.
Scenes changed miraculously fast with the fully-automated stage that went from being a mansion with hanging chandeliers to a run-down church and a marketplace. There was even a bobbing boat.
Naturally, a musical would not be complete without the songs. As for warned, these were mainly Canto-pop songs - mostly moving ballads - with some interestingly-arranged interludes. But Canto-pop songs had never been injected with such depth of feeling by all the stars concerned.
Only the choruses left me with a feeling of slight disappointment: since this was a mixture of concert dancers and signers the choruses came off a little weak. They did not have the gusto or the full-bodied feel of the usual Broadway choruses, although it is understandable since not many in Hong Kong have been trained or are experienced in musicals.
And the stars - Chueng, Lam, Michael Tse Tin-wah and Singaporean singer Kit Chan - put on an awe-inspiring performance, as did their supporting cast, which included Ng Kit-yan as the greedy mother.
Tse was particularly outstanding even if he wsa not all that strong a singer.
There were other leftover tinges of Canto-pop concerts - a gesture here and a dance step there - but that is the thing that makes it uniquely Hong Kong. It has opened up a new vista on the Canto-pop scene.
Snow.Wolf.Lake will be something Cheung can always proud of.
It was an ambitious, and expensive project and many had doubts he could really pull it off. But he has. After this , Canto-pop concerts will never be the same again.Extracted from Sunday Morning Post on 30th March, 1997.
Last updated: Friday, April 18, 1997 12:22:06 AM