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Young Indonesians win golden tickets to Broadway

A. Kurniawan Ulung

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, February 28, 2019  /  11:58 am
Young Indonesians win golden tickets to Broadway

Road to Broadway: Young people perform at Balai Resital Kertanegara concert hall in Jakarta on Sunday. Seventy young Indonesians were selected to take part in a Broadway training program organized by the Bakti Budaya Djarum Foundation and the New York-based StudentsLive - Passport to Broadway program. (Courtesy of ImageDynamics/-)

"Lost in the Darkness”, a song from the Jekyll & Hyde musical, resonated throughout the Balai Resital Kertanegara concert hall in Jakarta on Sunday, as a group of 23 youngsters acted and danced along to the song.

The song opened a Broadway show titled Beyond A Musical Doubt, which revolves around Richard Fletcher, a world-renowned director and choreographer whose passion for music is met with opposition and distrust from his colleagues in a musical theater show he leads. 

Other songs performed included “We Share Everything” from the musical Side Show, “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera and “Easy as Life” from AIDA.

Prior to the show, two other groups staged two musicals titled Ready and Confidence, during which “Spoonful of Sugar” from Mary Poppins, “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music and “I Dreamed A Dream” from Les Miserables filled the air.

The three Broadway musicals were performed by 70 young people aged 9 to 32. The performers were students of the Indonesia for Broadway training course run by the Bakti Budaya Djarum Foundation and the New York-based StudentsLive - Passport to Broadway program, which provides an educational journey into the world of Broadway musicals, giving students the opportunity to experience, first-hand, a Broadway education program.

During the course, from Feb. 20 to 24, the 70 participants – selected from 672 applicants by a panel including filmmaker Garin Nugroho and choreographer Ari Tulang – underwent intensive training.

Over the course of five days, the participants, who brought a range of talents, from dancing, singing to acting, attended training from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. under the mentorship of three experts from StudentsLive – artistic director Amy Weinstein, music director Seth Weinstein and choreographer Stephen Brotebeck.

On Sunday at Balai Resital Kertanegara, the students not only showed what they had learned during the program, but also competed to win 16 golden tickets to go to New York in July, where they will get further training from musical theater specialists as well as have the opportunity to see live Broadway performances and meet Broadway artists. 

Ni Made Ayu Raharsini Gurnitha, who performed in Beyond A Musical Doubt, was lost for words when she was announced as one of the 16 winners, saying that the training program was an experience she would never forget. 

 “They taught me that when we are on stage, every song we sing, every role we play and every dance we perform must have a purpose. That lesson taught me that in real life, we have to be aware that every decision we make has to have a direction and purpose,” the 27-year-old said. 

Ayu is a Balinese dance teacher in Jakarta, who has taken part in musical performances since she was a student at Limkokwing University in Malaysia.

She has dreamed of becoming a Broadway performer since watching Singin’ in the Rain and the Broadway-themed films Chicago and Dreamgirls.     

Ayu said that understanding dialog and songs was a challenge for some of the course’s participants, as English was not their first language.

“For me, English was not the main problem. I often traveled abroad, as my father worked for the Foreign Ministry. However, I admit that I still had to open a dictionary to understand much of the jargon in the script and songs because they were not words we tend to use in daily life,” she said.    

I've got it: Sixteen participants of the Indonesia for Broadway training program won tickets to New York, where they will get further training from musical theater specialists  in July. I've got it: Sixteen participants of the Indonesia for Broadway training program won tickets to New York, where they will get further training from musical theater specialists in July. (Courtesy of ImageDynamics/-)

For Beatrice Gobang, who was one of the youngest participants in the program, memorizing the songs was a major challenge. “The songs are long,” said the 9-year-old, who is also a member of the Resonanz Children’s Choir. 

Beatrice, who has performed with Resonanz at multiple concerts, did not win a golden ticket to the Big Apple but was grateful for the opportunity to be mentored by StudentsLive. 

The elementary school student, who loves playing the violin, said her passion for performing was fully supported by her parents, especially her mother, who encouraged her to take part in the Indonesia for Broadway program.  

“Theater lessons are important, not only for those who want to be professional theater actors but also for those who want to pursue other careers because it can develop their character and soft skills so that they can live in harmony with everyone in society,” said Beatrice’s mother, Avanti Fontana. 

For Amy Weinstein, her Indonesian students’ performance on Sunday was already of professional Broadway caliber – an accomplishment attained in a short amount of time. 

“And what happened here is, every single person found a way to connect their story, their character, that music, that dance to the most important thing in their individual expression,” she said. “I am simply blown away.”  

Weinstein said she first became interested in teaching Broadway classes in Indonesia two years ago after meeting an Indonesian friend who was planning to bring some professional Indonesian performers to study musical theater at StudentsLive.

She was enthusiastic about the plan as she believed Indonesian people were talented, but at that time, she admitted she did not know the depth of their commitment. 

They then researched Indonesia’s artistic and cultural sensibilities and sensitivities.”[Then] I knew this was a country that might be able to really understand the unique art form of musical theater,” Weinstein said. 

She was thrilled when the Djarum Foundation approached StudentsLive about the training program.

“I was in shock and awe, not only at the talent but also at the maturity, hunger and eagerness to learn,” Weinstein said.

“We challenged everybody to go to the highest level. This was a very difficult experience, especially as English is a second language. So, the challenge was to rise as high as they could go.” (ste)

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