Love is… Strong On Choreography, Lame On Music, Dramatic Outputs
THERE is no doubt that Nigeria has caught up on the musical theatre genre. The regularity with which they are staged is proof enough. Two Fridays ago, Love Is the musical was staged at Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos. It was the second time the musical theatre would be staged. It followed in the heels of Bolanle Austin-Peters’ Wakaa and Uche Nwokedi’s Kakadu that rocked Lagos last December and early last month. The timing was somewhat behind. Perhaps, Love Is (produced by i-Xtreme Productions and Limitless Mind Africa) ought to have been put forward two weeks so it could be staged today, Sunday, February 14, Valentine’s Day, when love is in the air. Then, it would have presented a perfect moment for lovers of all ages wishing to rekindle that magic spark. But that is not to be.
Backed by the might of Nigerian Breweries Plc, Love is tells the simple story of love founded on wealth but which soon dissipates when it hits an obstacle. A young lady, played by Ukalina Opuwari, falls in love with the love of her life, a young man, played by Francis Omoh, who is already made. Her father, who describes the young man as a rascal at first sight, turns round with songs of praise when he learns about his social status. The mother dances non-stop for the luck her daughter has landed in hooking a rich husband.
And so the fairy tale of love is supposed to be. But the lady’s inability to bear a child six years down the road changes everything. Her husband reverts back to his bachelor status, so to say, as he parties non-stop with the women at his club. She is left miserable and condemned to loneliness and unhappiness. Worse, she is turned into a punching bag for the flimsiest of reasons. Her parents’ visit reveals the sham of a marriage their daughter is locked. They have nowhere to hide from their misery and shame.
But how does a couple which has lost time in the game of love recover and play catch up with old times? What magic can help heal battered and wounded love? How can love be brought back to former heartthrobs who have drifted so far apart? The love cry by the poetic duo of Efe Paul Azino and Sasu Paul Azino, “Love is not kind; love is not what I found. Love is fragile but it never fails” amplifies the misery the young lady faces. Having fallen giddily in love, she soon finds that love can be just as thorny as it is rosy from the start.
While the husband and wife are made to play mute almost all through, the power of spoken word comes to their rescue as the Azinos fill in the drama and dialogue with poetry both at the breakpoint and melding of the two hearts. Also, Yinka Davies’ interventionist mediation of what love should be and what it has become in the hands of youngsters who change according to the seasons seems apt although the music is sharply old school and far removed from the reality of the young folks. Davies’ inclusion serves as mediator that finally helps to bring healing to the young couple, especially the man who realises how negligent he has been to his wife.
However, the story comes in stiches between finely executed choreography. Indeed from the marriage to the break point, there are many gaps that the storyline is almost lost on the audience, gaps bridged by finely executed dances.
THAT is as much as the story goes for the over two-hour show that stretched interminable. Classical music essemble not unlike The Pirates Of Penxance opens the show. Then Ijodee Dance Company’s Mr. Adedayo Liadi took the floor to execute supposedly soured love in contemporary dance style. But Mr. Liadi appears too bulky in the mid-rift for the role he would have gracefully executed in the past; he struggles through it. But exactly what was the point of his dance except to present a composite of dances? Its relationship with the theme of Love Is seems hard to fathom.
Liadi’s performance morphs into what were unarguably the most amazingly choreographed dance pieces to ever to grace the stage in Lagos. Indeed, there seemed to be more cohesion in the dance dramaturgy than the actual dramatization of the story. In fact, the producers would have done well to stage the choreography as a separate performance. Now that the template is established, they would do well to restage the choreography separately in future as stand-alone performance. There is great potential in that area as Love is clearly showed. Love Is as just choreography without the unrelieved, unvocalised drama would be more attractive and compelling a show.
Cut off Liadi’s dance part, cut off the drama, but retain the spoken word and Davies’ parts and Love Is will still be as just captivating and compelling. The others parts ostensibly drag what is otherwise a finely executed choreographic performance packed with all the telling ingredients of love lost and love regained. It might seem experimental staging only the choreographic bit, but it has all the potentials to command attention with its sheer spectacle that got the audience applauding all through.
The versatility of the Artistic Director, Mr. Ice Nweke, is well established. His painting exhibition that also focuses on love theme all add to the overall effect of cohesive presentation. His use of multi-media also add` pep to the production. His dance choreography of one of Flavour’s highlife songs is perfect. It’s a wonder there’s so much bad and lewd dances accompanying Nigerian songs with a talent like Nweke to give informed direction.
So yes, while Love Is dazzled greatly as choreographic showpiece, it fell dismally short on drama and music; there is no original music in it to remember after the show unlike Saro, Wakaa and Kakadu that has original music scores and live bands performing their music.
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