The Working Dead: Workshop Production is a musical written by Terence Toh under the production of Allnighters Production. It was staged at studio Twenty20Two last weekend over a run of 5 shows. The word ‘workshop’ in the title means that it is a work in progress – the show was a preview version for a possibly full length version of the musical in the future. As such, I will be gentle with my review, and consider it a feedback rather – as it is what this musical needs, after all.
The musical tells the story of Edwin (played by Iz Sulaini), an office worker (a lawyer, I assume) who falls sick and later dies from working too hard. His demanding boss (Lenny Wan) then summons a bomoh (Tina Isaacs), to bring Edwin back to life. Zombie Edwin is ordered to continue working and finishing their current project, hence, the working dead.
No, I’m serious, that’s where the credit rolled, as the show ended right there. It ran for only 45 minutes.
Writer Terence Toh is a regular in the annual Short+Sweet Festival Malaysia, and had won Best Libretto for some of his 10 minutes musical such as “Up All Night” (2015) and “Parallel” (2016). This is Terence’s first try at a full length musical, and is noticeably so. Many of the solos are long, and as Terence is well known for his puns and wit, it sounded like he was trying to squeeze all of the possible lines into every song in the show. I will not lie and say I do not enjoy the lyrics; it is just that at some points I feel like I am watching a really long version of what could be a good Short+Sweet piece.
I was also a little confused with the music. It was a mashup of ballad and rock (or, rock ballad?) by Lydia Tong and Kelvin Loh, which, as interesting as it sounds, does not carry the oomph that is needed to slay a full length musical. The rock comes in pretty mellow, also, not as often as I would have enjoyed. Most of the melodies are carried by the piano, which lightens up the supposedly dark comedy in a very…Disney way. Again, it may work in short musicals, but for a full length, I will fall asleep if the composition only had that to show me. The music was just music to the songs, and when it was the background music that is supposed to help tell the story, it doesn’t work.
As much as I enjoyed the opening song as well as the boss solo, “So Inconsiderate”, almost all of the songs were brought down by the bad acting of the entire cast. Understandably so, since it is just a workshop production. (But then again, how did they have all the time in the world to shoot some promo videos…?) The cast focused too much on delivering the songs on perfect pitch, they forgot to enjoy themselves and each other. I enjoyed Tina Isaacs’s as the bomoh, but lost her when she sang.
Some of the songs tell a lot about the characters, such as “So Inconsiderate”, Brian Cheong’s “Let Me Be Your Number One”, and the bomoh song, but the rest sounded pretty much like “We have an empty spot here, make some songs! ANY SONG!”
As for the story, it isn’t something unfamiliar. Not much can be shaped from the characters, and for the preview, Terence only formed them based on caricatures. I was disappointed that it ended 45 minutes down, right when the Zombie woke up from the dead. Why showed us only the boring parts???
In conclusion, I think the musical does work. I would pay to watch it in full if I had nothing else to do at the time.
Overall experience: 6/10
All photos courtesy of The Working Dead: Workshop Production Facebook page.