The Vocal Associates bring distinguished composer Tony Makarome’s musical adaptation of Aesop’s fables to this year’s Fringe. The Singaporean company sing and dance their way through three of the stories, breathing life into characters, updating settings and never forgetting the all-important morals behind the tales.
This show is great for young children. The traditional characters have been slightly updated not only to better appeal to youngsters but also to allow Makarome to compose his songs in widely differing styles. Children’s favourite ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’ is updated to include Missy Cool, a hip tortoise and Jacky Rabbit, an arrogant, gossip-obsessed young hare. The song styles range from swing and jazz to pop and rock styles in this short fable alone providing a great variety of songs, rhythms and dances to keep children entertained. As always with Aesop’s fables, the stories are simple, their selection strong, and the morals are clear; teaching the values of honesty, patience and humility. The rhyming couplets of the narration and songs give the whole piece a nice steady rhythm and the presence of Raymond Ducker as the narrator keeps the show from becoming fragmented.
However, during some songs, the lyrics were hard to decipher and the choreography did little to explain the current opinions and feelings of the characters visually. These are the points at which some children in the audience became restless. The content of the musical is geared towards younger children but I fear that other than segmenting the show into three parts, there is little done to capture their attention towards the end of this hour-long production. Unlike other musicals of a similar ilk, there is no interaction or opportunity to sing along and the lyrics can sometimes be too a little over-complicated for the younger children’s comprehension.
Having said this, the musical is enjoyable and has a lot of heart. The lessons it teaches are crucial and, though intended for children, Faybulous is interesting and complex enough to keep parents equally entertained. The cast and live musicians cannot be faulted; there is not one weak link to be found amongst them. Perhaps a revision of the book and choreography would help this show be the perfect children’s musical it shows the potential to be.