“Ip Man”: The Mega MusicalBy Joseph R. Atilano
We all know who Bruce Lee was. The legendary martial artist wowed viewers with his swift moves and amazing fight sequences which made for such spectacular and unforgettable cinematic imageries. He was a real martial artist of the highest caliber, trained by only the best, and who forever changed how we think of martial arts being portrayed in movies.
But not a lot of us know the person who was the teacher of Bruce Lee. His name is Ip Man!
Some may know him already because of the trilogy of movies that have been released based on Ip Man’s life. But to be able to watch an on-stage theatrical adaptation of the life of Ip Man would open a whole new perspective of this man’s life!
Behind this bold move is a Fil-Australian named Robert Vicencio. If his name rings a bell, it’s for good reason. He was a cast member of the smash hit musical “Miss Saigon” at London’s West End and in other countries. Robert Vicencio, who is also a mixed martial arts fan himself, found a way to bring this on-stage adaptation, even though it is still set to be started in Singapore by 2014. Together with co-producer WANG Hongming (mainland Chinese), the “wheels are in motion” already; everything is coming together to bring the stunning and wonderful life of Ip Man to the stage for everybody to witness this grand and original mega-musical of its kind.
With so much to learn, absorb, and research on the life of Ip Man, this will be no simple undertaking. But Robert Vicencio, being a prolific and outstanding theatre actor himself, knows it will take more than a team of visionaries who share the same goals/dreams he has for this musical that will surely “rock the martial arts world” not only in China but in other countries, as well. He would be needing people who are directly related or descendants of the “Father of Wing Chun”. How most fortuitous then that he has the son of Ip Man, no less, named Grandmaster Ip Ching who has joined the musical team!
Not only will we get a Mega Musical with a martial arts theme but more importantly, the philosophy and history behind the Wing Chun martial art will be represented and accurately incorporated into this theatrical production because of Ip Ching’s participation. Not only that, he has the team behind the hugely successful films based on the life of Ip Man. They are Hong Kong veteran movie producer Raymond Wong and writer Edmond Wong. Any way you look at it from any direction, this mega musical will not only be an accurate depiction of the life of Ip Man but it promises to be spectacular in its scale. Based alone on the enlisted people behind the upcoming mega musical, it already promises that it will go beyond the expectations of the theatre-goer. When you have all the right people coming together, expect only the best!
For everyone who has heard of Ip Man and his star pupil–none other than the legendary Bruce Lee–who to many and not only in my eyes, is the pioneer of martial arts in Hollywood movies and who gave birth to a whole new genre/style of movie making with not only the power of the fist, but with a sharp wit and killer one-liners, that we still remember now. The Mega Musical depicting the life of Ip Man will be the catalyst and will meld together the earliest origins, and traces back the roots of where Bruce Lee first learned a martial arts style, which became Bruce’s foundation in creating his own martial arts style called “Jeet Kune Do”.
When I was asked by Robert Vicencio to write up on “Ip Man: The Musical”, it was something that I couldn’t believe my luck because, being a Filipino, most of us guys are into martial arts or at least watch shows about it. Robert Vicencio really understands the global appeal this musical would bring–the universal interest in martial arts. This upcoming on-stage theatrical adaptation of Ip Man will be the VERY FIRST martial arts-themed/based stage play ever!!! To quote what Robert Vicencio said in the press release:
“As I have always said, I see a great similarity between singing and martial arts, from the slow perfection of each move, to the breathing which is required to sustain long notes or powerful blows. Creating Ip Man: The Musical finally brings to life this philosophy of mine and materializes it onto a musical stage to be shared with the world. I truly believe it’s the right concept, right team, right story and more importantly the right time!”
Breaking new ground here, and which perhaps could start a whole new approach when it comes to the themes of musicals, “Ip Man: The Musical” promises to be a refreshing, exciting, and entertaining theatrical production that will surely captivate the minds of people, will educate them on the martial arts style called “Wing Chun”, and will remind them that there was once a man named Ip Man who walked among us!
To understand more about the upcoming Mega-musical, here is my interview with Robert Vicencio:
INQ: What’s unique about your musical compared with all the new musicals in the West End and Broadway today?
Robert Vicencio: Our musical aims at filling the void of Musicals that can cater for the Asian roles. With only Miss Saigon and King & I being international musicals that have “Asian roles” our musical opens a wide gap to bring a show that features primarily only Asians onto the international scene.
INQ: When did you start with the idea of making a musical?
Robert Vicencio: Both Hongming and I actually both individually had an idea of making a musical for many years, myself being over 10 years ago when I was in Manchester actually performing in a musical called Miss Saigon…however, 4 years ago, Hongming and I finally decided to collaborate together and pull both of our resources together and form a partnership to create a new musical, with the result now being where we stand – producing Ip Man the Musical.
INQ: Why did you choose to focus on a martial art rather than a love story for the musical?
Robert Vicencio: Actually, our musical is not a martial arts musical, but rather based on the life and story of a ‘martial artist’. Having said this, our musical will have all the elements of any mega musical such as conflict, tragedy, betrayal, and definitely of course love.
INQ: What are the selling points of the musical?
Robert Vicencio: Selling points of our musical is that it will contain several scenes of pure martial arts, giving the martial art fans a true run for their money, but at the same time, not losing the focus of a driving story line, driving characters and universal themes based on the backdrop of a war.
INQ: Regarding to the musical creation, what’s the specialty?
Robert Vicencio: First main specialty, due to the location of our creatives, music and all creatives are being created over several territories and time zones all at the same time. Secondly, we’ll be the first musical ever created that strategically targets both the Western Markets and the China markets. Thirdly, our production budget from an Asian perspective is said to be the biggest budget for any original musical ever made in Asia or more specifically China & Singapore.
INQ: Have you done any productions before? Is it the first time for you to produce the musical?
Robert Vicencio: Yes, I have produced Live concerts & cabarets in London and Hong Kong, however this will be my first ever musical in which I take the role of a Producer, though I believe that producing a musical today is very much different to that of before with all the new technologies and new media, one must find a different way of bring the right people for the right project together, to create something unique and in line with what the market wants.
INQ: What is the biggest challenge for you?
Robert Vicencio: The biggest challenge, apart from the fact of actually creating an entire musical from concept to stage, is actually the challenge of creating a Chinese-themed story with martial art components for both International and China markets – the obvious hurdle being ‘language’, such as factors of lyrical adaptations to fit melodic phrases while keeping the linguistic tones and tempos correct in both languages.
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