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‘A Night at the Musicals’ brings the house down with stunning show tunes from Miss Saigon, Les Misérables and more

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 14/6/2021
a woman wearing a costume: Crisel Consunji cemented her status as a Hong Kong star at “A Night at the Musicals” on June 11. Photo: CCOHK Crisel Consunji cemented her status as a Hong Kong star at “A Night at the Musicals” on June 11. Photo: CCOHK

Forget the formulaic, on-screen singing competitions that serve to make Hong Kong's search for home-grown talent seem desperate and insular - on June 11, a true star was born and it happened at "A Night at the Musicals".

There was no live-streaming, no saccharine emotional build-up - simply a sold-out crowd inside the theatre at City Hall in Central on Hong Kong Island.

Crisel Consunji brought the house down in her concert debut, powering through more than a dozen musical hits with all the poise of a more seasoned diva. The soprano first honed her incredible range as a teenager with theatre company Repertory Philippines, before refining it at Hong Kong's Disneyland.

By day, Consunji is a businesswoman who runs an early childhood education centre in Wan Chai, also on Hong Kong Island. As a singer she was, before June 11, relatively unknown. Her main claim to fame was her award-winning debut as the lead actress in Still Human, a 2018 Cantonese feature film about the friendship between a Chinese man in a wheelchair and his Filipino domestic helper.

a group of people performing on stage in front of a crowd: (From left) Raymond Young Lap-moon, Consunji and Corinna Cheng perform at A Night at the Musicals. Photo: CCOHK © Provided by South China Morning Post (From left) Raymond Young Lap-moon, Consunji and Corinna Cheng perform at A Night at the Musicals. Photo: CCOHK

Any doubt about her voice, however, vanished soon after she appeared on stage. Accompanied by the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong (CCOHK), she sang Think of Me from The Phantom of the Opera perfectly, hitting the high notes without hesitation and resplendent in one of many locally-designed gowns that she changed into over the next two hours.

She never veered too far from standard delivery - after all, this was a one-night-only concert promising one familiar tune after another. But some of the phrasings and amplifications were hers, such as the emphatic performance of Colours of the Wind, a powerful plea against racial bias despite being featured in Pocahontas, a Disney film accused of whitewashing Native American history.

If Consunji's varied careers embody the possibilities of self-reinvention, so too are the experiences of the two other accomplished singers who supported her on the night.

Raymond Young Lap-moon, a former senior civil servant, has just stepped down as the CEO of The Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong to focus on his music, so we can expect to see him on stage more often.

Corinna Cheng, a rare Caucasian celebrity born and raised in Hong Kong, is a former dancer and Cantonese television star making her return to stage acting and singing after giving birth to her first child. She gave a stirring speech before launching into I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables, about how motherhood, the pandemic and the profound changes that Hong Kong is undergoing have changed the meanings of many of the songs for her.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Consunji appeared emotional when singing the soaring refrain in The Greatest Showman's Never Enough. Photo: CCOHK © Provided by South China Morning Post Consunji appeared emotional when singing the soaring refrain in The Greatest Showman's Never Enough. Photo: CCOHK

The words likely stirred up different feelings for those in the strikingly diverse audience, from the 90-year-old woman with her two Filipino carers and the many young families with children to the political elite, senior civil servants and evangelical missionaries. But for two hours at least, they were united in enthralment and by melodic familiarity.

Apart from a promising taster of Wild, the new musical that CCOHK will premiere next year, the programme stuck to a safe selection from well-known shows including My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Mary Poppins and Les Miserables.

Consunji appeared emotional when singing the soaring refrain in Never Enough from The Greatest Showman. Judging by the thunderous applause, the audience certainly hoped that was how she felt about singing on stage.

A Night at the Musicals. City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong and soloists. Hong Kong City Hall. Reviewed: June 12, 2021.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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