By Lucille Dass
The Witness Musical (a 1978 composition by Jimmy and Carol Owens), besides celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit (CHS), also celebrates the community, its talents, and enhances bridge building,” announced Andre Ong, the musical producer, at the start of the first night’s performance at the Dewan Holy Spirit. Just before the opening, he led the audience in a short praise and worship themed We are a family of Faith.
The song-dance-drama, which seamlessly showcased the key events of Jesus Christ’s life, recorded full capacity attendance for all three shows. For Adele Khor, a 27-year-old music school principal cum financial planner, it was a challenging but gratifying directorial debut. She was well pleased with the end result because of the high level of commitment shown by both cast and crew. “God supplied whatever was needed”(cf.Phil 4:19), she said gratefully.
Auditioning and practices commenced after Chinese New Year for the 67 strong CHS actors, singers, and dancers whose age ranged from 7-70 years! Another 67 members formed the crew. The talented music team under Andre comprised two keyboardists, one bassist, one electric guitarist, two acoustic guitarists, one drummer and one violin player. The lucid and exceptionally-synced live narration for each segment by Ian Murugesu helped situate the scenes and elucidate the overall underlying spiritual message.
The musical opened with Peter, downstage centre, introducing himself as Mary entered centre stage with baby Jesus in her arms. The scene advanced with Peter, James, and John lamenting their humdrum life in a song, “Nothing ever happens in Galilee” and gathered momentum with Jesus the life-giver arriving on the scene and declaring that he would make them “Fishers of Men.” We then became Wedding guests at Cana, enthralled to see water visibly transformed into wine, with Mary singing, “Whatever He says do it.” After this, we witnessed a series of miracles by Jesus who eventually asks, “What’s my name?” to which Peter and the choir affirmed in song, “You are the Christ, Son of the Living God.” Next, we were treated to a comedic wedge where the mother of James and John craftily pitches that her sons be granted a special place in heaven by Jesus, much to the young men’s dismay.
The scene shifted and we witnessed Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem – a spectacular scene with dancers and a palm-waving entourage in action and song all along the aisle of the hall, accompanying Jesus riding on a ‘donkey.’ In quick succession we moved on to the Last Supper, Judas’ betrayal and scene of the arrest of Jesus. The rowdy crowd and menacingly cruel scenes were acted out superbly. The carrying of the cross by a scourged and much bruised Jesus, followed by his crucifixion, was so painfully authentic that it left many teary eyed in the hushed hall. The Resurrection segment brought back our smiles and filled us with Joy anew! Peter bursts into song, “I’ll be your witness, Lord, to the End!” with his renewed declaration of love for Jesus. Consequently, Peter was entrusted with the care of Jesus’ sheep. After Jesus’ Ascension, when everyone was left feeling bereft, the promised Holy Spirit descended upon them at Pentecost to renew, recharge and sustain their faith so that they become worthy witnesses of the Word. With a leap of faith and utmost joy in their hearts, Peter and all rendered a fitting final cry of victory through the song, “He is Risen! He is Lord! He is Christ!”
Creative spiritual inspiration has surely been the guiding light for one and all involved in this massive production. The intensity and colour qualities of the stage lighting, the creative period backdrop, props and costumes, all combined to create the necessary dimension and ambience to bring the scripture-story to life. The night ended on a note from Fr Joachim Robert, our parish priest, who announced that if we felt touched by the musical, we should place our hands on our hearts and declare that we, in turn, would become witnesses for the Lord, as we repeated a prayer after him.