Pix by Ruwan Walpola
Jehan Aloysius and his dynamic theatre troupe, CentreStage productions are busy work-shopping their most ambitious project thus far—the spectacular production of ‘Rag—The Musical’ at their rehearsal venue, ‘CentreStage Space’. The musical is written and composed by Jehan Aloysius. Avanti Perera performed the music tracks and orchestrated Jehan’s melodies. Eshantha Peiris will be the choral director, who will also be writing some new arrangements for the production. Jehan Aloysius will also be returning to musical theatre with this production, playing the role of Joseph.
Jehan is a renowned playwright, director and actor known to produce plays that capture both the imagination and the attention of the audience. Pyramus and Thisbe, Caliban’s Rebellion, Bengal Bungalow and Nutcracker are among his repertoire of winning productions. ‘Rag – The Musical’, is the newest addition to this list and has already created a buzz amongst the drama and theatre circles. “I began writing 'Rag' 15 years ago and used my personal experiences as inspiration for the fictional plot. The play follows a dreamer named Joe, loosely based on myself, and the ragging related events that affect the lives of those in his batch. The script has however proven to be strangely prophetic in foretelling the conflicts in universities which happened after the script was completed. The music has taken 11 years to record with the help of Avanti Perera who performed the tracks to my music. I am very proud of the cast I have auditioned over the last four months, as well as the level of creativity they seem to encompass. The production is my Magnum Opus and I am looking forward to it being staged to the public” said Jehan.
The key singing roles of the musical are played by classical soprano Kumudini David, Dilini Perera, Damien Fernando, Anushiya Bastiampillai, Amandhi Caldera, Shenal Perera and Trevis de Silva. Stephen Anoj, Anabella Brochard and Dinara Punchihewa play lead acting roles. 2011 TNL Onstage winner Dilini Perera (25) plays the role of Sakunthala. “I am a senior who has a lot of personality and mass. She is creative, flamboyant and loves attention. But she feels like an outcast because of her physique. I play a changing role with both the good and the bad. I think the musical shows why people say that the time spent at the University was the most profound days of their lives” she explained.
The cast also includes singers, actors, dancers and acrobats who have all been initially given training workshops in all aspects of musical theatre—from singing, dancing, creativity and character analysis. They will also be given training in stage-fighting and stage choreography. Damien Fernando (22), playing one of the lead roles of ‘Rag’ describes the experience as the coming together of amazing creativity and talent. “It’s fantastic. There is so much energy when the whole cast comes together. We sing and dance; it’s a lot of work. But it’s also a lot of fun!”
When ‘Rag’ was previewed as excerpts in 2004 and 2005, it was received with standing ovations and rave reviews. It was also possibly Sri Lanka’s first home-grown musical to take the stage. Avanti Perera is a creative partner of the production and was Jehan’s batch mate during his time studying English at the Colombo University. “Rag is the first full blown original musical in Sri Lanka and I think it will be received very well. There is focus on students from Colombo schools who enter local universities [in the play]. Some light is shed on the pro ragging and anti ragging movements. The plot also includes this idea of a play within a play which was also derived from our time at the University.” said Avanti outlining certain aspects of ‘Rag’. “The music for the production was all in Jehan’s head. He used to sing and I used to transcribe. Some of the characters are also loosely based on people we knew while at University.” she added.
‘Rag’ is a dramatic musical that deals with the topical issue of ragging sensitively and intelligently. The musical, which is filled with memorable melodies and meaningful lyrics, presents a positive message of non-violence and unity which is relevant to students in all educational institutions. ‘Rag’ will take the stage at the end of October at the Lionel Wendt Theatre. The performance which is supported by Cargills and One Trust Sri Lanka will be a fund-raiser for theatre-based humanitarian work conducted through the troupe’s Stagehands Project.