It would have seemed like a history lesson if not for the impressive elements of music and dance in the Church of St Vincent de Paul’s musical.
The two-and-a-half-hour-long musical, Monsieur Vincent: The Saint for All Seasons, was staged at The Republic Cultural Centre Theatre at Republic Polytechnic from Sept 6-8.
The show started off with a solemn prologue set in Paris in 1660, where followers and friends of St Vincent de Paul are saddened by his passing.
Cut to the first scene, and the audience was brought to Singapore’s Jalan Kayu in 1959, when French priest Fr Henri Saussard (played by Shaun de Souza) is posted to Singapore to build a church.
The cleverly intertwined historical sequence between St Vincent de Paul’s life and the journey of the church in Singapore named after him brought the intervening 300 or so years much closer.
Then the audience was brought back to the year 1600 and learned that young Vincent (Brendan Hoe) had just been ordained. Fast forward a few years and he is seen being attacked and captured by pirates while en route to Marseille.
Here we had an original choreographed contemporary dance sequence that also had some of the dancers jumping out from the audience for extra scare effect.
Just when you thought that was all to it, the stage lights were switched off and four dancers wearing LED lights took centrestage. The enthusiastic reaction from the crowd confirmed that I wasn’t the only one impressed.
Unfortunately, I felt that was the only highlight of the entire production, which had little of the dramatic element of conflict.
The show came full circle, ending with the death of St Vincent de Paul, and a tribute by the whole cast in the number, A Song for Vincent. It was a pity that the finale was not upbeat enough to get the whole crowd on its feet and cheering.
On the positive side though, the storyline was supported by original songs composed by music director and arranger Jacqueline Peeris, together with Trevor Nerva, Julie Sim, Jonathan Ooi and Wilson Wong.
There was also a live band and vocal ensemble supporting the main cast from the orchestra pit.
Jonathan Lauw, who played St Vincent de Paul acted and sang remarkably well right from his first appearance after transiting from the young Vincent in the duet, Follow Your Heart, with his mentor Fr Pierre Berulle (Trevor Nerva). The cheers from the audience certainly confirmed the scene’s impact.
Other harmonious duets came from cast members portraying Vincent’s benefactors and members of the parish’s early building committee.
Overall, Monsieur Vincent was a humble production in terms of set design, props and costumes, perhaps just like the saint himself.
I personally would have preferred more interaction with the audience, such as the Pirate Dance, to make the show livelier. Nonetheless, it is commendable that so many people of different ages were involved in this production.
Perhaps the main message for the audience was when the Queen (Stacey Fernandez) said to Vincent when he was on his deathbed, “It’s time for you to rest now; it’s time for the rest of us to continue your work.”
Monsieur Vincent: the Saint for All Seasons was part of the Church of St Vincent de Paul’s 50th anniversary celebrations. A DVD recording of the show is expected to be released at the end of October.
By Clara Lai