TV’s Mouthwatering Pan-Asian Musical Drama
Fans of popular TV shows like “Glee” and “MasterChef” will have something to sing and dance about with the launch of a new pan-Asian musical drama series called “The Kitchen Musical.”
Due to premiere in Indonesia on AXN and Metro TV on Oct. 1, the slick new series will be screened in 18 countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Hong Kong. It promises to combine the fun of choreographed musical numbers with the high drama of a busy restaurant kitchen.
Regional audiences may find a few familiar faces among the cast, such as Filipino pop singers Christian Bautista and Karylle Tatlonghari, Filipino stage actor Arthur Acuna and Hong Kong supermodel Rosemary Vandenbroucke.
Tatlonghari plays Maddie Avilon, a spoiled daddy’s girl who returns from culinary school in Paris to work as a sous-chef in her father’s restaurant, Avilon.
She is soon butting heads with the head chef, Alex Marcus, played by British-Malay actor Stephen Rahman-Hughes, but her fellow sous-chef and childhood friend Daniel Ray (Bautista) is always there to support her. Maddie gradually learns that she has to work hard to prove herself to the perfectionist head chef.
As in “Glee,” each episode features a choreographed sequence where the characters break into song and dance, edited to look like a pop music video.
Singaporean director Cheah Chee Kong, better known as CheeK, said he had been playing with the idea of a drama-musical series for a couple of years.
“Creating a musical was something I had wanted to do for awhile, something that reflected my creative journey to date,” he said.
Before founding Group Entertainment, the Singapore-based production house behind “The Kitchen Musical,” CheeK spent more than a decade working for the MTV Asia networks, where he was responsible for creative content. He later served as executive vice president of Hong Kong-based Star TV.
With the new show, CheeK said he wanted to incorporated all of his interests, including food, drama, music and dance.
The challenge in casting the show, he said, was finding performers who could sing, dance and act.
“It was a tall order, and we were very careful and selective when we cast out the net,” he said.
The easiest character to cast, he added, was Tatlonghari in the starring role as Maddie Avilon. The singer played Maddie in the show’s test pilot, and CheeK said he was instantly hooked by her presence on screen.
“We did not think twice about retaining her for the actual show,” he said.
To add an element of realism, all of the cast members attended a kitchen boot camp, where they learned how to quickly chop fresh ingredients and plate food just like a professional chef in a real restaurant. At the boot camp they also learned about the hierarchy of restaurants, as well as the mentality of working in a team of chefs under pressure.
For CheeK, it was important for the writing, acting, food, music and choreography to complement each other even before production began. With his team of writers, he selected songs based on the story and thought about which tunes would fit best with each scene.
“We have a lot of fun at this juncture,” CheeK said. “Once the songs are selected, I connect with [musical director] Gerard Salonga and explain to him what I envision for the songs vis-a-vis the scenes.”
Together, CheeK and Salonga explored vocal arrangements for the songs, while the dances were choreographed by Jason Coleman, a regular judge on the Australian version of “So You Think You Can Dance.”
The music video-style song and dance segments will be released worldwide as singles through major music labels, through an agreement between Group Entertainment’s US company, Electus Distribution.
CheeK also plans to create a stage version of the show, due to premiere at the Singapore Repertory Theater by the end of next year.
The TV series is scheduled to screen over four months, in 13 one-hour episodes, giving viewers just a taste of what’s to come.