Adam! The Musical has returned with a new updated story and a new originally produced soundtrack. Notorious for its record-breaking 35 performances when it first premiered in 2010, one would walk into the theatre hall accompanied by sky-high expectations.
Written by Mark Beau De Silva and directed by Joe Hasham OAM and Dato’ Dr. Faridah Merican, the musical is a wonderfully light-hearted and comical tackle on the stigma surrounding HIV and those who live with HIV. Despite the weight and responsibility the show carries to portray the plight of HIV as sensitive as possible, the show is a love story nonetheless.
Introducing Adam (Malik Taufiq) and Mia (Teresa Goh), a young couple soon to be wed, despite the disapproval and protests of Mia’s older sister and only remaining family left, Flora (Nikki Palikat). Their love story, a supposed modern-day fairy tale, presents them to be the happiest couple in town. Yet, Adam hoards a deep secret, a secret kept from Mia throughout all the years of their relationship. He is HIV positive.
Tackling the taboo of HIV from a spectrum of perspectives, Adam! shines light on the shame experienced by those who suffer from HIV, the ignorance of the public, the taunting and shunning and above all, the acceptance, all without even mentioning the word ‘HIV’. Carefully avoiding the use of the word, the show speaks volumes of the stigma and taboo of HIV and how it is perceived to be a curse, that Shall Not Be Named.
Informative as it is, Adam! shows that the struggles of a person with HIV extends past cultural and societal discrimination. As the show reveals in a cynical number, the discrimination is systemic as well. As hospitals and clinics are overwhelmed with the multitude of patients and emergencies, the lack of resources, funding, and medical staff present the issue of prioritization, an issue that often sends HIV patients to the back of the line.
However, as a musical, it falls short of the standard its predecessor set. I believe that a successful musical is one that has you leaving the theatre hall accompanied by one of their songs stuck in your head. Or, one that has you digging the net for a copy for their soundtrack.
With the exception of I Ask You! and Here, Here’s a Lollipop, it is safe to say that I left the theatre hall with no recollection of any of the songs. The minimal choreography of the numbers added the splash of pizzazz that musical lovers often seek. Nevertheless, the songs, written and composed by Lim Chuang Yik, Mervyn Peters and Teng Ky-Gan, as they were, were fun and enjoyable and undoubtedly a good listen, but they were not remarkable nor memorable.
Nonetheless, Adam! as a theatrical story was redeemed by the immensely talented and wonderful cast. Fitting into the mold of each role perfectly, the whole ensemble delivered an immersive and heart capturing performance. Each character was written to be multi-faceted and complex, revealing themselves to be more than just our initial impression.
Fitting of Broadway and musicals, the script of Adam! fulfilled the three C’s, cliché, cheesy and cringe-y. Though my distaste for all things cheesy is a personal preference, Adam! seemed to be overtly cheesy, and it’s up to one to decide if that’s a good or a bad thing.
However, an undeniable fact about the show is how comical it is. Aided by the sassy transgender sisters Jambu and Mangga and the most kepoh three-piece gossip folk there is, the production is never short of funny moments for you to have a laugh at.
Illustrating the complex plight of people with HIV all against the backdrop of a romantic comedy, the show attaches a level of humanity to Adam, illustrating that what he suffers from is more than just consequence of unsafe sex on a brochure and that HIV patients, just like anyone else, are capable and worthy of a fulfilling relationship.
Though I would’ve liked to see how Adam grew to accept virus himself, I recognize that the goal of the show was to instill understanding in the masses, not representation (of the HIV community).
It is safe for me to say that Adam! The Musical is a production that succeeds as a message but is average as a musical. There is no doubt that the show is enjoyable, the question lies with the debate if it is memorable. Nonetheless, if you’re a fan all things cheesy and fun, Adam! The Musical is definitely a show that can give you a good time.