‘Flowers for Algernon’ draws tears in SZ

Writer: Zee Wong  | Editor: Vincent Lin  | From: Shenzhen Daily
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The musical “Flowers for Algernon,” produced by Han Kun, the executive director of Focustage, was performed at Pingshan Theater in Pingshan District on April 1. It was adapted from Daniel Keyes’ story with the same title, a winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards. In fact, this is not the first adaptation of this musical in Asia. “Flowers for Algernon” in China was recreated from the 2006 Korean musical “Mr. Mouse,” directed by Li Xuangui.

The story was about the twisted fate of the mentally challenged protagonist Charlie Gordon, who had an I.Q. of 68, which later tripled as a result of brain surgery conducted by Dr. Nemur. Regrettably, he suffered severe mental regression afterwards. Sharing the very same fate was a white mouse named Algernon, who at the beginning beated Charlie in running through the maze in Nemur’s experiment.

A scene from “Flowers for Algernon.” Photos by Jiang Junzan

“What is true happiness? What is the value of love? How can they be measured?” were the questions from the production team that cut to the core of the musical. Through the stage setup, lighting, music, and lyrics, the team had the questions ingeniously engraved unto the hearts of the audience. The chorus of the closing song “Why is there a rainbow set over the sky? Why does the sea wind make waves? Maybe, this is the form of love,” was repeatedly brought up by people across various social media platforms.

As introduced by Jin Qi, the scriptwriter of the Chinese musical, who was also responsible for song dubbing, “Flowers for Algernon” was born out of the biblical story of Paradise Lost, in which humanity fell after Adam and Eve both tasted the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

“Charlie sees the world clearly, because he regained wisdom, but finds the garden of Eden again, because of love. In Charlie’s journey back to the paradise of innocence and true self, we see how our lives resonated with his, and weep for it,” she explained further.

The scene in which Charlie met with his long-lost family was the climax of the musical, a moment when he reconciled with his past. “I felt sad ever since the stooping figure of Gordon’s father showed up, and even sadder, when the old man saw his son walking away,” commented one viewer named Lokitty in the musical’s fan group. Many agreed, saying that they couldn’t restrain their tears during the scene. An audience member named Janice H. even asked jokingly, “Could you give out a mask for free at the end, mine got all wet after watching the show.” There was no surprise that the acting of Li Lei, cast in the role of Gordon’s father, earned most praises in the group that night.

Overall, the cast of the musical was well received, according to the audience’s reports picked by Focustage on its WeChat official account. “None of the cast fell short in ‘Flowers for Algernon.’ Each of the leading and supporting actors was amazing,” and “There is no need to pick cast for this musical, because they are all wonderful,” were the highlighted comments.

Regarding the entire production, “highly devoted,”“worthwhile,”“exceeding expectation,” and “top musical of the year” were the frequently used words in the reports. On the other hand, for those who have read the original work of Daniel Keyes, the variation was quite obvious. “My understanding of the work and that of the director differ, so the adapted version was not my cup of tea. It is okay for those who do not cling to the original or haven’t read it,” wrote one netizen named Lavender on Zhihu, a knowledge-sharing platform.

“Flowers for Algernon” at Pingshan Theater last Thursday was the fourth show of the 2021 nationwide closing performance tour. It will be brought to Shenzhen again at Shenzhen Poly Theater on Aug. 5-6.