PROFILE: GRACE LOW

Published on 8 May 2017

Credit: Glowtape Productions

Independent theatre producer Grace Low tells The A-List about the walls she’s had to climb to make the upcoming The Great Wall: One Woman’s Journey musical a reality.

By MELANIE LEE

In 2011, 36-year-old Grace Low quit her full-time producer job at Singapore Repertory Theatre with a clear idea that she wanted to produce her own musical.

“I love how music transports one to a different world. And when you put music to a stage, it helps to connect the audience emotionally to the story. To me, Les Misérables is one of the benchmarks of how impactful theatre can be,” says Low.

She started conceptualising her dream musical with a story that had stuck with her since secondary school days at Nanyang Girls’ High School – the Chinese folklore of Lady Meng Jiang Nü crying down the Great Wall of China after learning that her husband had died there while building it.

“It’s a famous story, and it’s also full of heart. Meng Jiang Nü doesn’t just go on a physical journey that takes her from her small hometown to the Great Wall of China. Along the way, there is much self-discovery and she goes to a much deeper place within herself. At the end, she finds that freedom to decide her own destiny,” Low explains.

With a compelling story at hand, the next step for Low was to form her “dream team” to get the production going. She approached theatre friends that she knew would understand her vision for The Great Wall musical. Local playwright Jean Tay was brought on board because “she brings life to her words and humanity to her characters”. Low also convinced Australian director Darren Yap (with his extensive experience with musicals such as Miss Saigon) to get involved, and Briton David Shrubsole to compose the music and lyrics (he has previously composed for National Gallery Singapore’s Opening Festival and was the music director of the musical and film London Road).

“Just like how you want to find the best mix of ingredients to make that perfect dish, it’s really important to find the right team of people to collaborate with in theatre,” she muses. “They were game even when I told them I was starting this show out all on my own, even when things got trying, and even when we had conflicts. At the end of the day, it’s about being constructive and nurturing.”

Low sees parallels in conceptualising and producing The Great Wall musical and the journey her protagonist Meng Jiang Nü has to take. The budget of the musical is $800,000 and she points out that this financial burden is very much one that she, an independent producer, has to bear alone.

Low with her collaborators: Australian director Darren Yap, British composer David Shrubsole and playwright Jean Tay. Credit: Glowtape Productions

“Many a time, it’s been very much mind over body and not giving up. Of course, there are the days I wish I was in some banking job and could end work at 6pm. But I also know that theatre energises me. Nothing makes me feel more alive than seeing a finished production come together. I think I still have many more journeys to take,” Low says.

The Great Wall: One Woman’s Journey musical will be on from 14 – 30 July 2017. Click here for more information.

Low with her two leads, Dutch-Korean actress-singer Na-Young Jeon and homegrown sweetheart Nathan Hartono, at The Great Wall of China. Credit: Glowtape Productions
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