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Sunburst 2019 presents theatre of inclusiveness

Students of the School of the Arts get together with members of the Muscular Dystrophy Association Singapore to mount a show of theatre, music and dance

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Guest of honour Sam Tan (back row, extreme right) at the presentation of the cheque for S$275,000.

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The finale of the fund-raiser in which SOTA students and MDAS members sang "I Believe".

Singapore

THE ramp built at the School of The Arts (SOTA) Drama Theatre wasn't there as a prop.

Rather, it was a symbol of a move towards inclusiveness, as depicted in a theatre performance mounted jointly by students of SOTA and members from the Muscular Dystrophy Association Singapore (MDAS) on Thursday.

In its third edition, Sunburst: The Business Times-CapitaLand Fundraising Show was organised by The Business Times (BT) and presented by CapitaLand to raise money for people with muscular dystrophy and for financially disadvantaged arts students.

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In the last two years, the fundraiser took the form of a concert; this year, it morphed into a theatre performance.

Titled The Ramp, the production addressed challenges behind building an inclusive society.

BT's editor Wong Wei Kong said: "After two years, we felt that it was time to take Sunburst to a different level and address matters and issues of inclusivity more directly, hence the decision to present a theatre production with music performances interspersed in between, rather than in the format of a concert, which we'd done in the past."

The production highlighted the challenges faced when a group of young people try to stage an all-inclusive concert.

The show opened with pop hits "Unbreakable Smile" by Tori Kelly and "Sunday Morning" by Maroon 5 performed by Pocket Pugs, SOTA's student band.

It then transitioned to a tense scene in which three friends, Thea Haugan, Salonee Narang and Chaney Chia, had a heated argument on the issue of inclusiveness.

Tension rose when Chaney questioned spending their concert budget on a ramp for members of MDAS, who have muscular dystrophy and are wheelchair-bound, so they can be part of the show.

The scene broke off to Katy Perry's "Part of Me", performed by SOTA student Jamie Teh and Nanyang Technological University undergraduate student Caleb Lau, who impressed with their strong vocals.

This was followed by a moving duet of Adele's "Make You Feel My Love" by SOTA students Angela Ramkumar and Kellianne Ng.

One of the most heart-warming segments featured SOTA students and MDAS beneficiaries performing " I Am Alive" by JJ Lin and Jason Mraz.

This was a turning point in the story where Chaney was moved to tears and learned that differences can be easily put aside.

Performing this year from the MDAS were Sophia Gutierrez, Abdul Rashidin, Jolene Poh, Muhd Saifudeen, Boon Keng, William Eng, Aaron Liew alongside friends Tan Jing Wen and Vanessa Goh.

The audience also heard from William and Aaron, who, in a scripted dialogue with SOTA students Chloe Luai and Sathya Nayar, debunked the myths associated with the condition.

The students from SOTA rounded off the show with more songs and dance performances, including Ed Sheeran's "Perfect" by Natasha Lim and Umme Salama Tyeb Papar, and a hip hop and ballet dance-off by Jovaan Tan and Justin Wong.

A pipa performance by SOTA music student Parveen Kaur brought in a touch of the traditional.

Broadway also came to the audience through the musical numbers "A Whole New World" from Aladdin, performed by Chloe and Sathya, and "Corner of the Sky" from Pippin by SOTA alumni Zachary Singson Dominguez.

The show ended on a high with a joint performance of "I Believe" by MDAS and SOTA students, which drew cheers and applause from the audience.

By the end of the night, S$275,000 had been raised for the beneficiaries of MDAS and the SOTA Student Assistance Fund.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and for Social and Family Development Sam Tan, the guest of honour, witnessed the cheque presentation.

The show was produced by Global Cultural Alliance, a non-profit arts and culture organisation, based on an original script by SOTA alumni Krish Natarajan, and directed by theatre practitioner Jeremiah Choy.

The initiative pulled in strong corporate support from sponsors CapitaLand through its CapitaLand Hope Foundation, Standard Chartered Bank, OCBC Bank, OSIM International and DBS, as well as Greca Trading, a distributor of portable and power aluminum ramps, and sound partner Media Variants and individual donors.