Gala takes center stage, yet again

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Special effects facilitate plunge into music and fashion extravaganza

Young R&B singer Anh Khanh performing a northern folk song named Hoa thom buom luon (Scented flowers surrounded by butterflies)

Sixteen years and 22 editions on, Charming Vietnam is still going strong.

And after all these years and innovations, there was still plenty of novelty on offer to razzle and dazzle.

Charming Vietnam became "amazing" Vietnam for many members of the audience that flocked in the thousands to the gala that was being held for the first time in Phu Yen Province, in what was said to be an "unlikely" venue for such a high-profile event.

In the event, however, organizers of the Nhip tho bien (Breath of sea), did succeed in getting a fresh entertainment breeze to blow through the coastal province.

Director Nguyen Quang Dung made it a gala debut to remember at the Sao Mai Theater on March 20 and 21.

Before the show, many observers had expressed some reservations about its success, because of the pressure of previous successes and the need to present something new to the audience every time. But the audience's overwhelming approbation has put the issue beyond doubt.

With the eyes of a cinematographer, Dung pulled out a bag of tricks to make the stage an ocean, replete with a ship and flying "butterflies" that wowed the audience.

"This is my first Charming Vietnam concert and it exceeded expectations. The sparkling stage made me feel like I was in Davy Jones's locker. My daughter was bitten by the "˜flying butterflies' in singer Anh Khang's folk song Hoa thom buom luon (Scented flowers surrounded by butterflies)," said 30-year-old Phu Yen resident Thu Huong.

To many viewers, the director's work was so amazing that it overshadowed the artists' performances.

But they were also moved by composer Huy Tuan's new take on familiar songs like Thuyen va bien (Ship and sea) or Xin mat troi ngu yen (Sleep well, sun).

"My favorite performance was Xin mat troi ngu yen by Cam Van, Anh Bang and Viet Thanh. Nobody could have ever imagined that someday, a Trinh Cong Son song would be sung concurrently in pop, opera and rock styles. Great job!" said Ngoc Mai.

For Izumi, a Japanese jazz dancer and friend of the show's choreographer Tan Loc, the show was incredible in "making such a mysterious feeling."

Those who had seen more than one edition of Charming Vietnam Gala were also able to vouch that it broke new ground yet again.

"I saw the Charming Vietnam Gala held in Nha Trang Town's Vinpearl Land three years ago. I think this time, it is even fresher and younger and more state-of-the-art. I was most touched by Huong Lan's song Thuong ve mien Trung (To the central (region) with love)," said Nguyen Thai Hoc, Phu Yen Province's Secretary of Song Hinh District Party Committee.

If a vote was held for the "best of the best," viewers would have pumped for the duet sung by leading pop singer My Linh and her nine-year-old daughter My Anh - the bilingual song Con bao (The storm), written by Linh herself.

Linh said it was the pitiful plight of thousands of locals in the fierce typhoon that swept through Phu Yen Province last year that moved her to write the song, based on composer Hong Kien's music.

"I love the spontaneous, natural and angelic voice of My Linh's daughter My Anh. Linh should be happy she has such a talented offspring," said Hoang Long.

Beatboxer Minh Kien and rocker Viet Thanh got the young crowd going as expected.

Then there was the sensual catwalk exploits of a bevy of stunning beauties like Huong Giang, listed among the top 3 "Sexiest Woman Alive" in the world on, Thanh Hang, Vu Thu Phuong, Miss Vietnam 2006 Mai Phuong Thuy, Truong Thi May, Trang Nhung, and Miss International 2009 Vu Hoang Diep resplendent in the creations of Thuan Viet, Lien Huong and Son collections.

Nguyen Cong Khe, head organizer of the event and chairman of Thanh Nien Media Corporation, said the success of Charming Vietnam's 22 edition had set the stage for upcoming concerts in both Phu Yen and other provinces.

With the bar of creativity kept constantly high, Charming Vietnam has no option but to ride on the soaring imagination of the nation's artists, every single time.

The gala is primarily geared to providing scholarships to help outstanding, poor students in the country through the Nguyen Thai Binh Fund and Vietnam Talent Fund.

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