Revisiting the classics

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25th Charming Vietnam gala skip special effects, retain special mission

Singer Quang Dung sang at the 25th edition of the Charming Vietnam gala held in Hoa Binh Theater, HCMC

Charming Vietnam will present its quieter, deeper side this year.

The music, dance and fashion gala that is a standout event on the nation's cultural scene will eschew fancy modern techniques as well as sound and light effects that have been its trademark over the last decade and instead present a "classic, plain décor" inspired by Broadway, says director Nguyen Quang Dung.

The 25th edition of Charming Vietnam, organized by the Thanh Nien Media Corporation, will take place at Ho Chi Minh City's Hoa Binh Theater from December 29, 2011 to January 1, 2012.

Addressing a press conference on December 20, Dung, noted for many local box office hits, said: "It is my great honor to direct Charming Vietnam again. The show's theme is Giac mo xuan (The springtime dream). It is a special salute to their beloved fans by both local and overseas artists.

"It is not money or high investment that makes for a good quality show. It is a blooming of music and fashion, and we will try to prove that it is worthy enough for people to spend their money on."

A simpler façade does not make their task much easier, said Trong Dung, senior stage designer for the show. To blend a Western classical stage with Vietnamese culture without using a lot of modern applications and make it authentic is a challenge, he added.

Trong Dung said a projector will be used to create illustrations on the stage's backdrop, a role normally filled by modern LED applications in other shows. There will also be a live orchestra performing below the stage as is seen on Broadway.

The show will highlight three aspects nostalgia, sprightly dreams and New Year greetings, director Dung said. The first part will feature overseas singers singing old, popular melodies, the second will have up and coming young artists team up with each other and sing in different styles and the third will present a collection of springtime songs.

On the fashion side, four top local designers, Dinh Van Tho, Quynh Paris, Hoang Hai and Lien Huong will display their latest collections of ao dai (Vietnamese traditional dress) and other gowns.

Quynh Paris, who has taken part in two previous shows, said that the coming event has exacted her the most, because she worked hard to study other cultures to draw influences from all the five continents.

Dinh Van Tho said his ao dai collection is inspired by the trends that reigned in the seventies.

Role reversal

Although the event is presenting a classic look this year, it does not lack innovation, Dung said.

"The show's sensation will be a role reversal of models and singers. Local models will sing for the first time on the stage, while singers will conquer the catwalk," Dung said.

Other highlights of the show will include a duet by young singer Van Mai Huong, runner up of Vietnam Idol 2010, and famous pop singer Thu Minh. They will perform Minh's hit song, Duong cong (Curves). Given Dung's penchant for recreating popular themes and scenes, many people attending the press conference surmised that the duet will replicate Cher and Christina Aguilera's performance in "Burlesque," a musical montage released in North America in 2010.

Nguyen Cong Khe, chairman of Thanh Nien Media Corp., said at the press conference that the show is an occasion to gather local artists from different generations. "Springtime has a special meaning for all Vietnamese, especially those who are expatriates long ways from home, and this show takes place on New Year's Eve, a sacred moment for both the organizers and attending artists," he said.

Nguyen Ngoc Toan, deputy editor-in-chief of Thanh Nien Newspaper, said that the gala had received good reviews for 17 years, not only for the high quality of art, but also for the good that it does. The event raises money for the Nguyen Thai Binh Scholarship Fund. Established in 1992, the fund has provided 11,223 scholarships worth more than VND22 billion.

"The annual scholarship fund assists poor and hard-working students to pursue their studies and achieve a better life. Next year, we will give around 1,200 scholarships and try to increase the sum to between VND3 million and VND5 million per student," he said.

Toan also said that last year, the fund had granted 921 partial scholarships, a 28 percent increase over the target.

Many students who received the scholarship in previous years are successful now and helping succeeding generations.

Noted singer Quang Dung, whose was Thai Van Dung when he was a poor student in Binh Dinh Province, was a recipient of the Nguyen Thai Binh Scholarship. Dung said that participating in the concert is his way of showing deep gratitude to those who helped him overcome difficulties.

Besides the Nguyen Thai Binh Scholarship, Thanh Nien Media Corp. also runs Vietnam Talent Fund (VTF), which was launched in 2006 to select the most talented youths in Vietnam for overseas training. Profits from Charming Vietnam will fund these charities.

Because this year is the 25th edition of the event, organizers said that in addition to regular tickets, which went on sale last week from VND400,000 to VND2 million, some special ones will be released for individuals and corporations that want to support the fund with a minimum endowment of VND4 million.

Tickets can be bought at the Thanh Nien office, (248 Cong Quynh St., District 1), Hoa Binh Theater (242 Ba Thang Hai St., District 10) and Thanh Nien Media Corp. (2B Cao Thang St., District 3).

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