Saturday, May 14, 2011

What's Your (INspiring) Story: Jeffery Yeo & Musical Theater

I first known Jeffery through a common friend's gathering. Sandra Wong invited a group of friends for a CNY dinner last year, and there, I networked with her friends including Jeffery.

However we didn't connect till earlier this year. We  chatted and I found out more of what he does. As he spoke about his works and interests, suddenly, his eyes glittered and he was beaming as he spoke. For he was speaking about his involvement in musical theater.

It has been a long time since I've seen someone spoke so passionately about something and immediately knew that he has to be one of the Guest Writer for this series.

So, without much further ado, presenting Jeffery Yeo, and his story..

jeffery yeo, musical theater

This year Easter is a little different for me because part of my dream came true.

I am an engineer by training but now running my own business and am nuts about my work. There is a side of me who truly appreciate arts and music and is a silent passion of mine. 

Being involved in arts allows me to see things more creatively which helps me propel my businesses. 

the velvet rabbit

However, this is a write up about how a small me getting to a place where I manage to direct the most recent work of mine The Velvet Rabbit, a full 2hours 15 minutes musical.
The Velvet Rabbit was a full fledge Broadway style musical with 45 casts held on the Easter weekend produced by my church, Harvest Generation. 

It has 20 scenes and 20 songs; 16 of which are original songs. Almost 500 people attended in the 300 theater seating venue.. the isles are literally packed to the door.!

Annie & the Velvet Rabbit
It’s about a story of a young girl, Annie whose mother passed away at a young age. Due to some misunderstanding, she blames her dad. One day, she found a magical talking velvet rabbit and together they escaped to the city in search for freedom and love. There she got into trouble with the local Mafia and was in constant running. 

the velvet rabbit production

This is her amazing adventure searching for hearts and love as she discovered conniving wolves, sexy geishas, police ladies, orphans, mysteries and much more.

director & musician, the velvet rabbit
Me, and the musicians

The music arrangement time
I spent many nights writing the 50-paged script and composing the songs while thinking how each song will affect the dance steps, blocking and acting.

The story line has to be interesting and carries a positive message. 

With the minimal budget that we have, we have to produce a stage production that is par excellence despite being not only a Malaysian but also a church production!

velvet rabbit
  Final fight scenes between the wolves and the mafia
jeffery yeo velvet rabbit
D Don, the Mafia leader and main villain
jeffery yeo, velvet rabbit production
 Annie in the orphanage
Each song, music and dance is then thoroughly thought through with an awesome team of musicians and choreographers. Working with the different photographers, designers, prop architects, light and sound technicians, etc. is really amazing.

After finalizing the script and songs, comes the directing. It is a challenge and a learning experience for me directing a production of this scale. Note: I had no formal training. 

95% of the casts have never been in a stage production.
95% of them are first time dancers.
90% of them are not actors.
85% of them are not singers.  

With limited practice time for the students and working adults, I am concerned bout how will the show turned out. How would the crowd accept and react to the storyline? Will the message be clear? Will the songs be palatable? Will the stage be ready? Will it be a full house?

The hall in Subang was packed!
15 minutes before the show starts, the house is already overflowing despite the bad weather! Being able to see a Malaysian theater scene pulling off such a performance is very encouraging.

velvet rabbit song

velvet rabbit dance

The hours of practice had paid off and the casts are performing as if it’s natural to them.

audience applause

We got many good feedbacks from the audience. 

I was especially excited when the audience applauded multiple times between scenes and even standing and cheering at the climax scenes. 

velvet rabbit end

velvet rabbit cheer

I was so wound up I even take note of the number of applause for each scene. The audiences even relate and liked the songs. We had enquiries for soundtrack, DVD, script, etc. 

I am really moved to see the fruition of our work and my dream coming true.

jeffery yeo young
 3 year old me learning the piano and messing with the metronome
I have only attended basic music training when I was young but could not complete the training due to financial reasons. That has not stop me from writing songs and composing music with the little knowledge that I have. I started my own collection of self composed songs for personal use. 

Doing what I'm passionate about allows me to strife through the many nights composing, and being into the creative zone. I do not have professional training in acting or directing. Everything is self taught and learnt through hard work. I love music. I love art. 

Being able to see the inspiration materialize is a euphoric feeling. 

jeffery yeo productions

Starting only slightly more than 2 years ago, I have managed to write, compose and direct a few productions including ‘Bondi and the Patch of Clay’, ‘My Last Christmas Holiday’, ‘Dead Man Walking’ and ‘The Velvet Rabbit’. In total more than 40 original songs were composed comprising of a variety of genre including Broadway, jazz, gospel, rock, R&B, pop and instrumental.  

As for the casts, I like to push the people a little sometimes out of their comfort zone because I know their true potential. Doing this allows the youths to rise to a different level each time they participate in a production. So it’s not only the audience but the casts as well will have a learning experience. It gives me great joy to see the casts mature in different ways through out the production period.

I believe that each of us can rise to our greater potential if we believe.

I hope one day, I would be able to produce an award winning and life impacting musical production in the Broadway arena or perhaps even a movie; proving that Malaysians can excel in the theater and entertainment industry.  

Looking back, I am still amazed how we managed to deliver the production beyond satisfaction. I cannot express enough thanks to my casts, crew and team which help make this thing a success and to God for His abundant grace in allowing us to pull through this production to such a level. 

jeffery yeo

Believing in Dreams..!

*The 'What's Your (INspiring) Story? is a 12 weeks series where people from all walks of life are to come together and share anything that inspires them. I've invited friends from all walks of life, but am also open to anyone else who wants to share their story.

If u have an (INspiring) story you'd like to share, simply contact me! :)


  1. urgh my parents should have forced(or rather afford to force) me to learn piano!!!! if so, Jeffery gotta stand aside lol j/k

    wow... amazing composer! where can i listen to his songs?

  2. @fufu
    none available online as yet. but ill ask him to see if he is putting up any online :)

  3. @fufu
    Actually is more like I was tricked. They told me they never eaten for 3 months just to safe money to buy me piano. Hence, the guilt ridden me was coaxed into starting it. Haha.


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