Shoes of a Stranger musical reveals hope after gangsterland

Members of the Scorpions gang bullying a girl to show the power gang members have over others.

By Benedict Tang

THE Artistes for Christian Theatre (ACT) staged a 21/2-hour long musical on May 27-29, to bring the Gospel message to Singaporeans and make them aware of the problem of gangsterism here. The musical was inspired by the real life story of New York gangster-turned-preacher, Nicky Cruz, who founded the Christian youth movement Teen Challenge.

The story centres on Alex, (played by Jay Kaelash and Kenny Koh), a teenager who chooses gangsterism as a way of life. A vicious fighter and thief, he establishes himself as leader of the fiercest gang in the neighbourhood, the Scorpions. The first few scenes of the musical are filled with stereotypical ah bengs and ah lians gyrating to disco music (all music used was original) and rapping about their cool lifestyle.

The gang confronts a rival gang, the Ravens, but the hostility comes to a pause when two policemen step in and make them listen to a preacher in a park. Linus Loh, who plays Richard the preacher, tells the crowd of the love of Jesus but Alex stubbornly refuses to listen.

The former is persistent. At one point, he gives Alex his shoes after Alex tells him mockingly that God doesn't care about him since he doesn't even have money to buy shoes.

In a cleverly executed dream sequence, Alex's tortured childhood, which led to his wayward lifestyle, is revealed. He is converted to Christianity eventually and abandons his gang and girlfriend, Becky (Celine Tan). He returns to his hometown and tries spreading the Gospel message. Initially cynical, many of his gang friends in the end reform, and the finale sees the cast affirming that they are God's instruments of conversion in a song. Apart from making the audience aware of gangsterism, the musical implies that there is hope in Jesus even for hardened gangsters.

Henry Goh, chairman of ACT said: "The musical seeks to highlight the issue of juvenile delinquency, especially today in our society, where the family unit is stretched to the limit in the name of progress and modernization." Spiritual director Jesuit Father Leslie Raj said that one good thing that came out of the production was that the cast and crew came to reflect thoroughly on why youths turn to gangsterism and crime.

Miss Susan Goh, 23, who saw the May 29 performance, said: "Although amateurish, I could see that the crew had strong rapport with each other as a result of the production." Sr Cecily Pavri, principal of St Anthony's Canossian Secondary School, commented: "It was a pleasant evening of entertainment and some inspiration. Most of all, it was heartwarming to see young people so dedicated to sharing the Christian message through the medium of theatre."

The Catholic News (June 13 1999)