Sunday, May 21, 2017

REVIEW: West Side Story

HK Academy of Performing Arts Lyric Theatre, Friday May 19

2017 marks the 60th anniversary of West Side Story, which is arguably the ultimate dance musical since it first burst onto the Broadway stage in 1957. Coincidentally, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein, the composer of the musical. In fact, if you are here in Hong Kong, HKPhil’s West Side Story in Concert where the complete 1961 film wiil be shown with live music.


Now back to this production of West Side Story. This is my third time to be see this same production. The first was at the Macao Cultural Centre in Macau back in 2005 and another time at Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in 2013. The fact that I am seeing this again in Hong Kong is a testimony of how enjoyable this production is.


Director and Choreographer Joey McKneely successfully distilled the staging for tour and it looked more akin to a ballet set than a Broadway musical. Having said that, the series of the signature New York fire escapes that evoked the Upper West Side neighborhood and the cityscape projections on the screen were effective enough to plunge the audience into the setting of this famous Shakespearean story. The one think I didn't like in both the previous time I saw this production remains the one thing I can't get over with. I still don’t understand why the director chose to have the ladies dance the America number barefooted. I can’t help but feel that it was equivalent to transposing down a song to accommodate a singer.


This production is heavily reliant on the talents on stage. Because it is a famous and familiar musical, the audience do have a very high expectation. Kevin Hack's Tony provides all the reason why Maria fell for him in less than a dance. His voice has a beautiful and even tone thoughout its range. Jenna Burns was a suitable Maria to Hack's Tony with a small but bright voice. Both were vocally and dramatically very effective. Keely Beirne delivered an outstanding portrayal of Anita with equal confidence in both singing and dancing.  The rest of the cast did very well in both dancing and singing; and they are so far the best of the three performances I have seen.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Best Reebok InstaPump Fury Colorways of All Time

In this post, I am breaking from my usual topic of performing arts to product design; and this privilege goes to Reebok InstaPump Fury. While the first Reebok Pump was launched in 1989, Reebok continued to develop it until the birth of Reebok InstaPump Fury in 1994. 


I love the InstaPump Fury because it is a product that was designed not only to marry form and function, but also injected a huge dose of FUN and FASHION into it. It is not only equipped with an out-of-the-box technology, but it also possesses a personality. Unlike the Puma Disc (which I also love, by the way), the Reebok InstaPump is more than just a replacement of the traditional shoe laces, it also comfortably custom fit the shoes to the feet. Paul Litchfield designed the original Pump, taking what was originally in an Ellesse ski boot with pumping mechanism in big brass fittings into something that is more suitable and practical for sport/casual wear. From there, Steven Smith took the big step of deconstructing the Pump and removed all the trimmings that was covering the bladder system. Suddenly, the inflated bladder becomes the exoskeleton securing the foot and providing a completely adjustable fit without any laces. But that was not enough, he also replaced the midsole with a full carbon fibre graphlite arch bridge, while the forefoot and heel sole units where equipped with Hexalite cushioning technology. But again that was not enough, the out-there colors of citron, red and black completed the whole design. The colors were there to provide the soul and personality of the shoes. As the story goes, Reebok marketing department wanted the InstaPump Fury in subdued palettes of greys and blues, but Smith went home and spray painted the prototype in grey primer, and then tossed them on the desk of the marketing department in objection/repulsion. 



Before I reveal The Best Reebok InstaPump Fury Colorways of All Time, it is important to note that these selections were not chosen for its rarity (in short, you won’t find the 1997 Chanel collab here), brand or expensiveness. The selection will not include any InstaPump Fury Road because the Road version with full sole and rubber brace across the shoe just plain damn ugly. The selection will also include the original 1994 citron, red and black version or any of the resissues. The list simply but carefully considers how designers managed to bring something new to the InstaPump Fury without sacrificing the very core value and soul of the original design which is a marriage of fun, form and function and a good balance of technology and fashion. 

10. HALLOWEEN (2016) 


Predominantly black, white or grey InstaPump Fury should not happen and they are boringly lazy. However, if you are going to design an almost all black InstaPump Fury, you better pump it up with something else. These 2016 punked-up InstaPump Fury with strategically placed studs were fierce. The language is not dissimilar to that of a studded jacket and therefore message of fun and fashion is clear. 

9. BEBOP (2016) 


From the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle “Villains Pack” in 2016 came BEBOP, a humanoid mutant warthog. The beauty of this InstaPump Fury is that for TMNT fans, one can actually see Bebop smartly distilled into a pair of shoes. The details are carefully coordinated from demin pants, red vest, purple Mohawk and a hint of hairy flesh. 

8. HAWAIIAN (2010) 


The 2010 “Hawaiian” InstaPump Fury make it to the list because it is a good study of restraint. The original collection has four colorways (yellow, green, blue and black). While maintaining a singular color base in each, the designer added iconic Hawaiian prints in the same color tone. Simple but effective, the design becomes fun and whimsical without having too many colors. 

7. OLYMPIC (2012) 


In theory, putting the colors (yes, black is not exactly a color) of the Olympic rings all in one shoe sounds like a very bad idea, but this "London" InstaPump Fury (for the London Olympics in 2012) managed to be unassuming and flamboyant all at the same time. How the colors are cleverly placed contrasted and with just the right reliance on black is the genius in this design. 

6. FLASHBACK 1994 (2008) 


If Gucci comes to mind, then you are on the right track. In 2008, Japanese sneaker specialist Mita collaborated with Reebok and created the Flash Back 90s Series - a mini-collection of InstaPump Fury which incorporates aethetics from that era. The first and also the best in this series pays homage to the year 1994, the birth of InstaPump Fury and Tom Ford becoming the Creative Director of Gucci. 

5. CHINESE NEW YEAR ROOSTER (2017) 


InstaPump Fury has been coming up with CNY edition for some time, but it is the Rooster for 2017 that is the most successful. The design was unexpected and classy but still true to the animal it represents. While there is little color in this design, the luxurious feather-like texture, iridescent blue/green heel and all sorts of Chinese-inspired graphic details brings home the fun in fashion on this one. 

4. OXYGEN MARK (2014) 


2014 marked the 20th anniversary of Instapump Fury and Reebok rolled out (way too) many collaborations. Sadly, none really stood out except one; and that is the Oxygen Mask by Washington D.C. sneaker-specialist, Major. Mask cleverly play off the Pump and the bladder by relating it to air travel. On the side of the bladder, it even printed “IN THE EVENT OF AIR LOSS, PUMP UP YOUR KICKS FIRST BEFORE ASSISTING OTHERS”. And also, not to mention this was launched a year ahead of BB-8. 

3.POPSICLE (2013) 


This Sweden’s Sneakersnstuff InstaPump Fury in 2013 is so cool in many ways. This brightly colored rendition is inspired by the Swedish summer-favorite, the X-15 ice pop from 1980s. This design makes color coordinating by just simply choosing a color for each component of the Instapump Fury seems very lazy. With Popsicle, citrus colors cut across the shoes unapologetically and immediately exudes summer while bringing back fun childhood memories. 

2. JUN WATANABE’s MR. BOTTLE HEAD (2011) 


Jun Watanabe has designed several InstaPump Fury, but this 2011 release stands to be the best. Yes, it is crazy cool with the high contrast black and white polka dots bladder tamed by a calming baby blue base and then fired up with the hot pink heel. There’s all kinds of details in homage to Watanabe’s famous character. 

1. TAKATOSHI AKUTAGAWA’s MIYABI (2007) 



How does one inject elegance in InstaPump Fury, while ensuring that it maintains the original InstaPump Fury language of fun and fashion? Japanese designer Takatoshi Akutagawa did exactly that for his Miyabi Collection in 2007. Here, the traditional Japanese print was managed beautifully by its use of green tea color broken up by blocks of black. Here, Akutagawa was able to instill a loud elegance quality to it.