CHEEYANG NG is a rising artist at Feinstein’s 54 Below
As much as I like to see the shows of the great cabarets who are in top form, what delights me the most are the showcases of new authors. It’s always such an honor to be there at the start of a song that could one day make it into the Great American Songbook. I think it’s quite possible that one day I could say that I was there at the first performance of a Cheeyang Ng song.
Their self-titled show was part of an ongoing New Writers series at Feinstein’s 54 Below. They claim to have forgotten how to write during the pandemic, but their music does not confirm this. Although they are a relatively new writer, they have a very personal and unique style. They are living an extraordinary year. They wrote three shows, all with different collaborators. Their To the east, written with Khiyon Hursey will have a development workshop in Seattle this summer, and their most recent Rise of the Phoenix, a collaboration with Eric Sorrels will have development readings in the city later this year. It’s an impressive feat by any measure.
But Cheeyang Ng is an impressive human. They are celebrating nearly a decade as a resident of New York. The Singapore native came here, as they say, to escape certain traditions and find a truer, more authentic version of themselves. This journey is reflected in many of their songs, which focus on the joys and uncertainty of being in uncharted territory, whether it’s relationships or professional ambitions of simple self-actualization. They seem drawn to examining the multitude of thoughts and feelings that occur in a fraction of a second of real time. In short, Cheeyang Ng writes about the active mind.
They had some help last night from some wonderfully talented guests. Amisha Bhandari sang selections from Ng’s musical Maya. She brought great focus and stillness to “There Will Come a Day.” She was featured in one of Ng’s best songs “The Banyan Tree”, a portrait of a tree left behind after the ravages of a battle. It couldn’t be more timely. Cheeyang Ng was also supported by donations from Shuyan Yang. This incredibly talented performer is currently headlining the Chinese production of spring awakening. She displayed powerful belts in her Eastbound song “Gravity”. One of the highlights of the evening was her performance of Ng’s piece, “Divine”, which tells the story of a perfect moment in the life of a dancer. This comes closest to describing the creation experience as “finishing the hat”. The song is built mostly on pentatonic scales, which adds to its almost trance-like quality.
As for Cheeyang Ng, he is an endearing and confessional artist. They have a self-deprecating wit and a deep well of emotions to tap into. They showed it in his song “Enough”, written with Céline Snippe. The song is about finding contentment in the small moments along the road to the big dream. “Fit Into His Story” is an internal monologue about summoning the courage to express your love before the opportunity passes. They told a very personal story in “Tradition” about how the status quo affects people who identify as gay. They took a humorous look at Broadway in “If You Were A Man,” personifying Broadway as the hot guy you hope to have a chance with. I was particularly impressed with “Nothing As Planned”, a touching song about two people with busy lives just trying to have an unplanned day. It was a great song idea. I was also very impressed with their closing number, “Let My Life Be My Song”, a song from his musical Māyā.
Cheeyang Ng was well supported by excellent musical direction from Eric Fegan and Jarrett Murray on bass and Joshua Roberts on drums. The three musicians did a great job on challenging tunes with shifting meters. Cheeyang Ng is someone to watch. Their songs are sensitive, distinctive and intelligent. It will be exciting to see what the next few years bring to this new musical theater voice.
For more from Cheeyang Ng, visit cheeyang.com or follow him @Cheeyangmusic on Twitter or @cheeyangmusic on Instagram. To discover other great artists from 54 Below, visit 54below.com.
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