Loto musical spotlights an in-absentia LGBT Tet experience

By Thanh Xuan   January 22, 2020 | 03:30 am PT
Loto musical spotlights an in-absentia LGBT Tet experience
The musical depicts the ups and downs in the life of a loto troupe. Photo courtesy of Tran Gia Huy.
A new YouTube musical depicts the poignant plight of loto troupe entertainers who deliver considerable Tet cheer, but can’t partake of it themselves.

Loto is a popular cultural entertainment event, especially in the Mekong Delta, during the Lunar New Year festival (Tet). It involves people being invited to play bingo while being entertained with song and comedy routines.

Loto troupes perform around the clock in rural areas, including during the actual Tet holidays because the members either can’t afford to return to their hometown or simply have no home to go back to.

Members of loto troupes typically belong to the LGBT community who are disowned by their families and subjected to social prejudices a lot of the time. Their sad, powerful stories have inspired the young and talented actor Huy (Su Su) to produce and direct the musical called "Bong Tet Huong Nam" (Rough translation: Life of Huong Nam during Tet)

The movie mirrors the life of a loto troupe as Tet approaches. The members are from different social backgrounds and struggle together to make ends meet.

To the outside world, the lives of troupe members are glamorous and fun. They wear bright, glittering costumes with heavy makeup, and they perform under bright stage lights. They flirt outrageously, crack jokes and make the audience laugh. However, their gaiety masks a glut of challenges they confront, socially and economically.

Drawing on his own experiences as the leader of the Huong Nam troupe, Su Su captures the dark, behind the scenes stories, often tragic, that scar and mark the lives of troupe members.  The musical also shows how the troupe members support each other in all circumstances, and how they care for each other.

It cost VND300 million ($13,000) to produce the movie, which was filmed in just 48 hours. The scenes were shot in the southern provinces of An Giang and Vinh Long. The cast includes well-known artists in the LGBT community, including  "loto angel" Tam Thao, comedian Nam Cha, Tieu Minh Phung, Linh Anh, BB Phung and Huong Nga.

The hour-long movie was released January 16 on YouTube. It has garnered more than half a million views and thousands of likes so far.  

The trailer for "Bong Tet Huong Nam".

Su Su said: "This movie is a New Year gift for the audience and Huong Nam fans. We would like to demonstrate how troupe members are family, and the troupe is our home. Everybody has a dream and for people like us, our dream is to enjoy a meaningful Tet holiday with our family."

Fans have responded positively. One of them wrote: "Huong Nam troupe never fails to impress me. Much love to all the members."

Su Su, born 1993 in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang, became famous on social media after posting a humorous tutorial video on how to draw eyebrows based on where a person is from. For instance, a native of Ben Tre Province would have coconut palm shaped eyebrows.

Some Vietnamese celebrities like Hoai Linh and Viet Huong have praised Su Su for his sense of humor. He is also known for his work with many theaters in Ho Chi Minh City. 

Su Su, who came out as gay several years ago, has become an inspiration for the LGBT community, especially in Ho Chi Minh City.

He said that he strongly believes his musical will stand out among other festival offerings, bringing laughter to every one even as it presents the darker lives of a community that still faces social and other forms of discrimination.

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