HKUST Community Musical: Bonding and Learning beyond the Lecture Hall


A diverse group of community members, including current students, exchange students, faculty, staff, alumni, and children, came together to perform in the musical at the Shaw Auditorium on March 23 and 24.


The Shaw Auditorium, an award-winning venue, provided a stunning theatrical setting for the HKUST Community Musical production of "The Music Man". This marks the first time the community musical has been staged at the Shaw Auditorium.


(Front row, from left) HKUST Associate Vice-President (Planning & Coordination) Mr. Ernest CHAN, HKUST Vice-President for Administration and Business Prof. Ting Chuen PONG, HKUST President Prof. Nancy IP, HKUST Pro-Chancellor Dr. John CHAN Cho-Chak, HKUST Court Chairman Dr. the Hon Andrew LIAO Cheung-sing, Former Chairman of University Grants Committee Dr. Carlson TONG, HKUST Court Member Mr. Michael YONG-HARON, HKUST Council Member Ms. Edith SHIH, Ir Dr. Humphrey LEUNG, and Mr. SHENG Zhonghua, joined a group photo with all the cast members of the opening performance.

In the award-winning Shaw Auditorium at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), the atmosphere was charged with anticipation as a magical transformation took place. The stage was set for the university's production of "The Music Man", a famous and family-friendly Broadway musical that brought together the diverse HKUST community like never before on March 23 and 24.

Organized by the Shaw Auditorium Unit and directed by Ms. Mandy PETTY and Dr. Isaac DROSCHA from the Division of Humanities, the two-day musical performance captivated over 1,200 audience. It served as a powerful symbol of HKUST’s commitment to holistic education, providing a nurturing platform for all members of the HKUST community to explore and engage in arts and cultural activities, which deeply fosters a sense of creativity and togetherness. As the harmonious journey unfolded, a tapestry of diverse voices merged into a symphony of talent.

“The Music Man” brought together the passionate faculty duo of Ms. Mandy PETTY, the director and choreographer, and Dr. Isaac DROSCHA, the music director and production manager for their fifth collaboration in the HKUST Community musical.


Community Musical Comes to Life

“With a history spanning decades, the community musicals have become symbolic of the memories and experiences shared by the university community,” says Dr. Droscha. Embarking on their fifth collaboration, Dr. Droscha and Ms. Petty created something truly extraordinary for “The Music Man”, aiming to unite the HKUST community and our neighbors. This production marked the first time the musical involved children of staff and students from the Clearwater Bay School, joining the voices of current students, exchange students, faculty, staff, and alumni into every meticulously crafted scene.

The HKUST Community Musical included children of staff and students from Clearwater Bay School for the first time.


“The Music Man” tells the story of a charismatic con artist who attempts to sell instruments despite having no knowledge of music. It is a heartwarming story with a resounding message of hope and transformation, which deeply resonated with Ms. Petty and Dr. Droscha when they chose it for the production.

Months of preparation preceded the grand undertaking of “The Music Man”. The journey commenced with auditions in September 2023, where hundreds of talents showcased their skills and passion. As November arrived, our campus became a vibrant meeting point for 55 community members from all walks of life, who dedicated themselves to rehearsals three times a week.

Fifty-five cast members participated in the two-day musical performance.


Learning Beyond the Stage

Beyond the allure of the spotlight, participating in a musical offers invaluable life skills that align with HKUST’s commitment to holistic education. With over 40 years of experience in the field, Ms. Petty firmly believes in the power of the performing arts. “Confidence, reliability, punctuality, and teamwork are cultivated throughout the experience of standing up, taking charge, and delivering captivating performances. These qualities, essential in various aspects of life, empower the individuals involved, especially for our young children,” she says.

Pavel SCERBAKOVS, an exchange student from the UK majoring in computer science, performed as the male lead, Professor Harold Hill, in the musical.


“The Music Man” provided a platform for individuals like Pavel SCERBAKOVS, an exchange student majoring in computer science from the University of Warwick, to reignite their passion for musical performance. Having previously engaged in musicals across various countries such as Latvia, Russia, and the UK, Pavel discovered at HKUST a renewed avenue to express himself and embrace his theatrical side after several years of setting it aside. Furthermore, the musical bestowed a unique and enriching dimension to Pavel’s exchange experience. Pavel says, “Through the musical, I have been able to forge lifelong friendships with numerous individuals, gaining a deeper appreciation for the culture within HKUST and Hong Kong.”

It was not only children and students who found inspiration from the musical. Faculty members, such as Dr. ZHANG Rong, a lecturer from the Division of Emerging Interdisciplinary Areas (EMIA) teaching design thinking and data visualization, discovered hidden benefits through “The Music Man”. Collaborating with alumni, staff, children, and students alike, Dr. Zhang ventured into uncharted creative territories, enriching both his teaching and personal growth. “As a teacher, I strive to lead by example and practice what I advocate to inspire my students. I always encourage my students to think outside the box and try new things. Joining this musical is new challenge for me. I hope I can inspire my students to embrace challenges without fear and learn from the experiences,” Dr. Zhang says.

Dr. ZHANG Rong, a dedicated faculty member, joyfully joined the community musical for his first time at the University.


A Learning and Unifying Hub for All

As the final notes of “The Music Man” lingered in the air, tears of joy and pride streamed down the faces of the cast, crew, and audience at the Shaw Auditorium. The HKUST Community Musical had united hearts and voices in a celebration of the transformative power of music, culture, and artistic expression.

Mr. Ernest CHAN, Associate Vice-President (Planning & Coordination), expressed his excitement over the musical's success, “We are thrilled that ‘The Music Man’ has brought joy and happiness to not only our performers and audiences, but also to the entire community and its surroundings. The beautiful Shaw Auditorium stands as a remarkable creative hub, beloved by all, offering a cozy place for learning, innovation, and community gathering.”

All the actors and backstage crew worked meticulously to create heartwarming and delightful scenes for the HKUST community musical.


Alumna Miss Josephine LUI commented on the university’s nurturing environment: “Even though I have already graduated from HKUST, it remains a place that nurtures and develops my hobbies and interests.” When she joined HKUST in 2018, she discovered the opportunity to engage in musical activities. Throughout her undergraduate years, Josephine actively pursued her passion by enrolling in musical-related courses including “Stage Management” offered by the Shaw Auditorium, and “HUMA2105 - Music, Drama and Theatre”, with Dr. Droscha and Ms. Petty as lecturers.

Beyond the University, "The Music Man" was also supported by 11 sponsors who are dedicated to inspiring future generations to embrace their passions and engage in community-building. As Ernest shares, the Shaw Auditorium and HKUST will persist in their mission to offer more arts and cultural activities in the future. Stay tuned for updates on the Shaw Auditorium's website, with exciting events on the horizon for the rest of 2024 and beyond!


(Photo Credit: Terence Pang @ Image Factory)

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