October 29, 2015

Hatch Theatrics and Theatre Gumbo Presents Super Happy Land

Hatch Theatrics and Theatre Gumbo Presents Super Happy Land, directed by Kayo Tamura (Theatre Gumbo) and written by Faizal Abdullah (Hatch Theatrics) and Theatre Gumbo. Featuring Ryo Nishihara, Hidefumi Oshiro, Kayo Tamura (Osaka, Japan) & Faizal Abdullah, Nur Khairiyah Bte Ramli, Farez Najid, StanxSoap (Singapore).

Super Happy Land

Super Happy Land is the most exclusive location on Earth. Only a lucky few will get to experience life there – but as everyone knows – you don’t choose Super Happy Land, Super Happy Land chooses you!And so, five very special individuals from the world over have been handpicked to live there. And just like the name suggests, everything there makes the inhabitants Super Happy!They feast like kings –Super Happy Tummy!

They are showered with gifts – Super Happy Heart!They are pampered like royalty – Super Happy Life!They are the luckiest people on the planet. But all good things must come to an end. Or did it never even begin?

Performance Details
Thursday 17 December 2015 – 8pm
Friday 18 December 2015 – 8pm
19 December 2015 – 3pm / 8pm
Early Bird Tickets
Starts Tuesday 20th October – Tuesday 1st December 2015 
Standard Tickets: SGD$20
Concession Tickets (Students, NSF, Senior Citizens): SGD$15
After Early Bird & At The Door :
Standard Tickets: SGD$25
Concession Tickets (Students, NSF, Senior Citizens): SGD$20
Email to reserve tickets at hatchticketing@gmail.com
Book online via website http://hatchtheatrics.wix.com/hatchtheatrics
For more information, visit http://hatchtheatrics.wix.com/hatchtheatrics.

Checkpoint Theatre proudly presents The Good, the Bad and the Sholay

Checkpoint Theatre is delighted to close its 2015 season with the “rip-roaring, rollicking” The Good, the Bad and the Sholay, presented as part of Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts 2015. Playwright Shiv Tandan joins Huzir Sulaiman in directing this new staging - running at the Esplanade Theatre Studio from 26 to 29 November - that deftly captures the joys and sorrows of growing up and the changes that come with each stage of life.

The Good, the Bad and the Sholay originally premiered at the NUS Arts Festival 2011, as a Checkpoint Theatre and NUS Stage production, and was presented by NUS Centre for the Arts. It received three nominations at the 12th Straits Times Life!Theatre Awards for Best Original Script (Shiv Tandan), Best Director (Huzir Sulaiman) and Production of the Year.

This new production features an ensemble cast of Chanel Ariel Chan, Chng Xin Xuan, Ghafir Akbar, Deborah Hoon, Kubhaer T. Jethwani, Thomas Pang, Pavan J. Singh and Julie Wee.

The Good, the Bad and the Sholay
Performance/Ticketing Details
Dates/Times: Thu 26 Nov – Sun 29 Nov 2015
8pm (Thu to Sat); 3pm matinee (Sun)
Venue: Esplanade Theatre Studio
Duration: 1 hr 30 min without intermission
Ticket Price: $30 (excludes SISTIC booking fee)
Ticketing Agent: SISTIC – www.sistic.com.sg or Hotline 6348 5555

For more information, visit https://www.esplanade.com/festivals-and-series/kalaa-utsavam-indian-festival-of-arts/2015/the-good-the-bad-and-the-sholay

September 1, 2015

Upcoming Shows

Chinglish by Pangdemonium!

Adrian and Tracie Pang's superb theatre company's next production promises to be another winner, judging from the unanimously stellar reviews their plays and musicals receive.

Here's the synopsis from Pangdemonium's website:

An American businessman (Daniel Jenkins) with a shady past travels to China to seal a lucrative deal for his sign-making business, and soon realizes that much more than language gets lost in translation. Like Dorothy in Oz, he meets a colourful menagerie of characters, each one a crouching tiger with a hidden agenda – a gorgeous femme fatale (Oon Shu An), a three-faced politician (Adrian Pang), and a series of increasingly incompetent interpreters. As our dis-Orientated hero falls helplessly into intrigue with dodgy business partners, and hopelessly into bed with mysterious sleeping partners, he finds that this is business as unusual as it could possibly get.

Performed in English & Mandarin, Chinglish is thrilling, topical and timely – a wildly funny comedy of errors and a cunningly astute comedy of manners that pokes fun at the West’s frenzied flirtation with China.

I had the pleasure of meeting Shu An at a recent Pangdemonium event, and was delighted with her spot-on PRC accent. The Noose's Michelle Chong was also discussed ( Lulu is also a PRC ), and everyone had a huge laugh. Am greatly looking forward to her first performance with the Pangdemonium team. :)

Chinglish runs from 9 to 25 October at the Drama Centre Theatre. Tickets are going fast. Don't miss it!

SSO Pops - A Night At The Movies

Most of the good seats were gone the last time I checked, but the Esplanade Concert Hall offers great views and acoustics wherever you are, so try to attend this performance if you can.

After blowing me away at the John Williams Extravaganza in April, the SSO Pops orchestra - led by conductor, Jason Lai - has become a must-see in my book. Just look at their upcoming repertoire:

The Godfather: Love Theme & Waltz

J. HORNER Titanic: Suite

Back to the Future: Suite for Orchestra

Vertigo: Prelude & Scene d'amour

The Untouchables: Overture & Death Hunt

Legends of the Fall: The Ludlows

Psycho: Prelude, the Murder & Finale

Da Vinci Code: Chevaliers de Sangreal

Star Trek Into Darkness: Suite

Like their previous shows, there will be 2 parts - each approximately 45 minutes long - with an intermission. The musicians are terrific and since I've been an avid listener of film music since childhood, believe me when I say listening to them is almost like hearing the original versions.

However, sitting in a beautiful concert hall enhances the experience significantly. For me at least, I got major goosebumps! And Jason Lai is a wonderful host - full of humourous anecdotes about each film and its composer, and infectious excitement.

16 October!

Hello Goodbye - Singapore Repertory Theatre

Synopsis from SRT's website:

After a sell-out run at the Hampstead Theatre in London, SRT is delighted to bring Hello Goodbye, the hottest romantic comedy of the year to Singapore. Featuring a star cast including Shane Mardjuki (Shakespeare in the Park - Twelfth Night) and Denise Tan (Dim Sum Dollies).

On a hot summer's day, Juliet arrives at her apartment which she thinks she's renting alone, only to find the strange Alex claiming the flat is his. A heated argument ensues leading to a hilarious turn of events.

Find out if Alex and Juliet's summer love is here to stay, or if their love is doomed to the pressures of life in a big city.

Catch this feel good rom-com - a guide to the perils and hazards of modern-day romance. After a hard day at work, this is the perfect play to unwind to and have a good laugh.

I think this will be my first time seeing both actors, and am not familiar with the source material, but I'm a fan of stage comedies and the cast has a good track record, so I'm sure it'll be a great experience.

Runs at the DBS Arts Centre from 2 to 26 September.

Saturday Night Fever

I haven't seen the movie but everyone knows the Bee Gees songs and John Travolta's iconic dance moves!

Here's the show synopsis:

The date is 1976 and in Brooklyn, New York, Tony Manero, a young man with a dead end job but an extraordinary ability to dance has only one ambition in life - to become the Disco King. When he meets Stephanie who also dreams of a world beyond Brooklyn and they decide to train together for a dance competition, their lives begin to change forever.

The movie that defined a generation is now a hit musical featuring the iconic Bee Gees soundtrack.
It is packed with slick dance moves, flares, dazzling choreography and 70s anthems such as Stayin' Alive, Night Fever, Jive Talking, You Should Be Dancing and How Deep is Your Love.

Opens 25 September.

August 30, 2015

December Rains by Toy Factory

Written by Liang Wern Fook, Composed by Liang Wern Fook/Jimmy Ye, Directed by Goh Boon Teck

I'm going to start this by saying every production team hates to hear the most... I've watched the previous run of December Rains in 2010 and there will be the subliminal tendency to compare. So let's get it out of the way, while the storyline remains the same, the change in casting (especially of the three main characters) gave the show a very different taste. Not good, not bad. Just different. I'll explain why.

First and most importantly, as with every single show directed by Goh Boon Teck, I need to exclaim  that his scenes are always so !@#$@$-ly beautiful. So picturesque. There were many times I just wanted to take my phone out to snap a picture of the scene (I didn't, if you were wondering). You can tell that every scene was specially crafted by the team (might not just be the director la i know) - so that it looks pleasing to the eyes. A subtle but beautiful touch that I wanted to highlight was that the umbrella the ensemble held had holes of varying sizes. It allowed different amount of light to be cast on each actor and taking a step back and looking at the whole scene, woahhhh.

The sets and sounds and lighting and costumes were all wonderfully beautiful.

I will not belabor any points about the storyline of the musical. The storyline was fitting for its time for something written 2 decades ago. Today, we have so many of such similar "婉君/佳明" plotlines that it became somewhat predictable. I did not agree with it in 2010, and it's probably still sits in that same uneasy part in me this time. And the ending....... OMG............... ZZZZZZZZZZZZ

I did not watch Little Nonya (yes yes, let your stoning begin). So I did not know how Andie Chen looked on screen - but I found him a little undernourished for this charismatic Zhou Ying Xiong. Maybe I am superficial, and maybe he is perhaps more befitting as this struggling, passionate communism loving Zhou Ying Xiong, or maybe George Chan just typecast this character in my mind. There were really some times where I thought... He can't possibly fight... right? HAVING SAID THAT, I was very very very very pleasantly surprised that he sang very well. I have always been skeptical of such actor-turned-musical singers that have appeared on the theatre scene recently. And really, as a whole, especially when he became this dejected love stricken chap in act II, I thought he did a good job.

The same for Chriz Tong. I am sorry, but Kit Chan spoiled it. The Li Qing in Act I was too much of a teenage bimbo for me to believe that she saw anything good about Ying Xiong, other than he looked good. Kit Chan had an atas 小姐 feel, and I really thought that's what Li Qing should be like (or Kit Chan really spoiled it). Chriz Tong, like Andie Chen, fared better in second act where she became more solemn and I began to see more character from Li Qing.

Sugie Phua was fantastic. I am proud to say that I have actually watched every single one of the his staged productions (not deliberately I must admit). And for me, this was really his best act. His 二线男主角 role, 舍己为人 attitude, that little boyish innocence in first act was very convincing. This was accentuated by his transformation in Act II, where his entire character had a lot of extra gravity, and he took on a different kind of 舍己为人 attitude. I have been impressed.

Among the ensemble, I thought two particular actresses caught my eye. Abby Lai took on Jo Tan's (if I am not wrong) character - and as much as I am a Jo Tan fan - I thought Abby pulled off the character in a less sampat way than Jo. Abby was really eye catching on stage and I particularly liked her last few scenes when she had the epiphany that money can't buy everything. The other actress was Shirlene Tia - for her wonderful voice. She probably only had one significant duet with Chriz Tong, but I was drawn to her voice in that song.

As a whole, the show is definitely worth watching. This is really one of the few Chinese musicals which I can call local, and in a way, a local Chinese classic? Go see the show and let Goh Boon Teck blow you away with his beautiful scenes and for a walk down memory lane and revive the old 1990s familiar story lines.

Justwatchlah score: 4/5

July 18, 2015

Review - Disney On Classic, The Star Performing Arts Centre, 17 July 2015

Disney On Classic's inaugural tour of Southeast Asia is one of the best things that's ever happened, and profuse thanks go out to everyone who made this possible!

The Disney empire has remained strong for generations, with a huge part of its success coming from its animated films and catchy soundtracks, the latest being Frozen, which earned a gazillion dollars at the box office and made Let It Go an anthem for girls all over the world.

This concert's set list, however, opted for a broader spectrum, with selections from classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Cinderella, to more modern favourites such as The Little Mermaid, Tangled and Frozen.

It was a happy trip down memory lane as I listened to orchestral and vocal performances of Someday My Prince Will Come, Heigh-Ho and A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes - songs I'd memorized as a child, with lyrics I can still regurgitate without any effort.

Act One concluded with an instrumental medley of pieces from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The kids got a little restless, but the adults loved it! Two people in my group of 6 - a 19-year-old girl and a man - named this segment among their favourites.

After the intermission, things really started cooking. The Little Mermaid was incredible! Kayla Roy sang Part Of Your World perfectly, sounding exactly like Jodi Benson who voiced Ariel in the film, and Carlyn Connolly was powerful as Ursula in Poor Unfortunate Souls. Under The Sea literally brought the house down! This song is tough in a live setting because you don't have the frenetic visuals from the movie, but the 3 tenors - Rob Hancock, Joey DeBenedetto and Chris Blem - were so entertaining, and the choreography ( simple yet comically cheeky ) added tonnes to the festive atmosphere.

Tangled also features lots of great songs, but something amazing happened when I heard them sung live. The musical arrangement wasn't changed, so I can only attribute the effect to the setting itself. This was most evident during 2 numbers: the upbeat I've Got A Dream, and the romantic I See The Light.

The latter deserves to be highlighted, because this was THE magical moment of the evening, at least for me. I know the scene well, but this performance melted my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Mandy Dickson's sweet voice soared, and Joey DeBenedetto's gentle reply gave me chills. It was the first time I really paid attention to the lyrics:

And at last I see the light
And it's like the fog has lifted
And at last I see the light
And it's like the sky is new
And it's warm and real and bright
And the world has somehow shifted

All at once everything looks different,
Now that I see you

It took my breath away! I will remember this forever. :)

Frozen was the grand finale, and the kids' excitement was evident, as little heads bobbed up and down in the seats. The entire medley was extremely well done, perhaps because the singers and orchestra were fully warmed up and ready to give it everything they had. 9-year-old Sasha Suhandinata was adorable as young Princess Anna, belting Do You Want To Build A Snowman with gusto. And Jodi Bluestein's rendition of Let It Go was flawless! But Chris Blem's bubbly In Summer was the most well-received.

For the encore, the audience sang along with the cast as the orchestra played When You Wish Upon A Star. Another exquisite moment to treasure, as I love this piece so much, and the lyrics mean even more now that I've hit the next decade of my life.

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you

If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do

Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of
Their secret longing

Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true

When Walt Disney pioneered animated films, he included music as a vital ingredient, but Disney songs in particular have always been a cut above the rest, combining unforgettable melodies with lyrics that a child can recite. But they also convey profound meaning and draw upon our deepest emotions. I, for one, can't imagine a world without Disney songs! It would be a terribly depressing place.

Compliments to musical director / conductor Brad Kelley for leading the orchestra so splendidly, although there were a few minor issues with the audio component, causing certain vocal segments to sound muffled and lack of the oomph factor during Pirates of the Caribbean.

But I think the singers deserve the highest accolades - they've performed the same numbers countless times but their enthusiasm is genuine and infectious. I totally believe they're enjoying themselves thoroughly on that stage. It must be one of the best jobs in the universe!

The curtain calls went on forever. Thank you for a truly magical night! I wish you all the best for the rest of the tour, and please come back soon. :)

July 15, 2015

Review - Singin' In The Rain, Marina Bay Sands Grand Theatre, 14 July 2015

Musicals come in many forms, but the appeal of the classic musical comedy endures through the ages, and this was clearly evident the night I watched this marvelous production.

Featuring a stellar South African cast, the show was endlessly entertaining, with beautiful vocal and dance performances, costumes and props bursting with vivid colour, and perfect comic timing.

While I'm familiar with the movie which starred Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, I was pleasantly surprised by how different the stage musical is, and how these differences still preserve the magic of the original film yet, in some ways, enhance it.

For example, the first time Hollywood heartthrob Don Lockwood meets starlet Kathy Selden was a car scene in the movie, but converted to ( correct me if I'm wrong ) a bus or train station on stage. The dynamics change significantly but work equally well, thanks to great chemistry and wonderful acting.

The song list is also altered, following that featured in the 2012 London revival, but aside from the change in sequence, all the best tracks are retained.

When I saw the film, I immediately fell in love with the music, especially gorgeous melodies like You Are My Lucky Star, You Were Meant For Me, Good Morning and of course, Singin' In The Rain. And much credit goes to the cast for performing them so flawlessly.

Bethany Dickson ( Kathy ) literally has the voice of an angel. Her renditions of You Are My Lucky Star and Would You? were breath-taking and the entire theatre was completely enthralled.

Steven Van Wyk provided lots of laughs as Don's best friend, Cosmo, demonstrating eye-popping agility and stamina during Make 'Em Laugh.

Lead actor Grant Almirall was recuperating from an injury so Duane Alexander stepped in for the evening. He was delightful as Don - boyishly charming, with a lovely voice and a flair for comedy. And that solo number at the end of Act One, where he leapt around the stage and playfully splashed water on audience members in the first few rows - I was seated quite far back and still felt his exuberance! It's visually stunning, but he also conveyed his character's joy. And we reciprocated with loud cheers at the end of the scene. He truly deserved them!

Special mention goes to Kenneth Grant Meyer. Like Grant and Duane, Kenneth is also a Jersey Boys alumnus ( he played Bob Gaudio ). And although he has a more peripheral role this time, he does have 2 prominent scenes - Beautiful Girls ( in which he wears a pilot's uniform ) and Moses Supposes ( he plays a speech coach in a high-octane slapstick bit ). I love his voice, and the audience remembered him well, judging from the enthusiastic response during the curtain call!

Last but not least is Taryn-Lee Hudson, who plays the very blonde and very bimbotic Lina Lamont. This character was funny in the film, but in this production, she practically steals the show. I can't praise Taryn-Lee enough for the brilliant performance. She's so good that in Act Two, I saw people around me leaning forward in their seats every time she appeared.
And her solo, What's Wrong With Me? ( not in the movie ) was priceless! Taryn-Lee can sing ( she's another Jersey Boys alumnus ), but should get a Tony for acting tone deaf in such a convincing manner. I thought Jean Hagen was terrific in the film, but Taryn-Lee is spectacular.

My compliments to the rest of the cast and crew as well. The group routines were breath-taking, especially the closing number where the entire ensemble got drenched and twirled brightly coloured umbrellas. The sets are beautiful and the orchestra is top-notch. I'm particularly impressed with the black-and-white movie montages - it's better that you enjoy them without any spoilers. Definitely one of the highlights of the show!

I initially thought people here may not be able to appreciate this musical, since the story is set in 1920s Hollywood and caters to a rather specific taste. Neither does it boast blockbuster names like Rodgers & Hammerstein, Andrew Lloyd Webber or Cameron Mackintosh. But last night, we were all transported back in time and totally enchanted by what we saw and heard. For me, it is one of the best stage musical experiences I've ever had.

Singin' In The Rain runs at the Marina Bay Sands Grand Theatre until 2 August. Don't miss it!

July 5, 2015

Upcoming Shows at Marina Bay Sands

Click here for the full lineup.

First on the list is Singin' In The Rain, based on the movie musical starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds.

I recently saw the film and loved it immensely. Hilarious and filled with beautiful songs and spectacular dance numbers.

Fans of the Jersey Boys production which graced the MBS Theatre in late 2012 / early 2013 will remember Grant Almirall, who dazzled as Frankie Valli. He's back, taking the lead role in SITR.

Another Jersey Boys alumnus, Kenneth Grant Meyer ( who played Bob Gaudio ), is also returning with SITR. They're both great actors, I'm really looking forward to seeing them. :)

Since I'm a stage musical addict, I must of course highlight the other shows already scheduled - Guys And Dolls, Saturday Night Fever, Ghost and Sister Act.

It may not be financially possible to catch every single one of them, but you can't beat the variety. There's something for everyone!