Written by Alfian Sa’at, Music by Elaine Chan, Directed by Sebastian Tan
In an almost religious manner, I returned to watch W!ld Rice’s annual Pantomine, Monkey Goes West! On perhaps a completely tangential note, this was the first show that I am watching in the new VT. It was a rather nostalgic feeling returning to VT, but somehow that sense of nostalgia was disrupted by the fully air-conditioned foyer – losing the rustic feel of the old VT. But hey, I’m sure this building will now form the basis for many new memories for generations of theatre practitioners.
Firstly, the bad things first. I was actually the most disappointed with the music this time round. Elaine Chan (to me) has always been the one consistent composer in local musical theatre writing catchy showtunes for all her shows. However, I thought Monkey Goes West’s music was hugely different from the previous Elaine Chan works which I remember. Unfortunately, this was really one of the most unimpressive one (My favourite still has to be the “Snow White” year). It was not bad per se, but I guess I really was not overwhelmed.
Second bad thing was Kimberly Chan. Not because she was lousy, but because she was unable to showcase her talent. From Wedding Singer, to Women in Asia, to even the random Octo-ber Fest Roasted, I have loved loved her voice and her bubbly nature on stage. But not only did she not get to showcase her vocals in this show (not impressively at least), her characters were sort of blunted. The irritating xiaohong, to the insipid bride of Pigsy, to the even more irritating Red Child… The excitement (and anticipation) when I saw her name in the cast list was rapidly extinguished.
Third thing was… the lines. I am not a goody-two-shoes but I suspect the production team was probably unaware of some of the non-english phrases used were rather vulgar. While the embedded adult jokes (mostly revolving around Sun Wukong’s growing rod – oh yes, it was so fun & easy) were passable (though not subtle at all), a lot of Wukong’s hokkien phrases were rather vulgar – and phrases that I would not want young kids in the audience to pick them up. Phrases like “lin nao hia” actually constitute profanities and perhaps the production team will want to clean up some phrases before putting up this children show?
The singing as a whole was… decent. The fight scenes could have been better coordinated to increase the realism… and the shadow play scene between Wukong and Ox Demon King was not very well executed for the finale battle.
Now, about what I loved. Which was about everything else.
The sets – OMFG. It was truly a visual treat – especially the golden pillars of the celestial court. Beautifully done. The underwater scene, impeccable. The multiple costumes for the cute little minions acting as fish/fire/sea creatures/random 金童玉女… utterly adorable. Especially when the little girl passed the tightening headband to Tang and snapped “You don’t anyhow use ah!” – hilarious. Loved it.
Chua Enlai! I am usually not a fan of cross-dressing, because they can get a bit too campy (which many pantomines are guilty of). But I thought Enlai’s cross-dressing was natural and I liked how he never overplayed the “campy” element. After a while, it did not strike me as cross-dressing anymore. I thought he created a very lovable endearing female character on stage. His mispronounciation was mostly funny… though at the end, it was getting too frequent and monotonous (especially when they were always followed “Darling, you mean XXX” or “It’s XXX not YYY”).
Being campy was a specialty of this show’s director, but I thought he did very nice for this show. Sebastian Tan definitely showed me a new dimension of him. Kudos!
Lim Kay Siu was very cute when he was acting as the transformed Wukong. It is not often you see the serious mature Lim Kay Siu take on such a cheeky role. That was cute and refreshing. When he was acting as the transformed Wukong, I was actually fully convinced that it was Sugi who was acting as Ox Demon King.
WITHOUT WITHOUT WITHOUT A DOUBT, SITI KHALIJAH WAS MY FAVOURITE-ST ACTRESS. Everytime she appears on stage, I feel so happy. Either was Guan Yin Ma, or the random macik from downstairs, or the “Guan Yin Ma SOS” Sandy, she was an absolute joy to watch. REALLY. AWESOME. And her vocals were fantastic as well. I guess there is no need to go on about how wonderful she was. Cos she just was.
Sugie was prime-ape-ish. Though he was really kind of like the Sugie I know in person… so nothing too impressive there. This was my first time seeing Joshua Lim and I thought he was not too bad. I actually did not recognize Frances Lee from Fat Pig but I guess the pigsy character was not too lovable (the predictable requests for “break/meal/snack” was a tad annoying).
But overall, I had lots of fun watching the show. I loved how they got the rapport of the children (and some adult even) and broke the fourth wall often to engage them. I think shows don’t need to be high and pretentious, this “Monkey Goes West” had a simple (and somewhat “cliché”) theme: understand yourself and be yourself. But it was simple and earnest in its presentation and that made watching it a real joy. I would recommend this show to parents who want their kids to have a good time (and for parents to snigger at the adult stuff too).
Justwatchlah score: 4.25/5