May 24, 2015

Tribes by Pangdemonium

It's been a while since I watched something so moving.

The play Tribes has a wonderful script as backing. Winner of the 2012 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, Nina Raine has written a touching yet hilarious script. I cannot count the number of times I walked out of the theatre telling my friend, "it was a really good script." Tribes belongs to my favourite kind of script - non-pretentious simple clean storyline, with a simple message to tell. Undoubtedly the hardest kind of script to write.

The choice of usage of sign language allowed parallel conversations to occur within the play and that naturally added another dimension to the show. I found myself very drawn to Sylvia's and Billy's silent conversation - so engrossed in the silence to the extent that I could almost hear the words.

Naturally, the generally strong ensemble made it a very attractive piece. The veterans such as Adrian Pang and Susan Tordoff were a joy to watch - injecting their quirks into creating the eccentric and yet believable parenting figures. Frances Lee and Gavin Yap were no new faces as well (I think I last saw them in Fat Pig) and this time they also took on slightly crazier character profiles - and it was endearing to watch. Thomas Pang - a new face - was indeed refreshing. I find myself wondering now if he could actually speak properly :S And there was a nice transition in his character - how he shed his initial boyish charm, to the determined goal-getting towards the climax before culminating in his resigned state. Ethel Yap had the biggest challenge I felt. For a character like Sylvia, it was both taxing to portray the verbal lines as well as the physical sign language. That was one aspect which I felt not as convincing.

Overall, the set up was wonderful. I really enjoyed how the family dynamics unfolded and each layer of depth is added to every character as the scenes progressed. I was particularly fond of the set design because it gave a very homely, rustic feel to this family. Somewhat perfect and orderly, but somewhat awkward at the same time.

I would recommend this show not only to people who want to know more about the hearing impaired, but actually to anyone who is going through a personal struggle and is looking for acceptance and perhaps support from their loved ones.

Justwatchlah score: 4.5/5

May 18, 2015

The Pajama Game by Lasalle BA(Hons) Musical Theatre

Every year when I watch the graduating piece by the Lasalle students, I cannot help but feel like a parent (okay, maybe an uncle since I was never directly involved in their growth). Cos I remember some of the students from the previous production and it was encouraging to see them mature as a practitioner over the year.

Usually I am very encouraging towards student productions and the students of Lasalle have been putting up good shows for the past years. This year, however, I must say that I wasn't particularly impressed.

The Pajama Game is a fairly dated musical, having its roots in 1950s. As a result, the storyline was somewhat slow and predictable. However, the same show did win a best revival Tony award in 2006 (that's how I knew about the musical). So I am sure there are ways to spice things up.

Nikki Snelson, as usual, did an awesome job with staging and choreographing. However, what was not as exciting were some cast members. Not to name any one (come on, they are students), but if the singers couldn't really sing for a musical, then it becomes really kind of boring. Catherine Campion however, was one of those who could really hold her note and it was a pleasure to see her on stage. But some of the cast members even looked awkward on stage :S

I usually write my reviews by second day after watching a show but this one took really long. Hmm..

April 26, 2015

SSO Pops: John Williams Extravaganza - Esplanade Concert Hall, 24 April 2015

This was my first SSO Pops concert, and the result was so spectacular that I sorely regret not attending its previous performances ( partly because I wasn't aware of its existence initially, then conflict with my work schedule last year ).

FYI, I've been a HUGE John Williams fan since I saw Superman, Star Wars and Raiders Of The Lost Ark during my early childhood. I am completely obsessed with movies, but their soundtracks add an entirely different dimension to the experience, and Williams is undoubtedly the finest film composer of our time.

I admit to feeling apprehensive as the lights dimmed and conductor Jason Lai cued the orchestra for the opening numbers from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, as I didn't know what to expect. But the second I heard the first few notes, a big smile spread across my face, and I remained like this for the next 2 hours.

Aside from Star Wars episode I, the repertoire also included pieces from episode IV ( The Imperial March gave me chills! ), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Memoirs of a Geisha, Born on the Fourth of July, Angela's Ashes, Catch Me If You Can and Jurassic Park.

The set list ran the gamut from well-known and much loved classics to more obscure tunes, but thanks to Williams' incomparable musical virtuosity and the orchestra's graceful interpretation - under Lai's confident leadership, of course - every melody was absolutely breath-taking and, except for a couple of shaky notes towards the last 15 minutes of the show, otherwise flawlessly executed.

Most people assume that film scores are easy to play, but Williams has a distinctive style which presents a multitude of challenges, ranging from impossibly high notes to complex rhythms. I've heard his renowned themes mangled by other ensembles, but heartily congratulate the SSO Pops for doing his work great justice.

Jason Lai was a wonderful host - warm and hospitable to the audience ( "A full house!" he happily announced ), effusively sharing anecdotes during the intro for each piece, repeatedly declaring his excitement about the upcoming release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
( I have the film's poster art as my handphone wallpaper, so I know exactly how he feels! )
Speaking with a crisp British accent, he regaled us with fascinating tales, peppering them with his own humorous personal observations. One which really tickled my funny bone was his description of the score for the Jurassic Park theme and how the notes on the page mirrored a dinosaur's long neck. ( The written word doesn't convey the joke well at all; his physical reenactment - plus humming - was hilarious. :))

The playful lighting effects did not escape my attention and enhanced the atmosphere significantly, especially during The Imperial March, when 2 spots of light - 1 red, 1 green - raced around the stage, representing the lightsabre duel.

For the encore, we were treated to a rousing rendition of The Flying Theme from E.T. - a dazzling conclusion to a magical evening. The audience cheered non-stop and begged for more, but alas, our wish wasn't fulfilled.

I am truly impressed with Lai and the SSO Pops! I've been craving a local ensemble like this for so long, and couldn't be more pleased with what I heard and saw. I looked through its previous repertoires and hope Lai will consider the following for future concerts:

Musicals - Rodgers & Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein, Frederick Loewe

Music from Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks animated films

Tributes to other great film composers - John Powell ( How To Train Your Dragon! ), Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, John Barry, Alexandre Desplat, Dario Marianelli, Howard Shore.

Popular classics

I fully intend to attend every single SSO Pops show that features mainstream music if I can, and bring along my cousin's 2 teenage daughters as well. I completed Grade 8 in classical piano but have never been able to appreciate heavy duty compositions ( even Mozart, Chopin and Tchaikovsky wrote their fair share of obscure pieces ), and I'm sure many others feel the same way. The SSO Pops provides a healthy alternative which will connect with a much larger audience and whet their appetite for orchestral performances.

No news about their next show yet. I will keep an eye out for the announcement and let you know. :)

April 20, 2015

December Rains 雨季 by Toy Factory

Written by renowned local songwriter Liang Wern Fook (梁文福)  with an epic score and unforgettable songs co-written by Liang and composer-singer Jimmy Ye (叶良俊), this latest rendition is helmed by Chief Artistic Director Goh Boon Teck (吴文徳) who presents an all-new cast comprising dynamic talents the likes of Andie Chen (陈邦鋆), Chriz Tong (汤薇恩) and Sugie Phua(潘嗣敬).

Presented in Mandarin, December Rains 雨季 is an elegiac love story that unfolds in the turbulent 1950s, when anti-colonial sentiments and Maoist fervour among Chinese school students are running high. Two students from vastly-different backgrounds; Chen Li Qing and Zhou Ying Xiong, fall in love. Their relationship is beset by many challenges, including social unrest at the time and parental objection.  At a pivotal moment, Li Qing’s good friend and admirer Zhang Ming Li holds on to a letter entrusted to him from her, to pass to Ying Xiong. This undelivered message leads to the inevitable separation of Li Qing and Ying Xiong, and subsequently brings sorrow, regret and pain to all three characters.

Like the metaphor of rain which falls relentlessly on the pair of star-crossed lovers and Ming Li, December Rains 雨季continues into the 1980s, when their paths cross once again and they come face to face with unresolved issues. Will the rain ever let up or stop?

Disney on Classic ~ A Magical Night

National Theatre Live - an Esplanade Presents programme

30 APR 2015 - 2 MAY 2015
Don't miss these screenings of acclaimed theatre productions at the Esplanade Theatre!

Following last year's sold-out season of National Theatre Live screenings, Esplanade presents an exciting new line-up of four wildly acclaimed productions, at the Esplanade Theatre.

An extraordinary journey awaits you – traverse the fields of rural Devon to the trenches of First World War France in National Theatre's runaway hit, War Horse.

The fastest-selling production in the Young Vic's history, Tennessee Williams' timeless masterpiece A Streetcar Named Desire receives a ferocious makeover by iconoclastic director Benedict Andrews, and an all-star cast featuring Gillian Anderson (X-Files), Ben Foster and Vanessa Kirby.

In King Lear, Academy Award® winner Sam Mendes directs Simon Russell Beale as King Lear in this highly anticipated production of Shakespeare's tragedy.

Catch Golden Globe® winner and Academy Award® nominee James Franco and Tony Award® nominee
Chris O’Dowd in John Steinbeck’s heartwrenching portrait of the American spirit, Of Mice And Men.

About National Theatre Live
National Theatre Live is the National Theatre's groundbreaking project to broadcast the best of British theatre live from the London stage to cinemas across the UK and around the world. Since June 2009, they have broadcast more than 20 productions live from the National Theatre stage, experienced by over 3.5 million people in more than 1,100 venues around the world.

Singapura: The Musical by The 4th Wall Theatre Co. Pte Ltd