Tuesday, 30 December 2014

15 Years of Dreams from The Red Chamber

This was the last performance for me in 2014, and the first concert at the revamped Victoria Concert Hall.  Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the City Chinese Orchestra restaged its popular programme Dreams from the Red Chamber to a full house audience.

The concert featured the music and songs featured in the hit TV series of the same title composed by Wang Li Ping (王立平). Music Director and Conductor Tay Teow Kiat (郑朝吉) led a well rehearsed orchestra. Vocalist Cui Rui interpreted the songs well whereas the chorus seemed the weaker section.

There was a segment where Wang shared with the audience his inspiration and challenges of his composition.  While it was included initially to make up for the short performance time, it had become a welcoming feature and we got to know the creator better.

It was a good Chinese orchestra concert.  And based on the applause given, the audience, some of them repeated, enjoyed the music offering.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

CATS returns to Singapore

CATS, one of the most successful musicals of all time, is returning to Singapore and performing at the MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands from 9 January 2015.

Based on the T.S. Eliot's “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”, CATS tells the imaginative tale of a tribe of Jellicle Cats (Rum Tum Tugger, Mr. Mistoffelees, Jennyanydots, Old Deuteronomy, Grizabella and Skimbleshanks). as they gather together for the annual Jellicle Ball, and one by one tell their stories for the amusement of Old Deuteronomy, who must choose one of the Cats to journey to the Heaviside Layer to be reborn into a new life.

The show features a musical score composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, known for other works such as The Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and Starlight Express.  Most of us would know the song “Memory” featured in this hit musical.   Together with a fantastical oversized set, inspired choreography and mischievous costumes, CATS is a brilliant song and dance spectacular not to be missed.

Seen by over 70 million people world-wide, CATS first opened in London in May 1981 to rave reviews and went on to win a record-breaking number of awards internationally including two Olivier Awards for ‘Musical of the Year’ and ‘Outstanding Achievement of the Year in Musicals’, and seven Tony Awards.  It holds the record for one of the longest-running musicals in West End history playing for 21 years.  In addition CATS played 18 years on Broadway and has been presented in over twenty-six countries, in about three hundred cities, in fourteen languages.

Tuesday – Friday 8:00pm;
Saturday: 2:00pm and 8:00pm
Sunday: 1:00pm and 6.00pm

From $65* through to $195
* Excludes the booking fee of SGD$3 per ticket

THROUGH INTERNET: www.BASEentertainmentasia.comwww.BASEentertainmentasia.com or www.sistic.com.sg

BY PHONE:   +65 6688 8826

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Mamma Mia! Season Extended

Mamma Mia! is returning to Singapore.  I caught the musical years ago in London, and will be catching it this time in Singapore.   The season in Singapore has been extended to 14 December due to overwhelming demand.  The show opens 13 November at the Marina Bay Sands MasterCard Theatre.   MAMMA MIA! the musical inspired by the classic songs of ABBA.  If you have seen the movie and like the songs of ABBA, you will enjoy this musical.

See my write-up on the ABBA Museum in Stockholm

PERFORMANCE TIMES:                     
Tuesday – Friday 8:00pm; Saturday 2pm and 8pm and Sunday 1pm and 6.00pm
TICKET PRICE:                                     
From $95** Excludes the booking fee of SGD$3 per ticket

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Potted Potter: Irreverent Fun for Fans

As a fringe theatre performance, Potted Potter was good entertainment for 70 minutes.  Squeezing seven Harry Potter books into that time period, creators Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner succeeded in retelling the story, albeit in an alternative way.  

The first 5 minutes was slightly draggy, but things picked up from Book Two onwards.
Audience participation was a highlight of the show, and we got to play Quidditch in the Jubilee Hall.  On Thursday evening, we had a volunteer who came on stage as a wizard.  Good for her, and of course she won!

Clarkson and Turner were engaging and held audience’s attention with their ridiculous and cheapo props, silly songs and all the wrong references to the book.  While it may not be necessary to be a fan of Harry Potter books, it did help.
A classic it may not be, but definitely good fun for all.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Beatlemania: A Good Survey of the Fab's Music

Beatlemania is a chronological survey of Beatles music, starting from the members' stint in Hamburg (Germany), to their final days together.  This musical-concert was presented in few segments: Hamburg period (with Pete Best), Liverpool, the BBC Sessions, Ed Sulliven Show in the USA, and their subsequent events such as the movie A Hard Day's Night, Sergeant Pepper's period etc.

As a musical staging, it could be monotonous as there was not much dramatic elements into it.  The stage set was simple, with simple projection screen acting as backdrops and indicating the period they were in.  As a performance, however, the 4 actors put up a good show.  Most of them did have some resemblance to the original members and they sounded like them too.  The band was tight and their playing and singing were definitely the highlight of the show.

This is the 50th anniversary of Beatles conquering the United States music scene.  It was thus timely that we were treated to an enjoyable performance by this tribute band.  It just reminded us how great the music of the Beatles are, and how Paul, John, George and Ringo would continue to win new fans over the next 50 years and more.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Cavalia: Experiencing the performance by feel and touch

On 27 Aug, some visually impaired children were invited to experience hands-on Cavalia, a production currently staging at the gigantic white tent next to the Marina Bay Sands.  Cavalia is a multi-disciplinary show which feature riders, aerialists, acrobats, musicians and of courses, the horses.  

It was a good initiative by the Presenter and the Cavalia team to create a special experience for these children.  To begin the journey, the children, teachers and parents were first brought to the farrier's station where they had the chance to touch and feel the tools of making a horse shoe.  Most children were able to overcome their initial shyness and participate in the activities.

At one corner, the children smelt and touched the hay, grains and fruits fed to the horses, thereby understanding the diet of these stallions.   A few students from the Lighthouse School were game enough to ride on the saddle.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Beatlemania On Tour

While the original band may have disbanded decades ago, their music and image still live on through the tribute band Beatlemania.   Beatlemania is coming to perform in Singapore at the MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands from 5-6 September 2014.  Tickets are available at SISTIC.

The concert would take audiences on a journey through the main years of the ‘Fab Four’ with a fascinating musical story that explores the band’s humble beginning in Liverpool, its rise to fame, cultural change and the Beatlemania phenomenon that changed music forever.

Employing authentic ‘Beatle instruments’, amplifiers and costumes, coupled with musically perfect renditions of your favourite Beatles classics, Beatlemania – On Tour recreates the spirit of The Beatles in ways that have audiences raving about them for weeks.  The Singapore performance will feature UK’s Joe Kane (Paul McCartney), Clark Gilmour (John Lennon), Craig McGown (George Harrison) and Grahame Critcher (Ringo Starr), selected for the show in 2013.  New moments have been added, including new musical tracks that will have audiences out of their seats the whole night long.  

While we cannot have the real thing, we still have Beatlemania.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Mid Autumn Festival lightup at Chinatown

This year's Mid Autumn Festival (or Moon Festival) lights are up at Eu Tong Sen Street.  The Mid Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month of the Chinese calendar.

There are not many specific places celebrating the Festival in Singapore.  Besides the light up along Eu Tong Sen Street, the other place would be the Chinese Garden in Jurong.

The decorations are generally beautiful to look at.  It would be great if the buildings along the street could be lighted up so as to create the right festive mood. These photos were taken around 10 pm and you can see that the area looked rather deserted.

Moon Cake and lantern time.....

Bubble Magic - Pep Bou's Wonderful World of Bubbles

Direct from a Europe wide tour, Bubble Magic - Pep Bou's Wonderful World of Bubbles created by award winning bubble whizz, Pep Bou will open in Singapore for the first time in Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel from 9 -14 September 2014.

Audiences can look forward to crazy clowning, fun that would be incorporated with beautiful and wonder filled bubbles. Surprises such as fishbowl bubbles, animal bubbles, sliding bubbles, puppet bubbles and even a train inside a bubble tunnel will be created by the two cast members in this show of magical illusions for all people of all ages. This show is also a blend of visual poetry and sheer fun.

On a deeper level, Bubble Magic explores the change of perspective people experience when they start to work together instead of living life in isolation. The two characters meet in a strange unfamiliar world, living in fear of the unknown.  But soon, working with the daily elements of reality:  water, soap, tubes, circles and smoke machines, they begin to appreciate the beauty of everything  around them and change their outlook towards each other and life. They become aware of their ability to transform reality and the benefits of working with other people.

Tickets are available at SISTIC.

Potted Potter: Seven Harry Potter books into seventy hilarious minutes on stagejnm

After a successful 2012 season in Singapore, POTTED POTTER would be making a magical return to Singapore at the Jubilee Hall at Raffles Hotel from 9 to 14 September for 10 shows only.  Tickets are on sale now at SISTIC.

In 70 minutes, POTTED POTTER takes on the ultimate challenge of telling the story of Harry Potter which will feature all the favourite characters, a special appearance from a fire-breathing dragon, endless costumes, brilliant songs, ridiculous props and a generous helping of Hogwarts magic!

Clarkson and Turner first created POTTED POTTER in 2005 for an appearance at a London bookshop, as a five-minute entertainment for fans awaiting the release of the sixth book in the series.  The show grew from there into a full-length stage production, first seen at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2006, and has since played at the Adelaide Fringe, Melbourne Comedy Festival and New Zealand Comedy Festival in 2009.

“Fabulously Funny! Will tickle the funny bone of every age group.”
The London Daily Telegraph

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Singapore Garden Festival at the Garden By the Bay

This was my first Singapore Garden Festival, which used to be at Suntec and now moved to Garden By the Bay this year. I also took the opportunity to visit the Flower Dome, where the orchid display was held.  On a weekday, there were many local and foreign visitors, including school groups.

There was a queue to enter the orchid exhibition area but fortunately we did not have to wait long. One suggestion to the organiser would be to spread out the displays as it was rather cramped inside. The orchids were of different varieties and beautiful to look at.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Rock of Ages: Mindless fun with 80s Rock Music

A tribute the 80s rock and roll songs, Rock of Ages weaved in these hits into.a simple story of a boy and a girl seeking their dreams in a big city.  Along the way, both made sacrifices in their artistic choices and their personal relationship.  On that of that, a well known rock venue was to be demolished by greedy developer.

The plot was simple and camp at times, with second half of the production much better than the first.  What made this fun was the creators' ability to laugh at themselves, as shown in the scenes during the second Act.

The cast were competent, most of them seemed to be Broadway performers than rock singers.  The main focus of this production would definitely be the music.  We were reminded of those 80s gems such as Styx's Too Much Time On My Hand, Starship's We Build This City, Reo Speedwagon's Keep on Loving You etc.  Personally, I preferred  the songs to be performed in full rather than meshed up versions.

Overall, I had a good time at the performance.  The second half saved this production.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Cavalia: The beauty of horses and equestrian arts

Entering the white tent, I thought that we would be seated in a round, as in most circus performances.  As shown in the photo, we have a proper stage setting.  While waiting for the show to start, we were quizzed on the production Cavalia, in particular on the horses.  This proved to be both entertaining and educational to the audience.

The initial entry of the horses drew gasps and wows from the audience, and it would be the most common reaction from the audience throughout the show.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Dick Lee's Hotpants: Good revival for the 2014 audience

A restaging of Dick Lee's musical first performed in 1997, the 1970s-themed Hotpants was about 3 schoolgirls forming a group to compete in their school's talentime.  Through this event, they went through their own self discovery - boy-girl relationship, hopes and betrayal.   At the same time, their mothers, who were reunited through the girls' activities and were once schoolmates, were having their own bit of fun....

Hotpants did not seem dated and related well to the current audience.  I did not know if Dick Lee made any changes to the original script; for this production the plot was relatively tight and straightforward.  There were witty lines and catchy songs, in the same mould as Beauty World, another musical of Dick Lee.    While the main focus was on the 3 girls, it was the part on the mothers which was more interesting.   There were some plot twists in the second half but unfortunately it was not fully developed.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Margaret Leng Tan: Cage - Kaprow - Fluxus

I always approach modern music with apprehension.  The concert by Margaret Leng Tan was no exception.   We had Margaret Leng Tan playing John Cage's 4' 33" on toy piano, and Music for Amplified Toy Pianos.    Some pieces were more performance art to me, such as George Brecht's 5 event scores where not much music was performed.  Another piece Dick Higgins's Danger Music no 17 (Scream! Scream! Scream! Scream! Scream!), just involved, literally, screaming.  One scream was aiming at the street.

But it was a joy watching Margaret Leng Tan in concert.  She seemed to be having fun.  She would be back for the 2015 Singapore International Festival of Arts main programme and let's see what she could come up with.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Michael Nyman's Facing Goya: Science Lesson at Singapore International Festival of Arts

A modern opera as the opening performance for the reboot of Singapore International Festival of Arts, formerly known as the Singapore Arts Festival.

The topic of neuroscience and cloning may be interesting in the year 2000, where Dolly the cloned sheep took the world by storm.  But the ethics of cloning is not new to us - there were sci-fi movies galore telling us the pitfalls of human cloning.  At slightly over 2 hours with an intermission, the opera still seemed long to me.  This was partly due to the plot not moving forward much, and I just did not appreciate the libretto by Victoria Hardie.

On the plus side, the score by Michael Nyman was generally enjoyable for a contemporary opera, with beautiful moments at the end of first half.  Director Ong Keng Sen was able to keep the pace going, utilising the actors well and incorporating the appropriate multimedia imagery.  In addition to being good singers, the cast of 5 were able to portray the right emotions for the various roles they took on.

While I did not get excited about this production, I still enjoyed certain moments of it.

This was also my first time at the refurbished Victoria Theatre.  The seating capacity had been reduced greatly and the stage had become smaller.  I still missed the old Victoria Theatre.  While it may be lacking in modern staging facilities, it would still be an ideal venue for mid-sized performances.  I doubt the new Victoria Theatre could stage any decent dance performances.

Monday, 11 August 2014

The Teahouse and Roaring Good Times!

It was pleasant surprise to see young Singaporeans putting up a good showing in The Teahouse, a cross talk play staged at the Drama Centre in July.  The title of the performance must have modeled after the well known chinese play

A difficult art form, but the young performers from Young People's Performing Arts Ensemble were well rehearsed.  There was hope for Chinese theatre in Singapore.

The youths next took the stage in August for Roaring Good Times! 7.  More assured performances from the older brothers and sisters definitely.  We were also treated to an item by two well known xiang sheng (相声) performers Gen Qiang and Gen Dian Sheng (耿强,耿殿生)

To me, the scripts for cross talk tend to be dated and at times fit awkwardly in contemporary setting.  Fortunately, the script writers managed to keep the skits relevant to current audience.

Good effort from the company and the young performers.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Cavalia: Slowly but surely, the tent rises....

Those who passed by the Marina Bay Front area recently would notice a big structure coming up next to the Marina Bay Sands.

This is the giant tent for the production Cavalia, opening on 12 Aug 2014.

The hardworking crew getting it up on time for the performance.  Looking forward to the performance.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Hari Raya 2014 Light Up at Geylang Serai

The lights were up at Geylang Serai, the place where the food and goods stalls were concentrated.  This photo was taken along Sims Avenue.

There were more stalls this year, mostly selling food items, carpets or clothings.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Sound of Music at Mastercard Theatres: Review

How did you restage a musical where the audience were so familiar with the storyline and knew the sequence of songs by heart?  This version by Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Ian took a daring move by condensing the plot and changing the sequence of the songs.  Be mentally prepared.  

It is inevitable audience would compare anyone playing Maria with Julie Andrew.  For this production, we were glad to see Bethany Dickson holding up well in this role, and her singing was commendable.  Andre Schwartz gave a different interpretation as head of the von Trapp family – a more cheerful widower Captain von Trapp.  He had a good voice but unfortunately, the newly written songs sung by him (and other cast members) were not memorable. Janelle Visagie, as Mother Abbess, stole some limelight from the leads with her rendition of Climb Every Mountain.     Last but not least, the von Trapp children played by the Singapore cast.  Eighteen children were selected to play the six children in rotation and they captured the hearts of the audience.

The production design enabled swift scene changes and kept the pace going.  The producers may have intended to trim down the running time to suit the younger audience.  Scenes involving the key characters were not fully developed and hurried through, resulting in a loss of emotional attachment to the plot.   This was my main grouch for this production.

Having said that, the capable cast and the high production standards ensured the audience had an enjoyable evening at the theatre.  It is good to see how an old musical could be restaged successfully to a modern audience.  Recommended.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Tian Yun Beijing Opera Society's Beijing Opera Highlights

This must be the oldest person to perform on Singapore stage.  The 95 year old Mr Hor Chim Or (侯深湖) performed a solo piece Da Deng Dian (大登殿) as part of the Beijing Opera Highlights staged by local group Tianyun Beijing Opera Society.  Mr Hor still had the seminar and the voice.  At times, he treated his walking stick as a prop!

(photo taken during curtain call)

Well known media personality Mr Lin You Fa (林尤发) also did a short Xiaosheng (young men's role) excerpt Patrolling the Camp taken from the opera The Yang Family Warriors (巡营) .

Other items included An Emotional Cross-Border Visit performed by Society President Loo Teck Ming and Chan Wan, and the Witty Maid with Li Lina in the title role.

Monday, 7 July 2014

The Songs We Sang - Xinyao reunion at Bras Basah Complex

It was a special day on 6 July for the reunion of Xinyao singers at Bras Basah Complex.  Xinyao was a term given to the Singapore Chinese music scene in the 1980s to early 1990s, where young Singaporeans started to compose their own songs in Mandarin.  It was in response to the type of music being played on the radio stations at that time, and also the need to reflect a Singapore identity through locally-composed songs.

Although the Xinyao movement quietened down in the early 90s, the key players continued to pursue music, mostly in the popular music front.  Most of them have made it big as performers, songwriters and producers.

A documtentry would be made on the Xinyao movement and the producers wanted to re-create the vibrant scene of that time. Bras Basah Complex was a popular venue for album launch during that time, and the place was always packed with supporters during those events.

The rain earlier did not dampen the spirits of the attendees, most of whom were in the 30s - 50s age range.

I arrived late and missed a few singers.   As it was so crowded, I could only listen to singers such as Pan Ying and could not see them at all.....until I saw a few audience using ingenious way to see their idols....

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Cavalia gallops into Marina Bay Sands

Cavalia, an innovative multi-media and multi-disciplinary theatrical production created by Normand Latourelle, one of the co-founders of Cirque du Soleil, will make its Asia debut in Singapore from 12 August 2014, under its signature White Theatre Tent at Bayfront Avenue, beside the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

Cavalia is a lavish production involving 50 magnificent horses and featuring 43 riders, aerialists, acrobats, dancers and musicians from all over the world. It is a harmonious celebration of beauty and nature, encompassing imagery that whisks the spectator’s imagination around the earth over land and sea by displaying a vast array of equestrian and performing arts.

Supported by state-of-the-art multimedia can be described as an epic adventure, a fantastic demonstration of horsemanship that transports the audience into virtual atmospheres. In Cavalia, horses cavort with the many artists in front of a constantly changing digital background projected onto a 60 metre-wide screen, drawing spectators into dream-like environments. Unlike traditional horse shows, Cavalia’s audience faces a single 50 metre-wide stage which allows the horses space to gallop at full speed, at times running completely free, unfettered by bridles or halters.

The show takes place under a white, 2,440-square-metre big top, rising some 35 metres high that gives the horses an ample playground to perform with their trainers and artists.  Cavalia’s White Theatre Tent is the largest touring tent in the world.  The show has received critical acclaim from around the world. The Washington Post described the show as “Horseplay of the highest order”.  Las Vegas Magazine claimed it is “One of the most spectacular hybrids of modern theatre in the world” while Paris Match defined it as “Pure poetry”. 

Cavalia explores humankind’s longstanding relationship with the horse’s horse training is based upon a philosophy of understanding horses, rather than making horses understand the humans around them. The tone of the show, embraced by the entire company, is one of mutual respect, kindness, patience, and trust. Audiences have found Cavalia exhilarating in scope, yet touching in the compassion shown by both horse and human.  

WHEN:   Premieres 12 August, 2014
WHERE:  Under the White Theatre Tent, at Bayfront Avenue, beside the Sands Expo and Convention Centre
TICKETS: Available at http://www.cavalia.sg/www.cavalia.sg or by calling tel:65-31586735 Ticket prices S$58 to S$288 + applicable fees.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Sound of Music opening at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

The evergreen musical The Sound of Music would open at the Marina Bay Sands Mastercard Theatres Singapore in 2 weeks’ time from 11 July 2014.  Due to good demand for tickets, this musical has extended its run to 10 Aug.

The Sound of Music tells the uplifting true story of Maria, the fun-loving governess who changes the lives of the widowed Captain von Trapp and his seven children by re-introducing them to music, culminating in the family’s flight across the Austrian mountains.

As the name suggests, The Sound of Music touches hearts of all ages and includes those memorable tunes that we all grew up with: My Favourite Things, Do-Re-Mi, Climb Ev’ry Mountain, Edelweiss, The Lonely Goatherd, Sixteen Going on Seventeen, and of course the title song The Sound of Music.

For the Singapore run, the coveted roles of six out of the seven children of the von Trapp family will be played by eighteen of Singapore’s young actors and actresses. The successful young boys and girls, aged from six to 13, will perform in rotation as the small and cute Gretl, the brothers Federich and Kurt, as well as their sisters Marta, Brigitta, and Louisa.

The original 1959 Broadway production of THE SOUND OF MUSICwon six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and was Rogers and Hammerstein’s biggest success.  The 1965 movie starring Julie Andrews as Maria won five Oscars, including Best Picture, and remains one of the most popular movies of all time. The musical's original score is the genius output of composer Richard Rodgers collaborating with the lyricist and librettist Oscar Hammerstein.  This current production is by Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Ian.

PERFORMANCE TIMES: Tuesday– Friday 8:00pm; Saturday 2pm and 8pm and Sunday 12pm and 6pm

TICKET PRICE:  From $65* (excluding booking fee) available from SISTIC.
* Excludes the booking fee of SGD$3 per ticket

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Review: Light and Nothingness by John Mead Dance Company

Based on the programme note of Light and Nothingness, choreographer John Mead wanted to create a dance piece that was equivalent to a musical "tonal poem", which required audience to engage in a "longer, connected tonal or melodic thread".

This site specific work was staged at the gallery space of The Sculpture Square at Waterloo Street, a former church venue.  It offered the creator and dancers the opportunity to feel and explore space. The dancers, mostly Lasalle and Nafa graduates and also included the Co-Founder and Co-Director Lim Mei Chien, conveyed the sense of lightness or wander well. Some dance movements reminded me of yoga and taiji poses.

Each dancer had a solo segment, which in some way prolonged the length of this piece.   While the choreographer's aim was to create a meditated mood, it went slightly long for me.  But overall the John Mead Dance Company succeeded in creating the right mood in this space, and I was engaged most times. It will be interesting to see their next site specific show.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Review of Le Noir 2014: Daredevil act adds sparks to arts spectacle

There was a good turnout at the opening night of Le Noir 2014, making a return after a successful run last year. (Read my review for Le Noir 2013) I was fortunate enough to be seated at the ring-side seats and was closed to the actions.

The addition to this year's programme is the Wheel of Death, featuring two acrobats who perform high-risk feats atop and inside a pair of spinning wheels rotating high above the stage.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Buds Theatre's Death and Dancing in Joo Chiat

This is Buds Theatre Company's second staging of Death and Dancing by Claire Dowie.  An American gay student met a lesbian while studying there.  A relationship developed, and may possibly turn into a relationship.  And of course, one party backed out.  While this play explored theme that was beyond same sex relationship, it took some time to develop.  Some of the jokes were rather long and repetitive, and the second half was quite preachy.

Buds Theatre chose to stage this production at a space at Joo Chiat Road shophouse, partly to give an intimate setting, or to save on theatre rentals.  Director Claire Devine made good use of the venue where the audience were seated close to the actors. Rebecca Lee and Zuhairi Idris gave credible performance as Max, though putting on the foreign accents did strain our ears at times.  The 2-hour performance was also taxing to the performers during the second half of the show.

While I did not really enjoy the first act more for the script, I was more engaged in the second act. Script aside, Buds Theatre put up a good show in a simple setting and we felt the commitment of the 2 actors.  

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Review of Tap Dogs at Mastercard Theatres: High Energy performance from the guys

It was a welcome return of Dein Perry’s Tap Dogs back in Singapore at the Marina Bay Sands MasterCards Theatre.  Taking a dance form in the era of Vaudeville and made it relevant to the modern day audience.

The performance started with a solo from Doug Mills and we were introduced to the rest of the dancers, or their feet I mean.  The first part of the performance was set in a neighbourhood, where a young man was trying to fit in with his friends, with a little help from an older pal.  This quieter duet moment between the two was one of my favourite scenes in this 90 minute performance.      The sequence involving the basketball was well choreographed and with good humour.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

The Finger Players' Rant and Rave: Singapore theatre scene rewind and reflected

In Rant and Rave, playwright and director Chong Tze Chien searched through piles of newspaper archives and presented a survey of the Singapore theatre scene over the past few decades.  The script was based on the words of arts personalities such as Robert Yeo, Kuo Pao Kun, Margaret Chan, T Sasitharan, Ong Keng Sen, Alvin Tan and representatives from the media and also the government.  It touched on the challenges faced by our artists through the ages, ranging from the search for a national identity and a local play, the issue of censorship, and of course government funding.

All these roles were played by 2 capable actors Karen Tan and Janice Koh, who switched swiftly from one personality to another with simple use of props or costumes.  In addition to the action on stage, there were comments and quotes from more arts personalities, at times making the audience difficult to focus on either.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Singapore Repertory Theatre's Merchant of Venice: Shylock with a Bollywood Twist

The popular Shakespeare in the Park organised by the Singapore Repertory Theatre is back for another year.  Audience arriving at the Fort Canning Park was greeted with the beautiful Venetian building set designed by Richard Kent.  It was my first time seeing Merchant of Venice live on stage and the production did not disappoint.

Remesh Panicker was convincing as the moneylender Shylock but I was wondering why he portrayed the character with an Indian accent.  We have sympathies for Daniel Jenkins' Merchant of Venice Antonio.  These 2 actors were the star of this production.  The production moved at a good pace and I liked the lighting design and also the clear sound system.

While there was no surprises in this staging,  everything worked as a whole. A usual high standard SRT production.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Le Noir 2014 returns with new acts

Le Noir, a theatrical production featuring astonishing cirque-style acts, is returning with new, daring performances from 7 June 2014 at The MasterCard Theatres at the Marina Bay Sands.  I caught the performance last year and while I am not a big fan of acrobatic arts, this production was impressive and was one of my favourite shows of 2013 (Le Noir 2013)

From the publicity materials, several new acts have been added to LE NOIR 2014including The Wheel of Death  — one of the world's most complex circus stunts that will have audiences on the edge of their seats. The act features two acrobats who perform high-risk feats atop and inside a pair of spinning wheels rotating high above the stage.

The Grand Theatre will be fully transformed to seat audiences around a custom-built circular stage of about 2.5 meters in diameter giving a spectacular 360 degree view of the performance.  Audiences will be ‘enclosed’ within a canopy of curtains designed from LED lights.  The seating in the Grand Theatre will be limited to just over 1,300 seats to create a unique and intimate experience.  Led by Creative Producer Simon Painter and Executive Producer Tim Lawson, the creative team behind LE NOIRhas launched many large-scale productions including Le Grand Cirque Adrenaline, which is the biggest and most ambitious thrill circus ever staged in the Sydney Opera House.

TICKET PRICE:    From $70* (Excludes the booking fee of SGD$3 per ticket)
THROUGH INTERNET:www.BASEentertainmentasia.com,  www.MarinaBaySands.com

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Review: Grease the Musical at the Marina Bay Sands Mastercard Theatre

It is inevitable for the audience to compare the movie version with the musical.  Thankfully the production team and the Australian cast of Grease, currently playing at Marina Bay Sands Mastercard Theatres, managed to hold its own. The story of teenage romance set in a high school would not make a great plot, but it is the classic songs such as the title track, "Summer Nights", "Hopelessly Devoted to You", "Sandy", "Beauty School Dropout" and "You're The One That I Want" that helped string the show together.

Stephen Mahy played the lead role Danny Zuko with a hint of goofiness, unlike the John Travolta version. Gretel Scarlett was convincing as the Sandy.  Both of them were supported by a good ensemble cast, which at times overshadowed their performances.

The production is generally slick and was more exciting during the second half.  More importantly, this production is about the songs we are familiar with, and it is about having a good time at the theatre.   Based on the reaction on a Tuesday evening, the performance delivered on both counts.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

A Tale of 2 Sun Yat Sen Memorial Halls

It was Good Friday and a group of us decided to visit the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall.  A few of my friends had never visited this place before and I wanted to  visit this refurbished building.  

The colonial style building and the statue of Dr Sun Yat Sen greeted us when we entered the compound. Sun Yat Sen played an instrumental role in the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty, and was the first president and founding father of the Republic of China. 

From Left: Teo Eng Hock, Sun Yat Sen, Tan Chor Nam
From the National Library’s resouces, the villa was built sometime in the 1880s by Chinese merchant Boey Chuan Poh, rumoured for his mistress Bin Chan.  The villa chaged hands and eventually Teochew businessman Teo Eng Hock acquired the house and renamed it Wan Qing Yuan (晚晴园.  Teo Eng Hock later offered Sun Yat Sen the use of the villa. 

In 1906, during Sun's two-week stay in Singapore, he formed a local branch of the T'ung Meng Hui (“Chinese Revolutionary League”) with co-founders Tan Chor Nam as chairman, and Hsu Tzu Lin, Teo Eng Hock and his nephew Lim Nee Soon as office bearers. 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Singapore Arts Scene 2013: A Review

This year-end review is rather late, but better late than never.  It seems to me that the arts scene in Singapore was quieter, not just due to the one-year break of the Singapore Arts Festival, but the number of new works being premiered.

For theatre, it seemed to be a year of re-runs and restaging.  Having said that, here are the shows that I have enjoyed or felt offered something different.

12 Angry Men by Nine Years Theatre, at the Huayi Festival.  What was significant about this production was how director Nelson Chia had managed to get 12 mandarin speaking male actors for this show.  From the audience feedback session, one of the actors Johnny Ng helped brush up the delivery of lines of the other actors.  Johnny Ng won the Best Supporting Actor award at the recent Life! Theatre Award 2014 and whole cast won the Best Ensemble.  Director Nelson Chia won Best Director and Wong Chee Wai received the Best Set Design award. It is good to see that in addition to The Theatre Practice and Drama Box, we have another up and coming Chinese theatre group in Singapore.

Illogic by Cake Theatrical Productions. A very different and stripped down Cake production, where the characters were generally "normal".  The 2 actors Noorlinah Mohamed and Edith Podesta held the attention of the audience.  Edith Podesta won the Best Actress Award at the recent Life! Theatre Award, though I prefer Noorlinah's performance.  The production design was also of high standard.