Monday, 31 December 2012

Love's Trials 华染状元红

Chinese Opera Society staged Love's Trials at Drama Centre on 30 Dec 2012, featuring Cultural Medalion Lou Mee Wah playing the male lead Ru Feng Sheng 茹凤声, Aw Yeong Peng Mun as the step mother Si Jie and Gary Kong 龚耀祥 as Xia Ziqi.  The opera was directed by Christopher Choo.

The opera was about a scholar Ru who promised to marry a courtesan Hua Yanhang when he finished the scholar examinations.  Ru's sister found out the love affair and caused the breakup of the two.  Nonetheless, all's well that ends well. 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Basi (Blessing) Ceremony for new born baby, Laos

While travelling in Laos, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a Basi (also spelt Baci or Barsi) ceremony.  Basi is a Laotian ceremony celebrating a special event such as a marriage, a homecoming or a birth.  The ceremony that I attended was the celebration of a new birth, a boy now 4 months old. The ceremony lasts throughout the day. 

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Night Market along Mekong River, Vientiane (Laos)

A good option after dinner in Vientiane is to visit the night market, located along the Mekong River.  This has been a new attraction to the city for more than a year.  When I first visited Vientiane in 2010, the whole area was still under construction.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Hotel Khamvongsa, Vientiane, Laos

A friend recommended this boutique Khamvongsa Hotel and  I tried it when I visited Vientiane this time.

The hotel is few minutes walk to the river front, a few streets off the busy streets but still centrally located.  It is within easy walking distance to the restaurants.

Xang Khoo Restaurant, Vientiane, Laos

Read from the travel forum on this restaurant and decided to have dinner on one evening.  The  set dinner had 2 options: main course with pasta or Lao chicken dish.   

Nam Ngum Dam, Laos

About 90 km north of Vientiane is the Nam Ngum Hydropower Plant.  It is 1.5 hours drive from the capital city, and a popular day trip for picnic. Public transport only reached the town centre and you would need private vehicle to come in.

Nam Ngum Dam makes a pleasant trip from Vientiane.  It is good to take in a visit to a hydropower plant as the country is becoming a major exporter of hydroelectricity to the region.  The country calls itself the "Battery of Asean".

We left Vientiane around two pm and arrived at the Dam at half past three.  I would recommend a slightly earlier departure if possible.

On that day, we saw a few groups of people having picnic by the ground.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Moon the Night Restaurant, Vientiane

Moon the Night Restaurant: something is definitely not right with this restaurant name, but the name definitely stuck in our mind.

The restaurant is located along the Mekong River, though the walkway along the river leading to this restaurant was still under construction at point of writing.  It should be ready months ahead.

Playing petanque in Vientiane

I had the opportunity to play petanque with a few Laotians.  Laos is strong in petanque in this region, having won several gold medals at the Southeast Asia (SEA) Games.

The petanque game area is slightly off the city centre.  When we arrived, the area was pretty packed.

Tadxon waterfall, Vientiane

Another good place to visit slightly out of Vientiance is the Tadxon waterfall, about 40 minutes drive from the centre.

While it is called a waterfall, we could not visit it currently as there was construction work being carrying out.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Meeting the Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys, the Musical, is currently playing at the Marina Bay Sands Singapore.   I had the opportunity to speak to the 2 lead cast members recently, and they are: Grant Almirall (Frankie Valli)  and Daniel Buys (Tommy Devito).  The other 2 were Kenneth Meyer (Bob Gaudio) and Emmanuel Castis (Nick Massi).

The cast hails from South Aftica.  So how was the arts scene there?  Well, it was good enough to earn a decent living.  There were not many musicals being staged in South Africa and both had to audition for the roles.  Grant initially auditioned for another role as he felt that his vocal range was not the same as that of Frankie Valli's.  But he eventually got the lead role.

Daniel was just finishing the South African run of Mama Mia! and auditioned for the musical.  He was offered the role of Tommy Devito but the producers were initially sceptical whether he was the right choice.  So while the actors playing the role of Frankie Valli would traditionally go for a "Frankie camp" in New York, Daniel also went along.

Besides familiarised themselves with the role, the few of them had the opportunity to visit the Belmont Tavern in New Jersey, where the bartender had a few tales about Tommy Devitto and the band.  Grant also had a personal session with Bob Gaudio, the key songwriter of The Four Seasons and one of the producers of this musical.

While it looked as if the 4 main cast members were performing effortless on stage, they found certain section of the choreography challenging.  In particular, they singled out the Sherry/ Big Girls Don't Cry/ Walk Lik A Man segment as the most challenging, as they need to remember the moves, sing and also play the instrument.   For Grant, singing like Frankie Valli involved doing lots of vocal exercises.  And as in other Jersey Boys productions, he only did 6 performances (out of 8) a week.  Their favourite tracks included Beggin and Bye Bye Baby.
The cast were busy with the performances and do not have time to explore the city much.  They are bringing the musical back to South Africa, and possibly a tour to Hong Kong in the near future.

For more information:

Friday, 14 December 2012

Anna Grilled Duck, Vientiane

If you are in the area of Singapore or Australia Embassies, out of the central area, a good place to have lunch would be at Anna Grilled Duck.

Sunset along Mekong River

A great thing to do in Vietiane was to stroll along the Chao Anouvong Park or having a drink by the river and catch the sunset.  It is definitely one of the highlights visiting Vientiane.

It is memorable! 

For more pages on Laos:

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Performances at Nam Phu Fountain in the evening

Nam Phu Fountain was the landmark in Vientiane City.  In the evening, the area was converted into a dining area.  Visitors around the area would get to listen to music from the band hired by the restaurant.

The band performed mostly coveres and sang in English.  The standard is good.  Recommend for a drink there.

For more pages on Laos:

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Roadside stall food, Vientiane

When evening falls, the street hawkers will appear, selling various kinds of main meals and snacks at affordable prices.  I came across this gentleman manning a stall.

Friday, 7 December 2012

World Peace Gong, Vientiane

Walking from the Patuxay, past the water fountain and continuing till the end, you will find the World Peace Gong.


It complements the Patuxay as the Patuxay is a war memorial  Let's hope peace will be with this country forever!

For more pages on Laos:

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Climbing the Patuxay, Vientiane

It was on Laos National Day that I visited the Patuxay Monument, which is at the end (or start) of Lang Xang Avenue Surprisingly, there were not many visitors at the monument.    

Monday, 3 December 2012

Theatre Review: Roots, The FInger Players

The production Roots written by Oliver Chong of The Finger Players staged at the Drama Centre Black Box must be one of the most memorable performance in Singapore this year.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Theatre Review: Jersey Boys @ Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Jersey Boys the Musical was based on the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, four blue-collar blokes from New Jersey who found success as one of the biggest band in the world.  The Singapore production at Marina Bay Sands was brought in by BASE Entertainment Asia and featured cast from South Africa.

The musical, which won the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical, traces the rise and the eventual splitting up of The Four Seasons, told from the point of view of each band member, representing  each season.  Tommy DeVito, who formed the band (and its previous incarnations), started with "Spring" and he elaborated on how the 4 key members came together.  In this segment, we also met Joe Pesci who played a role in connecting Bob Gaudio, the key songwriter, to the group.

In "Summer", it was Bob's turn to talk about his version of the story.  In this segment, 3 No 1 singles were introduced in quick succession: Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry and Walk Like A Man.  It also talked about how The Four Seasons fared and reacted during the British Invasion.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Magic Brush 神笔马良, 23 - 24 Nov 2012

Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan Arts & Cultural Troupe restaged the children's musical The Magic Brush at the Marina Bay Sands Theatre.  The performances were in conjunction with the worldwide Hokkien people gathering in Singapore. 

Monday, 26 November 2012

Review: Wi!d Rice's Hansel & Gretel

Welcome to the Sebastian Tan and Siti Khalijah show!  The 2 actors stole the show in Wild Rice's latest pantomine Hansel and Gretel.

Hansel and Gretel, played by Dwayne Tan and Denise Tan respectively, lived in Queenstown with their widowed father (Dwayne Lau).  In came prospective stepmother (Vernetta Lopez), who was more keen on shopping and be a singing star, and of course got rid of them in the Mandai jungle.

Ah Boys to Men

The good news.  Ah Boys to Men is now the second highest grossing local film and managed to recoup the costs.  A relief to the Singapore film industry.

But did I enjoy the movie?

Friday, 16 November 2012

Decimal Points 5.1, Cake Theatre Productions

From the flyers, "5.1 refers to the 6 channel surround sound multichannel audio system - the most commonly used layout in both commercial cinemas and home theatres.  It is also about the search of self in a densely populated space, a space with a population that is reaching 5.1 million". 

God of Carnage, Singapore Reperory Theatre (Singapore)

A play written by Yasmina Reza and translated by Christopher Hampton would definitely be something audience would look forward to, in particular if it won both the Tony and Laurence Olivier Award.  And God of Carnage did not disappoint.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

A collection of blog entries on Vietnam

Just starting this page to be the main reference point on Vietnam, in particular Hanoi.


Nans Cafe: From Essence Hanoi Hotel (see below), turn right and walk towards the junction Hang Bac, turn left and walk 50m on the left hand side)  Nans Cafe

For breakfast: Breakfast in Hanoi

Little Hanoi Restaurant

Xoi Yen Restaurant: Sticky rice in old town

Bun Cha (Grilled pork): Bun Cha Nem Cua De Dac Kim (Old Quarters)

Outside Old Quarters:

Vegetarian Restaurant: Com Chay Nang Cam Vegetarian Restaurant

Luon Nghe An - Eel cooked in various ways

Things to do in Hanoi:

One Pillar Pagoda

Water Puppets


Essence Hanoi Hotel


Vietnam celebrating Independence Day

Philippe Genty's Voyages to Nowhere

After over 20 years, Philippe Genty brought another production Voyageurs Immobiles (Voyagers to Nowhere) to Singapore, as part of the French Festival Singapore 2012. This should be his second visit to Singapore, the first for the Singapore Arts Festival in the late 80s. 

I also caught his earlier work Derives at the Edinburgh International Festival in 1990, its visual and sensual elements still lingered in my mind.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Makan Place, The Republic Cultural Centre Theatre

It was with great anticipation that I attended Tueday's evening musical performance of Makan Place, the first musical in Singapore.  It was first staged in 1988 and did not have a full staging till 2012.  Makan Place was part of REFLECTIONS, Republic Polytechnic's Community Arts Festival.

This musical talks about chasing your dreams and was set in roadside hawker stalls, a place that was disappearing from Singapore street scene except in touristy areas.  The 2 protagonists were Siew, a school student, and Zil, slightly older than Siew.  We did not see many instances of chasing their dreams: Siew was more infatuated with his tutor, and we were only left with Zil dreaming of show business.

We were introduced to the life of Singaporeans at that time: hawkers trying to make ends meet, and charging tourists higher price, the debt collectors, the Convent girls versus the boys' schools etc.   Playwright R Chandran (Act3 Theatrics) managed to incorporate these storylines well.

The cast consisted of students, staff and alumnus.  The stage definitely belonged to Lim Teck Kiang, who played Zil hilariously and managed to hold the show on his own.  And the staff members who played the hawkers did a good job, in particular Hafidz Abdullah who played Rahim the teh tarik man and Thng Poh Huat who played Pakcik Hassan.  The ensemble also did a competent job in the supporting and dancing roles.

As a college production, Makan Place was a polished performance and engaged the audience.  It was great to see a musical milestone in Singapore being restaged and hoped that the audience need not wait for another 25 years to see it again. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Theatre Review: The Spirits Play

The last major production for the Kuo Pao Kun Festival 2012 was The Spirits Play - Rituals to Soothe the Unsettled Spirits.  It was in fact 2 versions of The Spirits Play - the first half was directed by Makoto Sato (Za-Koenji Public Theatre, Tokyo) and the second half by Danny Yung (Zuni Icosahedron, Hong Kong). 

Monday, 29 October 2012

Flamenco sin Frontiers by Paco Pena Flamenco Dance Company

Well, I had to admit, the initial reason for attending this performance was to see the flamenco guitarist Paco Pena and not the dance. 

But of course, I got more than what I had wanted.....

This time, in addition to the Spanish musicians, we also had Venuezulian musicians joining in the music making, providing a different but yet harmonious sound.  The 2 bands blended very well.  In the usual flamenco dance performance, the musicians tend to play second fiddle.  Here, however, the musicians at times stole the lime light away from the dancers.  I have to add that the dancers were equally impressive, in particular Ramon Martinez.  Daniela Tugues's flamenco was markedly different from those of her Spanish counterparts.

In the first half, the musicians and dancers were arranged to look like they were performing in a theatre.  In the second half, they looked as if they were performing by a campfire, and the atsmospher was lighter and more relaxed.  Paco Pena was also featured as a soloist here.

The evening ended with most dancers and musicians taking turns to do a solo. This was definitely an enjoyable evening, great music, good dancing.  A good way to close the Esplanade Dance Festival.

POP! in the City II, Ion Art Gallery

While wandering around at Ion Orchard, I visited an interesting exhibition, featuring prints of famous pop artists.  The exhibition was organised by Pop and Contemporary Fine Art from 20 - 30 Oct 2012.

The exhibition featured artists such as Andy Warhol with his Campbell Soup prints

Burton Morris

Yayoi Kusama, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring and Damien Hirst

I like this exhibition as it had good write-up on the artists and their works.  Hopefully more galleries should follow suit.  I gained more knowledge on these artists after this exhibition.

Friday, 26 October 2012

TributeSG - Celebrating Life in the Arts

As part of its 10th Anniversary, Esplanade organised an exhibition (physical and online) to showcase the contributions of Singapore pioneer artists and arts activists. 

The walls on the basement leading to the MRT station were lined with photos of these arts personalitis.  The Jendella gallery showcased more detailed descriptions of the achivements of them.

David Cook at Ion Orachard, Singapore

By 6:30 pm, there was already a sizeable crowd gathering by the stage, most of them waiting for David Cook to perform.   David Cook was a past winner of the American Idol.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Aspects of Love: An evening of Ballet

This was another production under the Esplanade Dance Festival, held at the Esplanade Theatre on 23 and 24 Oct 2012.  The evening featured 5 pairs of dancers in 10 items.  As a non-dancer,  I felt that the second half definitely was the highlight.

Gillian Murphy and Qi Huan opened and closed the show with The Man I Love (George Balanchine) and Black Swan (Marius Petipa).  The first piece did not register a deep impression.  The Black Swan pas de deux showed the duo in good form.

 Daria Klimentova and Vadim Muntagirov danced Bedroom pas de deux from Manon and Tchaikovsky (Balanchine).  I liked Daria's movement and she was expressive.  Of course, Vadim impressed with his leaps.

I like Excerpt from The Little Mermaid (John Neumeler) and The Lady of the Camellias, performed by Silvia Azzoi and Alexandre Riabko.  The pair had very good chemistry and look comfortable on stage.  The choreography for The Lady of the Camellias was really beautiful. Of course pianist Lim Yan accompanied the two beautifully.

Tan Yuan Yuan is another expressive dancer and partnered Davit Karapetyan well.  I personally liked the Balcony pas de deux in the first act, compared to Among The Stars (Jessica Lang) that opened the second half.

Ana Maria Scheller and Gonzalo Garcia were the "flashy" pair, with all the twirls and leaps.  Their technique was good, but somehow I felt the pair lacked chemistry.

It was a lovely evening for audience, ballet lovers or not.  The dancers deserved the warm applause from the crowd.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Kenny Rogers in Singapore, 21 Oct 2012

I missed the Kenny Rogers concert in Singapore years ago and this time round, I made it a point to catch him since he won't be doing any more international tours. 

The audience at the Singapore Indoor Stadium was pretty quiet while waiting for Kenny Rogers to appear.  He started the concert at 8:15 pm.  And he did not disappoint. His voice is still in good shape, except for some high notes.  He sang most of his big hits (The Gambler, We've Got Tonight, Lucille, Through the Years, Lady).  At times, he did not sing the full duration.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Tobari - as if in an inexhaustible flux

Sankai Juku's butoh production opened the da:ns Festival 2012 organised by Esplanade Theatre on the Bay. It was the group second visit to Singapore.  From the house programme, tobari is a "veil of fabric hung in a space as a partition".

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Leo Hee Tong Solo Exhibition – Flight of Fantasy

Second generation locally born Singapore painter Leo Hee Tong 梁其栋 held his solo exhibition “Flight of Fantasy- 梦幻之航”at the Dahlia Gallery at Pagoda Street. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

National Broadway Company, Esplanade Theatre 12 - 14 Oct 2012

Singapore is setting up a National Broadway Company and a group of well known local personalities, actors, directors, choreographers were bidding for the post.  That was the premise of the new production by Theatre Works, directed by its Artistic Director Ong Keng Sen.  This production was part of the Singapore's Esplanade Theatre on The Bay 10th Anniversary celebrations.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Waiting for Godot at DBS Arts Centre

The staging of Nobel Laureate Samuel Beckett's work in Singapore was infrequent and therefore it was great to see Waiting for Godot played in Singapore at the DBS Arts Centre.  This production was presented by ABA productions, in association with AC Proudctions, Dublin.

In a bare stage with nothing but a tree as a background, two dishevelled and scruffy men Estragon and Vladmir talked, joked and on one occasion trying to hang themselves.  At the same time, they waited by (or near) a tree for a person Godot who never appeared.  We were not sure if they were waiting at the right place, or how long they have been waiting.  In between, they met Pozzo and Lucky. 

The production succeeded in conveying a sense of loss and emptiness, and the helplessness of waiting for something in vain.  The cast did a fine job by conveying this feeling and engaging the audience, with a basically bare stage.  Paul Kealyn's Pozzo may sound like he was shouting at times but it was just a minor comment.

This was a good opportunity to catch an important play of our time.  While I may not fully comprehend the intentions of Samuel Beckett, I enjoyed the staging of this production.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Avenue Q at Marina Bay Sands

This was my second viewing of Avenue Q, the first time in London.   For the Singapore staging, the Filipino cast did a great job of bringing this political incorrect production to life.  Most sang well and took on their respective roles competently, although I had difficulties deciphering some actors' lines.

This staging is as good as the London production that I saw years back.  Definitely worth your time and money to catch this.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds & Katy Perry: 2012 F1, 23 Sep 2012 (Sunday)

It was the last day of the 2012 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix.

I was early at the Padang, catching the Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds gig at 6:45pm.  As most people were in the stands or standing elsewhere waiting for the race to start, the audience was not huge for this concert.

Maroon 5: 2012 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix, 22 Sep 2012 (Sat)

I was dashing to the Padang from elsewhere.  When I left the MRT Station, I could already hear Maroon 5's crooning out One More Night.  There was a jam at the elevator and when I got to the Padang area, the whole area was packed.  We could not enter the audience area proper...

This is the best picture that I could get from the concert - a shot of the video screen.  We had a side view of the performance from a little opening of the Fans entrance.

 A shot of the musician.

Despite the inconvenience, Maroon 5 gave a great concert.  Adam Levine's voice was in good form and the band covered all their major hits.  Definitely a memorable one.