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.

Friday, 11 April 2014

If There Are Seasons (天冷就回来): Three Seasons of Good Music

Third staging by The Theatre Practice, and third time viewing.  The main attraction of this production would be the songs of Liang Wern Fook, a popular figure of the Xinyao movement (Singapore-penned Mandarin songs) in the 1980s / 90s.  The story was framed around the songs written by Hong Kong playwright Raymond Toh.   After the death of his girlfriend Xiao Jing, Ah Leleft for the Big Apple to pursue his love of music.  While in New York, he became friends with fellow countrymen residing there, including aspiring actress Rose.

In its third staging, The Theatre Practice did not do major changes to the script, which I found was the weak link of this production.  The struggles of the main characters were not dealt in depth, in particular Ah Le. It thus made his return to Singapore more like a loser rather than a person who had put in effort. At times, the storyline was created more to fit in the songs rather than necessity, in particular the scenes featuring the children.

Monday, 7 April 2014

A memorable Bach's St John Passion by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra

Decided to attend this SSO performance on 4 April at the Esplanade Concert Hall as I had not listened to this piece before and since this was a big work, why not?   One of the 2 surviving Passions composed by Bach which was performed on Good Friday in 1724 (290 years ago).

Conductor Lim Yau led the chorus well, which included the Singapore Symphony Chorus, Hallelujah Chorus and the NAFA Chamber Choir.  The choir was supported by a scaled down orchestra.  I enjoyed the male soloists more: Steve Davislim (tenor) as Evangelist, Martin Snell as Pilate and Jan-Hendrik Rootering as Christus - partly they had the more "meaty" singing roles.  The other soloists were Nadine Lehner and Lucia Cervoni.

The close to 2 hours performance (without intermission) may seem long initially, but I did not feel the length of the duration.  A good evening out.