Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Sky No Reply" ... my take on Aladdin 2011

Title : Aladdin (W!LD RICE productions)
Directed by Glenn Goei  & Written by Jonathan Lim
Venue : Drama Centre Theatre (National Library)
Date : 4th December 2012 : 7.30pm show

This was the 3rd Wild Rice pantomime which I have seen with Cinderel-lah in 2010 and Beauty & the Beast in 2009. It has become quite a tradition for me experience these annual pantomimes (ed : Wonder if 3 years is considered a tradition??).
The sets were big and realistic but smaller compared to Cinderel-lah. This may be due to the stage at the Drama Centre being smaller than the Esplanade Theatre.  The good use of projections against the backdrop also provided a good atmospheric experience though it was a bit hard to see at times when the stage lights were too bright.

The W!LD KIDS were a joy to behold all decked out in their costumes. You could see their innocence as they try to recall their dance-steps and keep to the beat of the music. They made the show livelier with their energy and enthusiasm. Extra applause for them !!!
JOKES JOKES JOKES !! When I first saw that this was written by Jonathan Lim (of Chestnuts fame) .. I knew it was going to be a barrel of laughs. And it surely delivered. Not just barrels but kegs and vats of it !!!  I have been a regular @ Chestnuts shows and after a while, you will be bowed over by Jonathan. His best jokes are his subtle one-liners. The ones that make you go .. huh? ... brain clicking ... put it all together ... MUA HA HA HA !!! It was the same @ Aladdin. The jokes came thick and fast .. one after another .. nothing cheap or slapstick .. good ole puns and wordplay. My fav has gotta be the “butter factory” one.

Having jokes written by Jonathan is one thing ... making it funny is the other. Darius Tan got his timing perfect. The others were helped on by the typical 3-tone high-hat crash to indicate ..”PLEASE LAUGH NOW..” Even the usually reliable Karen Tan had 1-2 “non-laughters.”

The king of “mish-mash-songs” inserted loads of local elements in the lyrics of current music. However, the background instruments tended to drown out the voices so it was rather hard to catch the words. This was an issue throughout all the songs as the audience seem to have difficulties catching the lyrics of the songs. Or maybe it is just my hearing got problem. Heh? The underlying-through-the-show ABBA song/lyrics lines was a nice touch ... only if you know ABBA. (ed: who doesn't know ABBA deserve to get shot)
Jokes coming hard and fast may not always be a good thing. With so many jokes peppered throughout, there a loss of focus of the jokes. The question is .. are these pantomimes meant for the children? Or adults? The adult jokes were lost on the children .. but judging from the oft-times bored looks from the audience seated around me (front row), it looked as though they were bringing their kids to a animated movie and they were just there to sit through it. There were some comments made online about it being rather shallow with no depth and not much back-story ... wat I think is .. back story? You think you watching a drama serial ??? Good job as it is tough to tell a song & dance story within 2 hours.

A good choice of songs especially “Born this Way,” “Rehab” & “I Want to Break Free” to set the tone. Kudos to the music team as well. You can't help but sing along. My fav song & dance routine must have been “Ai” by Darius Tan .. both the original & -angmoh versions !!
It is hard for me not to compare this year’s leads to the previous productions. For the male lead, we have Hady Mirza in Aladdin, Sebastian Tan in Cinderel-lah and the late RJ Rosales in Beauty & the Beast. I must honestly say that Hady seemed a bit subdued when compared to Sebastian and RJ. Sebastian and RJ had a lot more poise and stage presence. This may definitely come from a lot more experience in stage acting and professional singing. Hadi shows great promise and at times during the show seemed to carry himself well. At other times he seemed to be lacking that self-confidence and was a bit tentative. This should all be fine once he has more acting experience. Another plus point is he has a better physique than Sebastian !!! (ed : Sebastian Tan, Chua Enlai, & gang were spotted in the audience) I could see the ladies oogling at him when he was in his white shirt / shorts and when he was dressed in his Arabian nights costume. Even Karen Tan commented about his physique ON-STAGE. Keep going at it Hadi .. you can only get better. (ed : As though he is gonna read this)

As for the female lead role .. it is rather unfair to put Sylvia up against Emma Yong (from both Cinderel-lah & Beauty & the Beast + original Dim Sum dolly). Sylvia’s rendition of “Breakaway” was beautiful and full of emotion. However if she could have looked at the audience once in a while during that song and not just focus on the ceiling, it would have been perfect. To me, that was the most heartfelt moment of the entire show. Again, you can definitely see the potential in her as she was more confident in her acting and more relaxed.  
The supporting cast was pretty strong in Aladdin. Jo Tan did a good impersonation of a typical Nonya Grandma .. and Andrew played his role well as the “mummy’s boy” Baba .. complete with Safari jacket !! Karen Tan played the evil wizard role in her typical cynical and sharp-tongued way which we have all come to love. (Karen mocking Chua Enlai in the audience took the cake for me) Though she looked tired and physically drained at the end of the show. I feel that a bit more could have been developed from the genies other than just a few short scenes. To me Darius Tan stole the show with his role as Aladdin’s mother. (If I were an Ah Pek 20 yrs older .. I may actually date his character) He was full of emotions and just plain hilarious. AGAIN .. his “AI” was just so funny.

Overall, another year, another pantomime which we have come to love. Full of colors, full of song and dance .. full of kids running around in glee (both on & off stage) and a whole load of laughs. Again .. each of these pantomimes cannot be compared against each other .. they both have their own charms, their unique characters, styles and highlights. One thing in common in all of them is they will definitely be able to take you away to a whimsical land for two hours filled with laughter and joy. Go watch it .. not many shows left and from what I heard not many tix left too .. Keep it up W!LD RICE ...until next year “I ask sky .. I ask sky ...”

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