Thursday, August 22, 2013

Italy has no Churches ... my review of Chestnuts 6.9

As many of you already know, I am a super big fan of Chestnuts. So after a 18 month hiatus, Chestnuts is BACK !!!!!!!!!!!!! 16th August came .. and that was my first viewing of Chestnuts 6.9. I watched it again with my friends on the 18th evening as well. I usually watch Chestnuts on opening night knowing that there will be some jitters amongst the actors as well as other technical issues. This is because this is when Jonathan usually bares all (not literally). After 2-3 shows, he will start trimming and making changes to the skits to make the show a lot better. Which explains why I watch it a second time. Ok enough about me .. more about the show …

There were at least 15 “segments” throughout the show. This is excluding all the minor video skits which serve as fillers while the actors do their costume changes and the production team does set changes. The show starts out with a song about what has been happening in Singapore since the last Chestnuts show. Jon’s witty lines could be seen as the cast sing about the recent sex scandals, money scandals, political scandals, Hello Kitty queues amongst other things. The lyrics were full of intended puns and innuendoes .. however it was quite hard to pick them up as they were sung very quickly. It was easier when reading the “subtitles” at the sides and there were video / photos on the backdrop of the specific subject. However it was difficult to try and view everything together. This made that skit lose its impact.

This was followed by a short video introduction of the guest actor… Tim. Scattered throughout the show, there were many short video clips of Tim serving National Service and how he took many of our local “lingo” literally.

The show then started on the main “Les Miserables” theme. The lyrics of popular Les Mis songs were given the Jon Lim treatment with a “skewed” undertone ending with a very passionate kiss !!! We were then treated to a local scene at a local toy shop. Other notable skit during the first half was the Phantom/Jersey Boys/Wicked/Addams Family musical skit. This was fairly entertaining though it could be seen that as much as the crowd liked the singing and the music, they were a bit lost with the Addams Family bit.

Theatre in 10 this year covered La Cage, Spring Awakenings, Romeo and Juilet, Othello, High Class, Army Daze and Cook a Pot of Curry amongst other local theatre productions. I felt that it was generally a bit ‘touch and go.’ There were bits which were genuinely funny but there were some which were downright “huh??? What was that about…”

First half ended with a skit showing the singing prowess of the main 4 actors. They were randomly given “Les Mis” parts to sing .. and were required to re-enact the Act 1 Finale of Les Mis. That means that each actor had to learn ALL 8 .. YES EIGHT parts and be able to sing it well and blend it well with each other. It was done well and deserved a standing ovation. The first time ... Judee Tan got Javert and Valjean which would have been super tough. In my second viewing, Jon got Cosette and Mdm Thenardier which was hilarious.

The second half of the show started with Jon’s parody of Ah Boys to Men. This was followed by the continuation of the Les Mis arc. This time it was Les Mis meets Wolverine. Tim played the role of Wolverine well. His body statute and size seemed to fit nicely into that role. However, I personally felt that this whole segment was very draggy. There were sub-parts which were unnecessary and though the concept may have been good .. the execution was in my opinion poor. It was not the acting or the singing which was bad but just something wasn’t right. The Judee Tan ‘body morphing’ was a very original idea but I felt a bit irrelevant.

The highlight of the night was the irresistible Judee Tan as Ivory Low in the Pondan News Network segment. Somehow without Rodney, it was a bit different (one of my friends was extremely disappointed that Rodney was not in it .. yeah you JACQ!!!) but I felt Dwayne did well replacing Rodney. Hopefully Rodney comes back from his Brazil trip soon. The Water Wally bit had me in stitches for the longest time … the Amy Chia bit was amusing but when Ivory came on … all in the audience were gasping for air after laughing so much and loud !!! Shingz to u all ... Judee is quickly growing into the new queen of comedy albeit from the Ah-Lian perspective. And what did she say to the rude old Auntie???

The show ended (2.5 hours later) with the re-make of “Do you hear the people Sing” with lyrics focussed on the 6.9m White paper issue.

Since my second viewing, I have read many reviews of Chestnuts 6.9. Many of the reviews gave it the thumbs up because of the wit of Jon in the lines and the difficulty in putting together so many singing roles and skits amongst such a small cast. To me, this is the minimum in expectation from any Chestnuts production.

On a whole, as per previous Chestnuts … there were segments and skits which connected and some which didn’t. The reason why some connect is because of the familiarity with the content and the context of the segment. Another reason why is that they are just downright funny and honest (Ivory Low). To me, after watching the last 3 Chestnuts productions, I was quite disappointed with Chestnuts 6.9. It was entertaining at times, it was funny at times but it was mediocre most times. There seems to be something lacking this edition which I cannot put my finger on. Eventhough 2.5 hours is good value for money, I felt that easily an hour of that was below the high expectation I have seen of Jon’s direction and writing. The humour here was more slapstick and less witty. I have mentioned many times in my previous posts that this kind of slapstick humour is what the Singapore public enjoys but we must be careful and stick to our roots and reserve the slapstick-ah-beng-dialect-in your face humour to the likes of the Hossan Show, Broadway Beng and Kumar. Don’t get me wrong. I am not atas. I love such bawdy, obvious humour which I get from watching Hossan and Sebastian on stage. However, I expect different from Jon. More sharp jibes about  the local scene …. about the haze and PSI… about the Hello Kitty queues … something about Gangnam style … about the immigration issues rather than Les Miserables. What is the overall theme of Chestnuts 6.9? Why 6.9 when that was only discussed about in the last 15 minutes of the show?

I think this review is Chestnuts 6.9’s first semi-negative review so far. No matter what, I still encourage all Chestnuts virgins to go watch the show. I also encourage all readers to please comment on this blog and tell me what are your thoughts about Chestnuts 6.9. Very much appreciated … Shingz to you Jonathan Lim ….

Monday, August 5, 2013

Le Mis + Wolverine + 6.9 + Jon Lim = Chestnuts 6.9 : the Less Miserable White Paper Preview !!!

The last time there was a Chestnuts show was January 2012. It has been almost been 18-19 months since then. No Chestnuts. I have been pestering the producer .. when is the next Chestnuts?? When when when??? The response I got was usually .. Not so soon la .. or Not enough material to hold a meaty show. So we waited and waited … IT HAS FINALLY ARRIVED … a brand-new Chestnuts .. complete with all new content (this was what I was promised). The last Chestnuts show was Chestnuts 15 … this one is Chestnuts 6.9 : the Less Miserable White Paper. I guess most of us would know what the number 6.9 means !!! At least those of us in Singapore would.

As expected from the penmanship of Mr Jonathan Lim … the show promises new mash-ups, bash-ups and an evening full of ‘roll-on-the-floor’ laughter. From what I have read in Jon’s rehearsal notes, there is going to be singing (le Mis + Jonathan style) .. there is some physical stuff with barriers .. there is going to be parts about the latest Wolverine movie (so advice is to quickly catch the movie before you watch Chestnuts)… and MORE. You can view videos of their past “works” at their facebook page ( ). You can also read my preview / review of their last show somewhere on this blog.

Why change something when it ain’t broken right? So the original cast are back minus Rodney plus a ‘special guest.’ Both Judy and Judee, Dwayne and of cos Jon will be acting / singing / dancing. The venue for this edition of Chestnuts will be at the Drama Centre Theatre from the 16th – 25th August. There will be no shows on Monday and Tuesday (hey 5 actors – 3 hours .. need to rest leh!!). You can find out more details from again from the FB page and you can grab your tickets from Sistic.

If anything .. Chestnuts is one of the funniest shows put together in Singapore. It is no slapstick ha-ha comedy .. but witty lines and super good/accurate parodies translated to Singapore context. So if you need a night or more of laughter to get away from the 6.9million people .. there is no better place than to catch Chestnuts !!! Anyone fancy more nuts???