Thursday, August 24, 2017

I still want my Kuih Chang ... my preview of Grandmother Tongue

There is a lot of evidence that a particular language has a strong impact on its culture and vice versa. Language refers to the words used, the sentence structure, intonation of words and etc. For the Chinese people especially here in Singapore and Malaysia, the Chinese language is split further into the various dialects of Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hainanese, Hakka and Mandarin. It is extremely fascinating to see how words and structure and tone are associated to the common seen traits of their respective cultures.

I have been attending intensive Japanese language courses the past few months and knowing a bit of the Japanese culture has greatly helped me in the understanding of the Japanese language. For example, the Japanese people are generally known to be extremely polite and respectful. They are also known to talk rather softly (unless there is too much sake). One may easily get confused and conversations may get a bit long-winded due to the Japanese cultural need to avoid being direct and be perceived to be rude. But these are the nuances which we accept as part of their culture.

Another example of the close intertwining of language and culture is the Peranakan or Baba Nonya people. The language is mainly Malay with a generous splattering of Hokkien, English, Portuguese, Dutch and Tamil. This is because the Paranakans originated from Malacca and Penang during the colonial days in Malaysia. They were originally Chinese in descent but due to interracial marriages with Malays, Europeans and Indians in those times, the Peranakan culture was born. An example would be the words ‘kuih chang’ which is a combination of a Malay and a Chinese word. This perfectly exemplifies the Malay-Chinese culture of the Peranakans.

Sorry for the LONG introduction but this brings us to the upcoming play by W!ld Rice called Grandmother Tongue. This was written by Thomas Lim who wanted to show the close inter-relationship between a language and its culture. Thomas Lim wants to show via conversations and interactions between a grandmother and her grandson the Teochew culture. This play was last shown at the 2016 Singapore Theatre Festival and tickets were sold out weeks before the performance. Tickets to additional shows were also sold out weeks before. This show promises to bring on the laughter, tears and the lightbulb moments (sometimes all at once). The 2017 production is again directed by Thomas Lim with a tiny cast of 3 people. The show runs from the 28th September to the 21st October and will be held at the SOTA Studio Theatre. The latest information I got from W!ld Rice is that tickets for all the shows have been sold out. However, they may be adding more shows. So in order get tickets, kindly email to with your name, contact number, choice of performance dates and number of tickets. They will then contact you should seats open up or should there be additional shows. Also don’t worry if you do not understand Teochew. There will be surtitles in English and Mandarin. QUICKLY EMAIL THEM !!

I really hope that W!ld Rice will find a way to add more shows because I think it is very important for us to remember and treasure our culture. The Chinese dialects are quickly disappearing as the younger generation is focused only on languages they learn at school and not at home. With the disappearance of the language comes the disappearance of the culture. I for one will surely be very upset when ‘kuih chang’ disappears. I will surely be watching this as my Grandmother’s tongue is ... Teochew… 

Monday, August 21, 2017

In a Daze ... my review of Army Daze 2

I watched Army Daze 2 last Saturday at the Drama Centre. I was quite psyched up about Army Daze 2 as this is SG50, music composition done by Don Richmond, all star cast .. and hey it is Army Daze .. what can go wrong?

This show shared the same problems with the show ‘High Class’ several years ago. Music was excellent – catchy and upbeat, the humor was kinda there, large and beautiful sets, lots of fade in – fade out transitions between scenes, a strong cast but not much character development and no depth. In this show we had the likes of Chua Enlai, Shane Mardjuki, Hossan Leong and Jo Tan. These are easily within the top ten local entertainers in Singapore today. Chua Enlai only brought on the laughs with Hokkien Rhapsody. All other times he was just reciting lines. Shane Mardjuki did a decent job as the colorful Kenny Pereira but again he was just ‘colorful.’ Hossan Leong was a shadow of himself as Malcolm Png. Usually Hossan can make the crowd cry with laughter with just a flick of his finger but in Army Daze 2, just a bit of giggles and laughs here and there. Jo Tan was the only one who was funny in the show. Even her humor came from bad English pronunciation and extreme ah-lian-ness rather than wit and acting. Ms Oon Shu On is one of the rising stars in Singapore theatre and again her role was very muted. As for Ms Natalie Ong, her singing was good but her acting well, you can tell she is new. At the end of the day, she only sang for a little of the show for ‘Jin Pai Tia.’ As for the actors playing the young recruits, their roles were too small and short to comment. For the acting, the actors were very much let down and were not given much chance and time to shine in their uniqueness.

The story was fairly decent and the twist in the plot was shocking. But that was it. Just a twist. After that flat-line again.  There were little parts about the new recruits bonding with each other, little  parts about the love triangle between two of the recruits and Renee, little parts about the relationship between Malcolm and the new Chief, a little part between Malcolm and his son. That the issue with this show, they were all little parts, just a touch and move on. I felt that there was too many characters and not enough ‘screen time.’ However, the show lasted only slightly longer than 1 hour 40 minutes which was very short.

As mentioned earlier in this review, the music was good and the dancing was well choreographed. My favourite was ‘Jin Pai Tia,’ ‘Look, See, Believe’ and ‘Hokkien Rhapsody.’ The lyrics were well written and the dancing especially the ballet scene was well done.

I bet there were many who really enjoyed Army Daze 2 but sadly I wasn't one of them. Hopefully Army Daze 2 will be made into a movie with a bigger budget and please continue to cast Enlai and Jo and Hossan in it because they deserved to shine.  

*Please note that this review was intentionally done / published after the show ended to avoid having any effect during the run.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Wah Sibei Song ah !! Army Daze 2 lai liao !!!!

Many of you would have watched Michael Chiang’s Army Daze before. It was originally a novel made into a theatre play which was first released in 1987 and made into a highly successful movie in 1996. There have been several reruns of this widely acclaimed play since then with minor tweaks such as different lines, different songs and with different cast members. However, the premise has been the same. It is about 5 young men from various backgrounds, of different races and most importantly different behaviours enlisting for National Service. The play tells in highly hilarious way on the troubles of these 5 men adopting to NS, being away from their loved ones and how they grow through NS and what happens when they end NS.

This time, Army Daze 2 is the continuation of the original. Army Daze 2 is a brand new play again written by Michael Chiang and directed by Beatrice Chia-Richmond. The show also promises many new songs composed by Don Richmond himself (btw he is my Sec 3 and 4 classmate!!!). Army Daze 2 tells the story of the original 5 men and their lives after NS, in fact 30 years after ROD. To make matters more interesting, there is also an underlying comparison between NS today and then through the NS journey of one of the original 5’s son.

Army Daze promises to be a barrel of laughs with great acting. Just looking at the cast and you are guaranteed high quality top-of-the-drawer entertainment. We have Hossan Leong, Chua Enlai, Shane Mardjuki, Joshua Lim and Ebi Shankara .. all current top Singapore play actors and comedians. Then we also have Jo Tan last seen in La Cage and Oon Shu An from the recently concluded Boeing Boeing. In addition, Army Daze 2 debuts Singapore’s own X-Factor (Australia) sensation – Ms Natalie Ong.

Script by Michael Chiang  + Stellar cast + Don Richmond’s Music + Beatrice Chia direction = SURE WIN LA !!!

Army Daze 2 will be showing from 4/8/2017 to 20/8/2017 at the Drama Centre Theatre at the National Library. Tickets are selling out really fast and you can grab them at SISTIC.

What better way to salute our men in uniform this NS50 year than to laugh it all out at Army Daze 2. Make sure you find a way to catch the original Army Daze before hand !!!!

See ya there .... 

We are born of love; Love is our mother. ... my preview of Mother I (2) by Ver Theatre

Once in a while I like to watch and experience something ‘off the beaten track’, away from the W!ld Rice’s colorful pantomimes, or the Pangdemonium’s big budgets epics. The last few years I have caught Melancholy Play by Couch Theatre and Boom by Sigh Lines and really enjoyed them and the very high quality of presentation. These works depend heavily on the acting and delivery due to the usually smaller budget, lesser use of props and smaller venues. Also they normally tackle very serious topics which are usually taboo.

I am very glad to be invited by my good buddy Catherine to catch her upcoming show called Mother I (2). This is presented by Ver Theatre. It is called Mother I (2) because there was a first part done last year. The general theme of the show is about mothers. Their growth, feelings, and journey through different phases of motherhood. The first part of Mother I was about the trials and tribulations of being a mother during childbirth in this new era.

Mother I (2) continues this with the child growing up and the mother having to go through this growing up stage with the added complications of current world issues such as when the child is separate from the mother, bringing up a challenged child and having to cope with a child facing gender acceptance issues.

These are very heavy issues and I will really be anticipating on how a small cast of just three persons will be able to convince the audience to share in their joy and pain.

The venue for Mother I (2) is the Goodman Arts Centre Black Box at Goodman Road and tickets are on sale now at This show will run from 10/8/2017 to 13/8/2017 with just 5 shows. So quickly go grab your tickets before they are sold out.

I for one will want to watch this as I personally feel that small independent production houses need to be heard and you will be amazed at the acting of some of these newcomers. Just better bring your Kleenex as I am sure it will be a tear jerker.

Stay tuned for a review of Mother I (2).

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen. Fasten your seat belts, lean back and let W!ld Rice Airlines take care of all your entertainment needs - My Review of Boeing Boeing 2017

Before taking a flight, many things run through your mind. Questions swirl around the in-flight meal, the entertainment, who is going to be sitting next to you throughout the flight and whether the person sitting behind you is going to be kicking your seat throughout the flight? Every flight experience is unique in its pleasant and unpleasant moments.

Watching W!ld Rice’s Boeing Boeing in 2017 evoked the same questions before the show. I did not watch the original staging in 2002 but I caught the 2010 staging. It was the second W!ld Rice show I watched after “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Adrian Pang played the lead role of Bernard with Daniel York as Robert. The nationalities of the stewardesses were Singaporean, Hong Konger and Japanese, played by Chermaine Ang, Wendy Kweh and the late Emma Yong respectively. Siti Khalijah played the role of Rosa.

That version was directed by Glenn Goei. It was a very strong cast with Chermaine, Emma and Glenn returning from the 1st staging. I remember that I enjoyed the show tremendously and the show was an eye-opener. It showed me how good Singapore theatre could be. In fact, it was after watching Boeing Boeing 2010 that I decided I was going to start a blog on the local theatre. Fast forward to 2017 ....

Boeing Boeing 2017 is directed by Pam Oei (who starred in the 2002 staging). Rodney Oliveiro plays Bernard with Shane Mardjuki as Robert. The nationalities of the stewardesses are changed to Singaporean, Indian and Mainland Chinese, played by Oon Shu An, Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai and Judee Tan respectively. Bibeth Orteza plays the role of Rosa. I will go more into the acting shortly...

The set of Boeing Boeing is just a living room with many doors. For the 2017 staging, the choice was to have a more Scandinavian look with lots of wood in the walls. It was neat and cosy. Also the doors were very strong considering they were being slammed shut many times in each show. I very much appreciate that the set had several layers. You can see that behind the doors are actual bedroom sets rather than just empty stage. Well done to the stage set guys !! I also so love Victoria Theatre. The closeness to the stage really feels nice and warm. 

Overall, the acting was good. It is arguable who had the bigger role between the two men. I personally felt that Shane (Robert) had more stage time as compared to Rodney (Bernard). At the earlier parts of the show, Shane was a bit more awkward but as the show went along, he got better. Rodney played the part of Bernard well but I think he could have been better. I have definitely seen him better. Throughout the show, he had the same level of intensity of expression. It would have been good if he was able to show varying degrees of emotion at the different points of the show. When he was confident.. he had a certain look, when he was panicking.. he had the same look and when he was relieved.. the same look. I personally could not feel the emotions as much as I could from Shane.

The nationalities of the stewardesses were changed to suit the strengths of the three ladies. Shu An played the role of the SIA stewardess. I can so imagine an SIA stewardess talking and behaving in the same way after they get home. She brought on the laughter with her ‘ah-lianness.’ Rebekah played the role of an Air India stewardess. I felt that this role could be further enhanced. The only thing special about this role was the ‘Indian accent’ and the sari. Even after a while, the accent was lost amongst all the lines. There was nothing there which made her stand our as an Indian girl or even an Air Indian girl. Judee Tan played the role of the China Airlines girl. She really stood out amongst all the cast. She brought the house down with her exaggerated China-English accent and her Opera moves. (I could hear Chua Enlai guffawing) It was really an excellent choice casting Judee for this role.

I feel that the role of Rosa is very important to this show. She is the person who glues all the roles together and provides most of the humour to the show with her constant grumblings and ranting. However, I feel that Bibeth was a bit lacking in this role. It is intentional for her to repeat certain lines as a typical Filipino helper, but I felt that it became rather jarring to hear her repeat the line again and again listlessly. I think it may be the artistic direction for her to appear drained and tired but it just felt boring. I cannot help but remember when Siti was playing this role, she was the highlight of the 2010 show.

Overall, Boeing Boeing 2017 is highly entertaining and an extremely funny take on polygamy. If you ever wanted 3 stewardess girlfriends .. watch this and you will surely realise the 'Ascends' and 'Descends' of polygamy !! As promised by W!ld Rice, Boeing Boeing 2017 is really this year’s sexiest comedy.

For those of you who have seen the earlier versions, this is pleasantly different but yet comfortably familiar. It is like being on a different aircraft but with the same airline. For those who are thinking to watch it for the first time... it is going to be like taking a flight for the first time...exciting and full of anticipation. Whatever it is, fasten your seat belt, sit back and enjoy the excellent service and hospitality of W!ld Rice Airlines.

Don’t forget the last flight from Victoria Theatre Airport is on 22nd July 2017. Quickly grab your tickets online and check in to Boeing Boeing 2017 before it departs.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my Muslim readers Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri – Maaf Zahir dan Batin. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Familiar yet Wonderfully different... Review of La Cage Aux Folles

La Cage Aux Folles by W!LD RICE

Gala Night, 8pm @ Victoria Theatre Singapore

As readers of my blog will already know, I caught the 2012 production and got a rave review by me. Until today, it is one of the best locally produced musical I have watched in Singapore. The 2017 production? ... Excellent.

You can read more about La Cage here in my preview of this show. Today, its all about the review. 

Let me start by asking you this .. What makes a great musical? Superb acting, beautiful singing, a dash of humour and lots of heart. W!ld Rice’s La Cage Aux Folles had all this and more.

Victoria Theatre is the perfect venue for the staging of La Cage. It is small and yet cosy. The close proximity of the audience to the stage brings a level of ‘intimacy’ with the actors. I was seated in the Circle seats on the second floor but yet I had full view of the stage and could feel the warmth and emotion from the show.

Firstly, let me start with the Cagelles. I have no idea how they can be so graceful IN HEELS. They were doing splits, can-can, burlesque and even cartwheels. Their feet must be aching like crazy now!! They are very good and I especially liked the ‘tap’ routine. Kudos to you guys .. your hours of practicing have paid off with your spectacular routines.

The lead actors, Ivan Heng and Sean Ghazi were superb. I cannot think of anyone in Singapore and even in Asia who can play the role of Albin / Zaza except Ivan Heng. The flamboyance, the mood swings, the emotions, the singing ... all perfectly performed by Ivan. The role of George involved more singing and Sean Ghazi did not disappoint with his voice. His rendition of ‘Song on the Sand’ and ‘Look over There’ was just breathtaking. I could see other members of the audience dabbing their eyes moved with emotion at his singing. The on stage chemistry between the two leads was good but I feel that this could be improved. This is understandable as this is only the second night, as the show goes on the chemistry should grow. However, please do not let this minor point take away the due praise I have for the two lead actors for their excellent performance.

The supporting cast provided most of the comic relief throughout the show. Hossan Leong was his usual impish self which we all love. I feel that Aaron Khaled as Jonathan’s acting and singing could be stronger with more emotion. From where I sat, his singing was often muffled and drowned out by the music. (edit - at my second viewing of La Cage, Aaron Khaled was excellent and his singing was spot-on. His rendition of 'Look over there' brought tears to my eyes.) Jo Tan brought a lot of laughs from the audience and Darius Tan did a good job as the ‘stiff’ Dr. C.K. Tan (pun intended). Congratulations to Mae Elliessa on her Singapore stage debut. Her role as Ann was too short for me to comment but I could see she definitely has the potential to be excellent under the tutelage of the W!ld Rice team. I expected more stage time from Erwin Shah Ismail. I have always maintained that he is one of the future stars of Singapore theatre.

A special mention MUST go Frederick Lee the costume designer of this show. The costumes are breathtaking. I normally have photos of the show in my review, but for this review I decided not to so that the audience (who read this blog) can be as awe-struck as me by Frederick’s super work.

I am sure that W!ld Rice’s re-telling of La Cage will be nominated for many categories at the next ST Life! Theatre Awards and they deserve it. Standing ovations tonight and last night .. they deserve it. I foresee standing ovations at every show .. they deserve it.

I strongly urge / recommend / coerce / influence / force you to go get tickets to La Cage if you haven’t. The show will run until the 13th May 2017. As I understand there are not many tickets left so quickly log on to SISTIC and get your tickets. This is one show you mustn’t miss, in fact try to catch it several times !! I will be catching it again tomorrow afternoon and if time permits I hope to watch it one more time before it ends and I have to wait 5 more years.

Thanks again to W!ld Rice for this awesome production of La Cage. You have showed me once again what Singapore theatre is capable of.... La Da Da Da ... and I am young .. and in love....

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Akan Datang - W!ld Rice's La Cage Aux Folles ..

Happy New Year to all of you !! May 2017 bring you Great Health and Wealth !!

La Cage Aux Folles. This is not the first time La Cage has been done by W!ld Rice. W!ld Rice brought La Cage to us at the Esplanade Theatre in mid 2012. My biggest regret was that I could only watch it once as tickets were sold out weeks before it opened. I wanted to watch it again and again. I loved the songs, the singing was excellent, the dancing was brilliant and the acting brought tears to my eyes. I was not the only one mesmerised. From what I read, the house had standing ovations every night during that 2012 run. My review of the 2012 edition can be found at here.

La Cage Aux Folles is a musical comedy based on a play written in 1973 but its meaning and values are even more valid today than then. It is about embracing diversity in our ever increasing complex relationships. What I love about La Cage is it brings a new perspective on family relationships and challenges our preconceived archaic norms on it. La Cage debuted on Broadway in 1983 and has been played all over the world to sold-out crowds garnering many awards. The movie ‘Birdcage’ starring Nathan Lane and the late Robin Williams was also based on this musical.

W!ld Rice promises a re-imagination of La Cage in 2017. The producer Glen Goei, has assembled a team of the very best in the industry from the music director, the choreographer for the dance scenes, costume designers (absolutely stunning.. I have seen a sneak preview) and actors. The two main roles will be played by Ivan Heng and Sean Ghazi. Need I say more? Supporting actors include Hossan Leong, Darius Tan, Jo Tan, Dwayne Lau and Erwin Shah (all of whom are outstanding in their own right).
Dazzling photo from the 2012 production

For the 2017 re-telling, W!ld Rice has decided to play at the Victoria Theatre. Imagine the dazzling lights, gorgeous costumes against the backdrop of the classic Victoria Theatre. WoW ... its gonna be great ! If anyone here can make La Cage shine ... its will be W!ld Rice.

W!ld rice will have a La Cage Aux Folles specific website at which goes live on 16 January 2017. Tickets also go on sale via SISTIC on the same day. Showdates are from 19 April to 13 May 2017. My advice to all of you is get your tickets early !! I am very sure that tickets are going to fly off really really fast. Also there will be various discount tiers based on how early you buy your tickets from bumper discounts of up to 25%.  

As we enter 2017, Singapore faces a lot of uncertainty economically but to borrow a line from one of the songs of La Cage, “We face life though its sometimes sweet and sometimes bitter; face life, with a little cuts and lots of glitter.” Let W!ld Rice give you something sweet and glittery this year. Go catch La Cage....