Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Theatre Review: SING Dollar!

Amidst a heavyweighted cast of theatre veterans, kudos to Najip Ali for turning in a brilliant performance at the show. He stole the show in the first half when he played hotel chambermaid Sa'adiah. With mop and pail in hand and decked in a baju kebaya and donning a tudung, Najip came alive like a butterfly out of the pupa stage in his song and dance routine, 'Keeping It Clean'. It wasn't the same Najip who hosted Asia Bagus on Channel 5 years ago. In recent times, Najip had retreated behind the screen and stage to take on director-producer roles. Not that he wasn't good back there, but what was he thinking?! Audiences were thrilled by his performance and showed it in their thunderous applause after his act.

Don't get me wrong. I've always loved the Dim Sum Dollies (also known as Selena Tan, Pam Oei and Emma Yong) but this time, they weren't as savoury. Completely whitewashed by their male counterparts, they'd have held their own better had they done their own show than be part of a bigger cast like they were in SING Dollar produced by Dream Academy. For some reason, Pam was a disappointment with the inconsistency of her Filipina accent. She'd done better in other productions and I'd set high standards for her. An immersion trip to the Philippines might have been useful for her to regain her tongue. Emma was better off, endowed with wittier lines for her character Lan Lan, a Chinese prostitute who was literally red hot in that figure hugging dress becoming of Geylang girls in the alley. The Tiger beer auntie played by Selena was largely unbelievable. From what I know, they don't quite speak the way she did in the coffeeshops. Way too polished to have been an accurate portrayal.

The first half seemed forever. A chat with a friend at intermission confirmed it. The plot was shallow and the scenes were very 'Malaysian gantry', i.e. Touch-n-Go. Character development didn't seem necessary; it's like having 8 starter dishes in the first half without ever being served the main course.

Thankfully, things picked up a little in the second half. You could call Hossan the hero. I'm not just saying that because he's my brother, but I've never ever seen such nimble footwork from him until his performance in SING Dollar. The way he moved, Michael Jackson would have cause to arise, pass on the baton, and go back to sleep. Hossan was also quite a sight in a tiny yellow dress (Sebastian was also very convincing as a Thai prostitute), but speaking as a brother rather than a regular member of the audience, it was scary.

The opening sequence was well presented, with the cast impersonating the political figures whose faces graced four separate currencies - the US dollar, the British pound, the Indian rupee and the Singapore dollar. The ending? Weak. Just like the songs.

One saving grace is the currency (no pun intended) of the characters that were spoofed, from Temasek's Ho Ching to vulnerable venerable Ming Yi. You bet the creative team led by Selena Tan are news junkies. I suspect she tunes in to 938LIVE to to stay on top of the news while it breaks.

SING DOLLAR is now on till 8th Aug at the Esplanade Theatre.
Tickets selling at SISTIC.

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