Bumpy trip down memory lane

Daren Tan and Bonnie Loo starred in Crescendo The Musical, a tribute to the xinyao movement.
Daren Tan and Bonnie Loo starred in Crescendo The Musical, a tribute to the xinyao movement.PHOTO: CRESCENDO THE MUSICAL

A complicated plot and uneven performance mar the musical Crescendo

REVIEW / MUSICAL

CRESCENDO THE MUSICAL

Shining Entertainment Investment, Ocean Butterflies Music and Wawa Pictures

Kallang Theatre

Last Saturday

Fans of the Channel 8 music drama Crescendo might have enjoyed this Mandarin musical, which is an extension of the television series and a love letter to the xinyao, or Singapore songs, movement.

But it is hard to see this stage production winning over new fans because of its complicated plot and the shaky, uneven performance of its cast.

The story revolves around six friends - three men and three women - and it follows them from their junior college days into adulthood.

There is the talented Chufan (Daren Tan), the sensitive Yiwei (Brian Ng) and the goofball Dawei (Shane Pow).

Each is romantically linked to one - or more - of the female leads. Chufan marries the ambitious Irene (Youyi), Yiwei gets together with the sweet Yafang (Bonnie Loo) and Dawei courts the mysterious Xueli (Boon Hui Lu).

It is a soap opera of betrayal, break-ups and make-ups, and those who did not watch the TV series will likely struggle to follow the plot.

The first act - the more enjoyable of the two - is mostly a romance set in junior college that focuses on teenage crushes and relationships, while expressing the optimism and idealism of the xinyao movement.

The second act follows the characters into adulthood where the three men run the record company called Crescendo and face the realities of growing up and making money.

The musical features more than 30 xinyao songs, including hits such as Way Of Caring and Flowing Water, by the who's who of xinyao - the movement's pioneer Liang Wern Fook, songwriter-producer Chen Jiaming and singer Eric Moo.

But the cast did not always do the songs justice. Pow's bland, off-key delivery of almost all his numbers was a real downer and even affected many of the harmonies he was involved in.

Thankfully, Tan, a previous Project Superstar winner, impressed with his warm, sonorous voice.

Boon's melodious vocals also brought out the sweetness of the song Let The Night Fall Silently.

Credit goes to the musical's creators for compressing a 30-episode TV drama into a three-hour show. The swift pace and mostly likeable characters made this production a comforting, if at times bumpy, trip down memory lane.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2016, with the headline 'Bumpy trip down memory lane'. Print Edition | Subscribe