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Cheer for Christmas shows

Mark your calendars for myriad arts performances, from the serious to the hilarious, as 2015 draws to a close

The year 2015 will close with a bang - and a jingle - for arts lovers here, as performing groups pull out all stops for their year-end shows.

The last few weeks of the year are bustling with souped-up shows that run the full gamut: There are grand takes on familiar classics, such as Singapore Dance Theatre's Swan Lake; and light, family-friendly, festive fun such as Dream Academy's annual Crazy Christmas revue, which this year puts the classic tale of The Nutcracker through an irreverent local rubdown.

And as the Golden Jubilee sheen of SG50 fades, echoes of Singapore also thrum through some of the shows on offer, as groups put their riff on events social and political.

 

For instance, Teater Ekamatra's play Geng Rebut Cabinet (GRC), which is set in an alternate universe - Malay-majority Singapore - sees playwright Alfian Sa'at turning the concept of race and power on its head.

 

Among the year-end stalwarts is the Singapore Symphony Orchestra's (SSO) annual Christmas concert, which will this year see the orchestra unite with the Singapore Symphony Children's Choir and the Singapore Bible College Chorale for a repertoire of festive favourites, such as Joy To The World.

 

"I always try to make the concerts fun and approachable and this year, we've been busy filming some videos that we will show," says SSO associate conductor Jason Lai.

"It's our own Singaporean twist on the Twelve Days Of Christmas."

Meanwhile, the T'ang Quartet will return to Victoria Concert Hall - the string quartet's very first performance venue - after 23 years for their nostalgia-tinged concert, Coming Home.

Cellist Leslie Tan says: "Our year-end concerts are a celebration of the past and hopes for the future. Lots of fun without worries of whether this or that is proper or not."

Wild Rice is also sending 2015 off with its traditional Christmas pantomime.

This time around, it takes aim at the Hans Christian Andersen classic The Emperor's New Clothes, setting actors loose on stage with musical instruments.

"The year-end season is a feel-good season because it's also the holiday season. I think the Wild Rice pantomime is perfect for it because it is always a well-known fairy tale told with a Singaporean tongue firmly in cheek," says director Pam Oei.

"It's a comedy, featuring lots of songs and a good old-fashioned tale of good conquering evil. What's there not to love?"


Fattening up to play Santa

Smooth-cheeked with nary a paunch, Sebastian Tan - yes, he of glitter- loving, Hokkien- spewing Broadway Beng fame - is working hard to fill the role of Santa Claus.

And he does mean fill.

"I'm quite method with my acting, so I've been working real hard to live like Santa Claus... by eating a lot. Because some say I'm too skinny to play Santa," he quips.

"My favourite part (of the preparation) is the 'eating lots without guilt' part. I think the most challenging part will be losing weight after the show is over."

In Dream Academy's Crazy Christmas, Tan, 42, plays Santa Claus, who has left the frozen wilderness of the North Pole for the humid shores of sunny Singapore.

It is a very kiasu Christmas for the theatre company as it celebrates the holidays - and its 15th birthday - in a flurry of tutus, tights and family-friendly delight.

Dream Academy's annual Crazy Christmas revue, a festive staple since 2007, is back with a vengeance this year, unleashing its spirited stable of characters on beloved ballet classic The Nutcracker.

  • BOOK IT /CRAZY CHRISTMAS - A GROUNDNUTCRACKER

    WHERE: Esplanade Theatre, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Dec 10 to 19, 8pm (Tuesday to Saturday), 3pm (Saturday and Sunday except Dec 19)

    ADMISSION: $66 to $116 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

With up to 60 people on stage - including an inter-generational Dream Choir - and a frenzy of costume changes throughout, Dream Academy founder Selena Tan, 44, can say with full confidence: "Bang is our 'thang'.

"It is kiasu Singaporean of us to have so many people on stage... but we love it - and you will too."

The company is still raiding its store of more than 250 costumes and the show will unite big names in Singapore comedy: Kumar the elf is out to crack the groundnut, Pam Oei reprises her role as the Christmas wannabe bat and Judee Tan's Dr TCM makes her comeback.

Then, there are the Dim Sum Dollies as the Democratic Reformed Workers, ringing in the holiday season with post-election fervour.

Selena Tan, one-third of the raucous comedy cabaret trio, will take the stage in a tutu. "I'm not sure if there should be an age limit to when people have to stop wearing tutus, but it's Crazy Christmas, so no tutu is too cuckoo."

This year, too, a choir of about 45 singers from Nanyang Primary School and Henderson Senior Activity Centre will be on stage, grooving along to music that spans the likes of old-school boogie woogie and energetic hip-hop.

For Dream Academy fans, the company's season finale is a chance to watch the wacky cast of characters in full festive swing. They are brought to life with verve by the close-knit cast, as handy with a joke off stage as they are on stage ("Backstage, I'm on WhatsApp because my friends book tickets through me," says Kumar. "My full name is Kumar s/o Sistic.")

Sebastian Tan puts it this way: "It's crazy... Lots of songs, harmonies and dance steps to learn, script to write. Luckily, we are all old friends, so there is lots of joy, laughter, camaraderie and love."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2015, with the headline 'Fun for the year end'. Print Edition | Subscribe