Ge Tai - The Musical has great production value, but lacks story and character development

Getai singer Desmond Ng (carried by ensemble) stars in Ge Tai The Musical, a production staged by Resorts World Sentosa.
Getai singer Desmond Ng (carried by ensemble) stars in Ge Tai The Musical, a production staged by Resorts World Sentosa. PHOTO: RESORTS WORLD SENTOSA

Review/Theatre

Ge Tai - The Musical by Resorts World Sentosa

Resorts World Sentosa/Wednesday evening

Getai, or live concerts which invade the heartlands every year during the Hungry Ghost month, has enjoyed a revival lately, spawning drama serials and even a reality singing competition, Getai Challenge, last year.

It's little surprise that there's now a musical theatre version, since getai translates naturally to the genre, coming equipped with catchy tunes and colourful personalities. After all, Royston Tan's hit getai film 881 also had a musical version put on by Toy Factory Productions in 2011 to mixed reviews.

So how fares this new kid on the block, the 90-minute Ge Tai - The Musical, produced by Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) and written by Jonathan Lim, creator of the Chestnuts parody series?

A loving tribute to getai heritage, it captures the sights and sounds of these heartland shows, from sequinned outfits to the liberal use of Cantonese and Hokkien dialects.

Unfortunately, it is also bogged down by weak characterisation, uneven performances and a script that relies too much on ham-fisted jokes.

Shen Yi Fei, a getai rookie from out of town (Hao Hao) joins Lucky Star Getai, run by manager Liu Zheng Wen (Desmond Ng). Jealous performers from the same company (singers Chriz Tong, and Teresa and Tracy Ong) see him as a threat and give him a hard time.

In the second act, the story moves back in time to trace Liu's rise as a getai star in the 1980s. He gets into a spat with the manager of another star, resolved only when Brother Jin (Lin You Fa), Lucky Star's original owner, intervenes. Back in the present day, Jin dies from illness, a reference to the late getai singer Chen Jin Lang, who succumbed to colon cancer in 2006.

The show's production values are high. Christopher Chua's sets evoke open-air carparks and housing estates, while Ashley Lim's gravity-defying retro hairdos and Frederick Lee's rhinestone-studded, befeathered costumes stay true to getai's spirit: fun, loud and outrageous.

The singers, mostly seasoned performers, are on form. Tong, Ng and Hao zip through their songs with aplomb. They are supported by an energetic dance ensemble, who make sure there is never a dull moment on stage.

RWS has roped in headliner acts in the industry to guest star throughout the run. Depending on which night you are attending, you can catch getai veterans Zhuang Xue Zhong (who was on for opening night), Sakura Teng, Yang Xiao Ping, Zhang Di, Cai Qiu Feng or Qing Shan in action.

This may have been great fan service, provided the fans didn't mind that the three songs allotted to each guest star sapped away time for story and character development, which the musical desperately needed.

Characters feel very cardboard. The reasons behind the villains' insecurity and rivalry are not properly dealt with. Ng is convincing as the defiant young upstart in Act 2, but lacks the gravitas to pull off the role of show manager.

The only exception is xinyao singer Jiu Jian -he steals the show as an effete, acid-tongued artist manager.

The writing was also clumsy - whatever few laughs there were came from lame malapropisms - at one point, the Wonder Girls is mispronounced as Wang Le Ge Ci, which means to forget one's lyrics in Chinese.

Maybe some diehards may relish the chance to see a getai show without sweating it out in an outdoors venue, but as the production currently stands, it is unlikely to win any new converts.

jianxuan@sph.com.sg

BOOK IT / GE TAI - THE MUSICAL

WHERE: Resorts World Theatre, Resorts World Sentosa

WHEN: Till May 29. Friday, 8pm; Saturday and Sunday, 3 and 8pm, except May 28, 4 & 8pm

ADMISSION: $38, $48, $68, $88, $98 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to sistic.com.sg)