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Local musicals to light up the stage

A string of musicals by local troupes is set to light up the stage, from Wild Rice's restaging of La Cage Aux Folles to Itsy - The Musical, The Finger Players' first foray into the popular genre

A bumper line-up of seven musicals from local theatre groups puts the "sing" in Singapore this year.

There are brand-new productions, such as Dream Academy's comic Detention Katong, opening on Friday next week at the Esplanade Theatre.

And next month, The Finger Players offers its first musical, an eerie take on nursery rhymes titled Itsy - The Musical.

April is set to be the most melodious month. On April 6, The Theatre Practice opens a restaging of Lao Jiu: The Musical, a critically acclaimed adaptation of Kuo Pao Kun's play about school results versus artistic ambition.

On April 13, producer Tan Kheng Hua's team turns back time with Tropicana The Musical, based on the hopping 1960s nightspot in Scotts Road.

    • Coming up

    • Lao Jiu: The Musical

      What: This is The Theatre Practice's musical adaptation of the Kuo Pao Kun play about a boy who wants to pursue the arts. At the 2013 Life Theatre Awards, it won accolades for Best Director (Kuo Jian Hong), Best Ensemble and a special mention for songwriting (Eric Ng and Xiaohan). Where: Level 3 Drama Centre Theatre, National Library Building, 100 Victoria Street When: April 6 to 23, 8pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays), 2.30pm (Fridays to Sundays) Admission: $45 to $81 from Sistic

      La Cage Aux Folles

      What: Wild Rice's take on the Broadway hit was the Reader's Choice for Production of the Year at the 2013 Life Theatre Awards. A conservative politician (Darius Tan) clashes with a drag queen (Ivan Heng) after their children fall in love. Directed by Glen Goei, it also stars Hossan Leong and Malaysian singer-actor Sean Ghazi. Where: Victoria Theatre, 9 Empress Place When: April 19 to May 13; 8pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays), 3pm (weekends) Admission: $50 to $120 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg) Info: Advisory - 16 and older (Some homosexual content)

      Forbidden City: Portrait Of An Empress

      What: This epic musical, by Singapore Repertory Theatre and the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, was originally commissioned for the 2002 opening festival of the Esplanade. Kit Chan returns as Ci Xi, the concubine turned ruthless ruler, while Broadway actress Steffanie Leigh is the portrait painter through whose eyes the story unfolds. It is directed by Steven Dexter, with music by Dick Lee and lyrics by Stephen Clark. Where: Esplanade Theatre, 1 Esplanade Drive When: Aug 8 to 20, 8pm (Tuesdays, Thursdays to Saturdays), 2pm (Wednesdays), 3pm (Saturdays), 1.30 and 6pm (Sundays) Admission: $28 to $138 from Sistic

      Fun Home

      What: Pangdemonium presents the Singapore premiere of Fun Home, by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori, the multiple Tony Award-winning adaptation of Alison Bechdel's memoir about her relationship with her father. Where: Drama Centre Theatre When: Sept 29 to Oct 15 Info: Advisory - 18 and older. Tickets will be sold via pangdemonium.com

 
 
 

And on April 19, Wild Rice brings back its award-winning production of La Cage Aux Folles. This home- grown take on the 1983 Broadway musical has a drag queen headliner at a Tanjong Pagar nightclub face off against a conservative politician who wants to shut it down.

In August, Singapore Repertory Theatre and the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay restage Forbidden City: Portrait Of An Empress. Kit Chan returns as empress dowager Ci Xi in the epic musical commissioned for the Esplanade's opening festival in 2002.

Times have changed, theatre groups tell The Straits Times. Musicals used to be harder to stage because they require a monstrous grouping of talent: actors who can sing and dance, composers, musicians, lyricists and savvy stage- hands.

Wild Rice founder Ivan Heng says: "We, as a community, have discovered and nurtured this talent over decades. The fact that there are so many musicals being staged this year is testament to the talent that we have in Singapore."

Singapore's first musicals were Makan Place and Beauty World in 1988. The 1990s had Singapore Repertory Theatre's Sing To The Dawn and Action Theatre's Chang And Eng.

These days, Singapore Repertory Theatre stages a musical every other year - the last was the sold- out The LKY Musical, staged in 2015 with Metropolitan Productions - and it is the easiest sell of the year's line-up.

The troupe's artistic director Gaurav Kripalani says all 30,000 seats for the Aug 8 to 20 run of Forbidden City are likely to be snapped up soon - they are selling at a rate of 200 a day - whereas take-up rates are much slower for next month's romantic play, Constellations.

He adds that its children's theatre arm, The Little Company, generally stages one musical a year for family audiences.

Viewers also make a beeline for Wild Rice's year-end pantomimes, which are family-friendly musicals. Last year, it restaged Monkey Goes West, a riff on the Journey To The West legend that also sold out when it first showed in 2014.

Heng says: "Musicals are a pinnacle art form melding a confection of disciplines - story, music, lyrics and dance. They offer entertainment and escapism, and are much needed anti-depressants for our times.

"The best ones, like La Cage and Monkey Goes West, are moving and thought-provoking too." Both musicals are stories about acceptance, love and family.

Similarly, The Theatre Practice's director Kuo Jian Hong says musicals are entertaining, but are not just entertainment.

Lao Jiu: The Musical is very relevant to audiences, even though it is based on a play written in the 1990s, she says.

"There are still young people feeling their self-worth is defined by the mainstream idea of what success is. And at a younger age, that means school results."

Pangdemonium co-founder Tracie Pang says: "I think, these days, audiences want more than your traditional Rodgers and Hammerstein. They expect more from us in terms of story and quality, and if they don't think you're up to snuff, you will soon hear about it."

In September, Pangdemonium will present the Singapore premiere of Fun Home, the multiple Tony Award-winning adaptation of gay artist Alison Bechdel's memoir.

Singapore Repertory Theatre plans to present two musicals next year: the Sondheim thriller Sweeney Todd and a new Singaporean musical, Mulan, based on the legendary Chinese heroine.

Kripalani says: "In a young country like ours, musicals remain the most popular genre because they bring in audiences that would not necessarily come otherwise."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2017, with the headline 'Season of song and dance'. Print Edition | Subscribe