Theatre review: Crazy Christmas Ting Tong Belles returns to its wacky, zany roots

(From left) Denise Tan, Selena Tan and Pam Oei in Ting Tong Belles by Dream Academy. -- PHOTO: DREAM ACADEMY 
(From left) Denise Tan, Selena Tan and Pam Oei in Ting Tong Belles by Dream Academy. -- PHOTO: DREAM ACADEMY 

Theatre

CRAZY CHRISTMAS TING TONG BELLES

Dream Academy

Esplanade Theatre/Thursday

Dream Academy had a muted Christmas last year, one touched by grief and loss with the death of actress and close friend Emma Yong.

The company's elegant 2012 edition of Crazy Christmas was charming enough, but felt strained at the seams, almost as if the performers were putting on a brave front for its audience members.

This year, however, it strives valiantly to celebrate all that is joyous and merry about the Christmas season in a high-octane show that returns to its wacky, zany roots. It is one that celebrates the much-loved Yong's hopeful, can-do spirit with actress-DJ Denise Tan's official debut as a fully fledged Dim Sum Dolly.

And what a wonderful addition Tan is to the Dolly family.

With equal parts sweetness and spunk, she brings a new spark to Dream Academy's annual revue with her larger-than-life stage presence, completing the cabaret trio with her powerful soprano.

The remaining two-thirds of the Dim Sum Dollies, Selena Tan (also the show's director) and Pam Oei, deliver their parts with effortless ease and deft comic timing, and the Dollies' return was marked with some hysterically funny comedy sketches.

In one especially stitch-inducing act, the trio compete as alternate versions of pop princesses Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Rihanna in the reality singing competition The XXX Factor, belting out gleefully bastardised versions of hit songs.

They also ride the hallyu wave as an earnest girl band called Girls Re-Generation (after the mindblowingly popular and very leggy K-pop group Girls Generation) struggling with body image issues, and taking wry digs at how many K-pop artists appear to be clones of each other. They later reappear as Three Wise Men, whose identities I shall not disclose so as not to ruin the fun.

Comedians Kumar and Sebastian "Broadway Beng" Tan (as a melting snowman) also provide some wickedly subversive fun to an otherwise wholesomely festive evening.

The cross-dressing Kumar, in particular, swiftly skewers everything from Singapore's rich-poor divide to its ageing population and, yes, even porn, in an adult-rated segment that would be a shame to miss.

But while the Dollies, Kumar and Sebastian Tan shone, some items felt a lot like time fillers, giving audiences something much blander to chew on while the star performers got changed in the wings. Some jokes fell flat, and a few of the less experienced performers struggled to hold their own on the vast stage and to keep energy levels equally high.

All the same, the ensemble items are mostly visual feasts of choreography and impressive 15-part harmonies, including a cheeky tidbit related to computer games close to the end. Those wanting to get into the Christmas mood will also get their fill of warm and fuzzy carol medleys with a twist.

If this year's Crazy Christmas is anything to go by, the Dim Sum Dollies have returned, re-energised and rejuvenated - and as per their pseudo K-pop band, they are Girls Re-Generated.

corriet@sph.com.sg

book it

CRAZY CHRISTMAS TING TONG BELLES

Where: Esplanade Theatre

When: Till Dec 22. Tues to Fri at 8pm, Sat at 4pm & 8pm, Sun at 2pm & 6pm

Admission: $17 to $127 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

Info: Rated R18 for all shows, except for family-friendly matinees. Kumar will appear in all shows except matinees