Theatre for kids: More quality children's plays and musicals for local theatre scene

The Tiger Who Came To Tea. -- PHOTO: ROBERT WORKMAN
The Tiger Who Came To Tea. -- PHOTO: ROBERT WORKMAN
The Magic Ocean. -- PHOTO: THE ESPLANADE
The Magic Ocean. -- PHOTO: THE ESPLANADE
Pleasant Goat And Big Big Wolf – 3 Wishes. -- PHOTO: MEDIACORP VIZPRO INTERNATIONAL
Pleasant Goat And Big Big Wolf – 3 Wishes. -- PHOTO: MEDIACORP VIZPRO INTERNATIONAL
Goldilocks And The Three Bears. -- PHOTO: THE SINGAPORE REPERTORY THEATRE
Goldilocks And The Three Bears. -- PHOTO: THE SINGAPORE REPERTORY THEATRE
Gingerbread man. -- PHOTO: I THEATRE
Gingerbread man. -- PHOTO: I THEATRE
The production Aesop’s Fables will put together eight tales. -- PHOTO: I THEATRE
The production Aesop’s Fables will put together eight tales. -- PHOTO: I THEATRE

Watch out for more quality children's productions as parents and educators take kids to plays and musicals

Families such as the Hos, who are prepared to splurge on quality entertainment for young children, are fuelling the growth of the children's theatre scene here.

Recruitment consultant Timothy Ho and his wife, tax manager Sharon Tan, both 36, shell out close to $800 annually to take their two sons, Isaiah, four, and Ezekiel, two, to see about eight productions every year.

"My elder son finds it easier to role-play and he's more imaginative now. He loves musicals. We saw Rapunzel a year ago and even now he still keeps singing the songs. It's also a family activity for us," says Mr Ho, who intends to take his children to an upcoming production of Goldilocks And The Three Bears by Singapore Repertory Theatre's The Little Company.

There are at least 10 children's productions being staged in the next three months, with more on the way.

As these are performed and directed by theatre professionals for young audiences under 13, most tickets do not come cheap and start from about $30 a person. Some theatre companies do, however, offer packages that provide cost-savings for a family of four and school groups.

The line-up of upcoming shows promises to be a diverse one, ranging from English-language retellings of fairy-tale classics such as Aesop's Fables to Chinese-language television spin-offs such as Pleasant Goat And Big Big Wolf - 3 Wishes, derived from a hit TV cartoon series in China and Taiwan that is also showing here.

With competition from imported offerings - the ongoing five-week-long Kidsfest, into its fourth year, by impresario ABA Productions brings in shows from Australia, Britain and the United States - home-grown companies have turned to old favourites to draw audiences.

Children and youth theatre specialist I Theatre, for instance, will stage one of its previous sell-out productions, Aesop's Fables, at Raffles Hotel's Jubilee Hall from tomorrow till March 21.

Incorporating puppetry, live action and masks, the 50-minute production for three- to 13-year- olds will span eight fables such as The Goose Who Laid Golden Eggs and Androcles And The Lion.

I Theatre's artistic director Brian Seward tells Life!: "Aesop's Fables was a success the last time, but it was for a slightly older age range, telling more than 20 fables in 75 minutes."

"We wanted to bring the show to a younger audience, so we had to reduce the complexity, re-work stories, add new songs and shorten the script to fit the time slot," he explains.

Nearly all the morning shows for Aesop's Fables are sold out, he adds.

From May till June, the company will also be restaging its popular The Gingerbread Man production with new characters. The show, which is about a gingerbread man trying to escape being eaten, was first staged by I Theatre in 2009.

Other companies such as Players Theatre are premiering new works.

Players Theatre is dramatising Roald Dahl's Little Red Riding Hood And The Three Little Pigs based on the well-loved British writer's Revolting Rhymes book. Previews start this Saturday. Two other tales by Dahl, BFG and George's Marvellous Medicine, will be staged by the group in May and August respectively.

Says Players Theatre's artistic director Carina Hales: "Dahl's genius storytelling combined with our style of children's theatre means magic happens on stage."

The 12-year-old group, which focuses on outreach to voluntary welfare organisations, has, in the past, put up productions of Lewis Caroll's Alice In Wonderland and E.B. White's Charlotte's Web.

The growth of children's theatre comes as more schools and parents view theatre not merely as entertainment, but as having educational value in teaching languages and values as well as firing a child's creativity and imagination.

One of its champions is founder of First Bridge Montessori learning centre Jessica Chong. She ensures that the tots under her charge attend shows once every two months.

Her students, aged between two and six, will be watching The Tiger Who Came To Tea, by ABA Productions, today and Aesop's Fables on March 10.

"Our school is filled with crafts, stories, writings and reflections of the dramas we watch. Teachers plan the curriculum around the themes, and let the kids take the lead from there," Ms Chong says.

Ms Bridgette Teh, subject head of aesthetics at Chongzheng Primary School, which sends about 120 pupils every year to productions, says: "Students get to learn values and national education through tours of arts venues and concert etiquette - picking up the right way to behave at a live performance."

Theatre can also help in special needs education. The Dyslexia Association of Singapore, for one, started sending its students to such performances in 2013 and are looking to make it an annual affair, says its Chinese programme manager Kong Yun Rui. About 35 students will catch Pleasant Goat And Big Big Wolf - 3 Wishes at the Esplanade Theatre next month.

Theatre is "visual, entertaining… and students build up oratory skills and enhance their verbal expressiveness" through it, Mr Kong notes.

Pleasant Goat, produced by China's Creative Power Entertaining company and organised here by MediaCorp's impresario arm VizPro International, is being restaged from March 20 to 22, following a sold-out run here two years ago. Its goat characters teach children the importance of environmental conservation, a new topic introduced to the show.

In general, apart from English-language shows, more theatre companies are producing or presenting shows in Mandarin as demand for such plays intensifies.

After first staging an English-language version of Goldilocks And The Three Bears with original songs and choreography, Singapore Repertory Theatre's The Little Company will produce a Mandarin version next month targeted at children aged between five and 12.

This is the third children's production in Mandarin for the primarily English-language theatre company.

Singapore Repertory Theatre's executive director Charlotte Nors says it made sense to "embrace a wide market and develop new audiences like bilingual children and budding linguists".

In general, audiences for The Little Company's shows fill up about 85 per cent of the house.

Bilingual theatre practitioner Danny Yeo, who is adapting the play, says some challenges he faced included rewriting the script, casting actors fluent in Mandarin and deciding whether to ham up certain parts for younger audiences.

"Some lines were tough to translate, so we had to tweak them to suit the language. We simplified the lines, but I was very particular about the pronunciation. For me, the words have to be clear and accurate, so the language is still beautiful and of a proper standard," he says.

All this is cause for cheer for mechanical engineer Gabriel Goh, 35, and preschool principal June Goh, 28, who look forward to taking their three-year-old daughter Tiffany to the theatre.

They will watch at least three productions this year, including Little Red Riding Hood And The Three Little Pigs and The Gingerbread Man.

Ms Goh says watching her daughter's reaction is fun in itself: "She enjoys the colourful costumes, props, music and actions. She gets excited and claps along when she sees something familiar in the plays."

jianxuan@sph.com.sg


BY I THEATRE

AESOP’S FABLES

What: I Theatre has narrowed Aesop’s collection of 665 fables down to eight for this presentation, which includes tales such as The Jay And The Peacock and The Goose Who Laid Golden Eggs. Each story has been carefully chosen for its fun factor and moral message, says artistic director Brian Seward.

Where: Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel

When: Tomorrow to March 21; Tuesday to Friday (10am and 2.30pm); weekend (10.30am, 2.30 and 5pm)

Admission: $30 or $32 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

Info: Suitable for children aged three to 13. Go to www.itheatre.org

THE GINGERBREAD MAN

What: This perennial favourite about a gingerbread man trying to avoid being eaten was presented in 2009 and 2011. It returns with a reworked script, new characters, fresh costumes and props as well as a redesigned set.

Where: Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel

When: May 20 to June 7; Tuesday to Friday, 10am and 2.30pm; weekend, 10.30am, 2.30 and 5pm

Admission: $32 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

Info: Suitable for children aged three to 13. Go to www.itheatre.org

BY SINGAPORE REPERTORY THEATRE’S THE LITTLE COMPANY

GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS (MANDARIN)

What: Director-playwright Danny Yeo and composer Ruth Ling are behind this Mandarin adaptation of the fairy tale, originally set to music and lyrics by award-winning British theatre songwriting duo George Stiles and Anthony Drew, who is directing the production.

Where: DBS Arts Centre, 20 Merbau Road

When: March 11 to 29; 10am (weekday); 11am and 2pm (weekend)

Admission: $22 or $25 on weekdays; $32 or $35 on weekends from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

Info: Suitable for children aged five to 12. Go to www.srt.com.sg

THE THREE BILLY GOATS GRUFF

What: This musical by Singapore Repertory Theatre’s The Little Company is based on a classic Norwegian fairy tale where three goats must escape an evil troll and cross a river in search of food.

Where: DBS Arts Centre, 20 Merbau Road

When: April 2 to May 1, 10am (weekday), 11am and 2pm (weekend)

Admission: $22 or $25 on weekdays; $32 or $35 on weekends from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

Info: Suitable for children aged two to six. Go to www.srt.com.sg

PLEASANT GOAT AND BIG BIG WOLF – 3 WISHES (MANDARIN)

What: This play is adapted from the hit television cartoon series that has screened in Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and Singapore. The story features the four main goat characters and a villainous wolf. It touches on the importance of environmental conservation.

Where: Esplanade Theatre

When: March 20 (7pm), March 21 (3 and 7pm), March 22 (11am and 3pm)

Admission: $38 to $108 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

Info: Suitable for two- to six-year-olds. Go to www.vizpro.sg

BY PLAYERS THEATRE

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD AND THE THREE LITTLE PIGS

What: Adapted from Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes by Singapore’s Players Theatre, the play is a creative blend of the two classic fairy tales and features music based on orchestral commissions from the Roald Dahl Foundation.

Where: Ulu Pandan Community Club Theatrette, 5th floor, 170 Ghim Moh Road

When: Saturday to March 16; 9.30 and 11.30am, 2 and 3.45pm (weekday); 1pm (weekend), additional 11am show on March 7

Admission: $30 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg) for weekend shows; call Players Theatre on 6446-4430 or e-mail tix@theplayerstheatre.org for weekday shows

Info: Suitable for children aged three and above. Go to www.theplayerstheatre.org

THE BIG FRIENDLY GIANT (BFG)

What: Players Theatre has adapted Roald Dahl’s book about little Sophie who befriends a benevolent, affable giant and helps him to foil a nefarious plot hatched by the other evil giants.

Where: Ulu Pandan Community Club Theatrette, 5th floor, 170 Ghim Moh Road

When: May 16 to 31, 1pm (May 16, 17, 24, 31), 11am (May 23 and 30)

Admission: $30 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg) for weekend shows; call Players Theatre on 6446-4430 or e-mail tix@theplayerstheatre.org for weekday shows

Info: Suitable for children aged five and above. Go to www.theplayerstheatre.org

AT THE ESPLANADE

THE MAGIC OCEAN (MANDARIN)

What: Shadow play, movement and music make the ocean come alive in this production by Singapore director Ian Loy. Part of the Esplanade’s Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts.

Where: Esplanade Recital Studio

When: Friday (9.30 and 11am, 4pm), Saturday and Sunday (11am, 2 and 4pm) Admission: $18 a ticket or $64 for a group of four from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

Info: Suitable for children aged two to four. Go to www.esplanade.com

THE MAGIC TREETOP

What: Viewers have to pitch in to solve the mystery of the missing egg taken from a robin’s nest in this interactive show. Part of the Esplanade’s Playtime series for young children.

Where: Esplanade Recital Studio

When: May 3 to 13; weekday (9.30 and 11am); weekend (11am, 2 and 4pm)

Admission: $18 a ticket, or $64 for a group of four from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

Info: Suitable for children aged two to four. Go to www.esplanade.com

THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA

What: The popular play based on the 1968 book written by Judith Kerr is adapted for the stage with songs and lyrics by British writer and director David Wood. It is about a girl and her mother who are surprised at afternoon tea by a ravenous tiger. Presented in Singapore by Kidsfest.

Where: Drama Theatre, School of the Arts, 1 Zubir Said Drive

When: Till Sunday; Friday at 5pm; Saturday and Sunday at 10am and 12pm

Admission: $42, $52 or $62 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

Info: Suitable for children aged three and above. Go to www.kidsfest.com.sg