This year, Wild Rice adapts the 19th-century classic, A Christmas Carol, for its annual Christmas pantomime. A $ingapore Carol tells the tale of a crazy rich Asian visited by three ghosts and runs from Friday to Dec 15 at Victoria Theatre.
The family-friendly production is directed by Hossan Leong and stars Sebastian Tan as the miserly Singaporean multi-millionaire S. K. Loo, whose tight fist loosens by the end of the play. Both had worked together in Wild Rice's 2008 pantomime Snow White And The Seven Dwarves, where Leong directed and Tan played the wicked stepmother.
Music for A $ingapore Carol is composed by Wild Rice's long-time collaborator Elaine Chan. The script is written by theatre-maker Jonathan Lim, whose send-up of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol used to anchor his long-running Chestnuts comic revue (now defunct) in the late 1990s and early noughties.
Lim, 43, says: "It's been much too long since we've seen a version of the Christmas classic here, let alone one that speaks uniquely to us as Singaporeans."
In the sketch for Chestnuts, the rich but tight-fisted Scrooge was told to loosen up and share his wealth by supernatural figures familiar to local viewers, such as a Chinese Fortune God.
BOOK IT / A $INGAPORE CAROL
WHERE: Victoria Theatre, 9 Empress Place
WHEN: Friday to Dec 15.
Tuesdays to Fridays, 7.30pm; Saturdays and Sundays, 2.30 and 7.30pm
ADMISSION: $45 to $80 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to sistic.com.sg)
In A $ingapore Carol, these have been updated to more recent pop culture ghosts - though the team declines to spoil the surprise.
Wild Rice's annual pantomime is the theatre company's take on a year-end British tradition where comedy and social commentary combine in theatre meant for the entire family. The cast this year includes Siti Khalijah Zainal, Audrey Luo, Candice de Rozario, Fauzie Laily and young performers from Wild Rice's First Stage! training programme for children.
Director Leong and lead actor Tan point out that Loo is the product of a society built on the premise that success is the most important thing in life. A $ingapore Carol also comes at the end of a year spent celebrating the hit movie Crazy Rich Asians based on the Kevin Kwan novel of the same name.
Loo values material success over his relationships with people, adds 45-year-old Tan. "Whatever he does, he truly believes it's for the greater good. Human connections? What for?
"This family production is to remind Singaporeans: Don't lose your soul. Have a heart."
A Christmas Carol is one of Dickens' most popular tales and has been adapted multiple times for the screen. There is a 1999 made-for-TV adaptation featuring Patrick Stewart and a 2009 film starring Jim Carrey; as well as Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983) and The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992).
Leong and Tan both watch screen versions almost every year around Christmas. "It's a tradition," Tan says.
Leong, 49, says of the story's enduring appeal: "It appeals to what we are as people. We fear death, we fear being forgotten, we fear not leaving a legacy behind."
Tan adds: "It's very Christmas. It's about giving and forgiving."