SINGAPORE - A Singapore events company is staging an immersive dining theatre experience that showcases aerial hoop choreography, a K-pop-inspired dance, and allows the audience take part in interactive song and storytelling sessions - all while enjoying a four-course dinner.
Marie And The Nutcracker, a production by Andsoforth, a Singapore events company known for its immersive dining theatre experiences, has been showing at a secret location since last month .
Audience members get a text message with the address of the venue the day before the event, which runs Thursdays to Saturdays till Jan 5.
During the show, they move through a series of rooms where they get to interact with a cast of characters such as a Sugar Plum Fairy, court astronomer and the princesses of the kingdom of sweets. Each room features a different theme.
"It gets weirder and weirder," says director and scriptwriter Stuart Wee, 31, who co-founded Andsoforth in 2014.
Marie And The Nutcracker is based on German author E. T. A. Hoffmann's The Nutcracker And The Mouse King (1816). The story was retold by French writer Alexandre Dumas, known for novels such as The Three Musketeers (1844). Dumas' version was later adapted into the famous ballet The Nutcracker.
The tale begins on Christmas eve with a girl called Marie. Her Nutcracker toy comes to life, defeats the evil mouse king in battle, and takes her away to a magical kingdom where they marry.
BOOK IT/ MARIE AND THE NUTCRACKER
WHERE: Secret location. Participants will get a text message with the address a day before the event
WHEN: Till Jan 5, at 7pm, 7.30pm, 8pm, 8.30pm, and 9pm (Thursdays to Saturdays); also 6.30pm on Saturdays
ADMISSION: $98 to $128, with $3 booking fee. Participants must be at least 18 years old
In Marie And The Nutcracker, each show will have no more than 20 audience members, who are served mulled wine and dishes such as beef goulash and orange sorbet.
The four-course menu was specially created for the production by freelance chef Jason Ang, 34, who used to work at the Pollen restaurant at the Flower Dome in Gardens By The Bay.
Mr Wee, a former audio engineer, also lets on that the company is making its first foray into animatronics robot puppetry in creating the characters of the Mouse King and toy Nutcracker.
Andsoforth spent about $50,000 constructing the elaborate set in its 2,800 sq ft rented venue - more than twice the size of two five-room Housing Board flats - which is located in an industrial building.
The company, which staged the immersive dining theatre productions The Secret Garden and Adventures in Grimmsneyland earlier this year (2018), was founded in 2014 by Mr Wee and his wife Emily Png, 28.
Mr Wee and Ms Png, a former fashion merchandiser, quit their full-time jobs to focus on Andsoforth. Mr Wee is now the company's creative director while his wife is the events manager.
The couple had been running out of ideas for things to do on dates, and thought about coming up with something that might combine food and drink with immersive theatre. Later, during a trip to London in 2013, they attended a theatrical supper club event by an immersive dining company.
"It was mindblowing. We saw it and thought, we could definitely do something like this in Singapore, our own way," Mr Wee says.
"We both didn't come from a theatre background," adds Ms Png. "We could do things differently... but the disadvantage was that people didn't take us seriously."
Andsoforth's aim, Mr Wee adds, is to make immersive theatre accessible to the masses - not just the "same old cliques" who frequent some formal theatre productions.
The ticket prices, which start at $98, are not cheap but the couple says that audience members are paying for a full experience that includes immersive theatre and food.
Actor Jon Cancio, 33, who plays Marie's father, Judge Silberhaus, says: "The difficulty and fun (of it) is interacting with a new audience every show. It keeps me on my toes."
The production has already been the backdrop for several bachelorette parties and a marriage proposal, adds Mr Cancio, who is also a photographer and podcast host.
Cabin crew member Kaanthan Karuppayah, 32, brought his wife to see the show last Friday (Dec 7) to celebrate her birthday.
"I like to do things that are out of the ordinary, not too mainstream," says Mr Kaanthan, who has been to similar immersive events overseas.
Wishing some of the scenes had lasted longer, he adds: "It was great how they managed to integrate everyone into the play. Everyone had a part to play."