SINGAPORE -A Singaporean-led musical about kungfu-fighting dim sum has won over audiences in Shanghai with its wacky premise, in which three young dumplings fight a giant pot of instant noodles to save their kingdom.
Dim Sum Warriors, which is based on the bilingual comic book series by Singaporean husband-and-wife team Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen, is produced by Stan Lai, one of China's most renowned theatre directors, and scored by Chinese-born composer Du Yun, who won the Pulitzer Prize for music this year.
It sold out its opening weekend on Aug 11 in Lai's 699-seater venue Theatre Above. After it concludes its run on Sunday (Aug 20), it will go on tour in China next year. The team are also in talks to bring it to Singapore.
In the family musical, young heroes Cha Shao Bao (roast pork bun), Xia Jiao (shrimp dumpling) and Shao Mai (pork and shrimp dumpling), must thwart the plans of Colonel Quickynoodle, a villainous pot of instant noodles, to take over the world.
The actors wear dim sum headgear so heavy that the team had to bring in a masseuse for them in between shows, while the set features futuristic buildings that resemble steam baskets.
New York-based Singaporean director Teo Mei Ann describes it as "Blade Runner meets breakfast".
"It was important that we convey the imaginative impulse of a child going into the kitchen and pulling out all these foods," says the 37-year-old in a conference call from Shanghai.
Humorist Goh, 47, and film-maker Woo, 46, had been approached by others who wanted to turn their series into films or television shows, but they were so tickled by Teo's wild proposition that it should be a stage musical that they agreed.
They went on to pitch it last year to Lai, whom Teo had worked with before at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
"It wasn't a very hard decision," says Lai, 62, the award-winning playwright behind works such as classic comedy Secret Love In Peach Blossom Land. "It was fun, it was creative, and it sounded exactly like something we would want to do."
It is rare, he says, for a theatre production in China to be driven by a Singaporean creative team. "But I wasn't even considering that it was a Singapore team, only that it was a good team. I think Singapore's been working very hard to catch up in creativity over these years, and it's certainly expected that we would have a very high level of work from them."
Says Goh: "If years ago, you told us we would be putting together a musical for Stan Lai - in Mandarin - I would have told you you were out of your mind. It's beyond what I could dream of. Our Chinese teachers would be so proud of us."
Their favourite scene in the show is the training montage where the young dumplings pull together to learn martial arts from grandmaster Xiao Long Bao (soup dumpling). Says Woo: "Xiao Long Bao starts singing this operatic chang qiang, and the young dimsum join in - it's so beautiful, young and old voices coming together.
"What I hope we've done is that we've taken what Chinese people see everyday in their kitchens and made these traditional elements cool to kids and their families."