Malaysian crooner Sean Ghazi rarely hums to himself, unless it is on the day of a concert. "Then I hum all day. I warm up slowly," says the singer, who will perform favourites from hit musicals at the Esplanade Recital Studio next week.
An Evening With Sean Ghazi is his first solo concert here since 1995, when he won the inaugural Fame Awards, an English-language talent contest organised by the then Television Corporation of Singapore.
However, Ghazi, 48, hopes to perform here more often now, after his well-received turn as a dapper nightclub owner in Wild Rice's La Cage Aux Folles.
In real life, he programmes musical acts for restaurant-theatre Bobo KL in Kuala Lumpur, including his 10-piece big band Tarakucha!, which play jazz with a Malaysian twist.
The idea is to get such acts to perform in Singapore. He is testing the waters with next week's concert featuring crowd favourites from Evita, Miss Saigon and The Phantom Of The Opera.
Joining him in duets such as The Last Night Of The World (Miss Saigon) and All I Ask Of You (The Phantom Of The Opera) is American singer Stephanie Reese, a colleague from the West End.
They played thwarted lovers in a 2000 revival of The King And I at Palladium in London, though the famous song written for Tuptim and Lun Tha, I Have Dreamed, is not on the official song list for next week.
BOOK IT / AN EVENING WITH SEAN GHAZI
WHERE: Esplanade Recital Studio, 1 Esplanade Drive
WHEN: Dec 13 and 14, 8pm
ADMISSION: $50 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
"We've got each other's backs," says Ghazi of his singing partner. "It's quite cool that two Asian kids from opposite corners of the world ended up on the London stage."
Reese has roots in Seattle, while Ghazi was born in Malaysia, studied at United World College in Singapore and Laine Theatre Arts School in London.
He started his West End career as a dance captain and actor in Cameron Mackintosh's Miss Saigon in 1992. Three years later, he won the Fame Awards in Singapore, decided that producers of the show had no further plan to develop his career and moved on to roles in musicals, film and television.
He also released a solo album, Semalam, in 2006, which included a Malay cover of the Pink Martini song, Let's Never Stop Falling In Love, which he has performed with the Portland band here and in Malaysia.
The role of Lun Tha won him critical acclaim in 1997 and he also played Tuptim's lover - now named Khun Phra Balat - in the 1999 film Anna And The King, starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun Fat.
This did not translate into continued Hollywood success.
Casting in the United States and Britain is not race-blind and Ghazi was often mistaken for Hispanic.
He returned to Malaysia three years ago. He is focusing on building musical acts such as Tarakucha!, the programme of Bobo KL and also hoping to be considered for "more textured roles" as an actor.
With his experience, he knows how to deal with opening-night nerves. "Make sure the first song in the programme is a gentle song you know like the back of your hand. Once you sing those first few notes, you're home free."
So, which song will begin next week's concert? "I haven't decided," he says. "I have a few options."