Fried Rice Paradise for the screen

Singapore singer Dick Lee (centre stage) performing his song, Fried Rice Paradise, with the cast of the drama series of the same name at Zouk nightclub on Thursday.
Singapore singer Dick Lee (centre stage) performing his song, Fried Rice Paradise, with the cast of the drama series of the same name at Zouk nightclub on Thursday.PHOTOS: MEDIACORP
Actress Foo Fang Rong plays Choo Bee Lean, while Uriah See plays her love interest in Fried Rice Paradise - The Drama Series.
Actress Foo Fang Rong plays Choo Bee Lean, while Uriah See plays her love interest in Fried Rice Paradise - The Drama Series.PHOTOS: MEDIACORP

The popular 1980s musical by Dick Lee gets a reboot on television

For home-grown musician and playwright Dick Lee, the drama-series adaptation of his popular stage musical, Fried Rice Paradise, is a chance for him to reboot the past.

At the launch of the 13-part series on Thursday at nightclub Zouk, he told The Straits Times the series will not only stay true to its 1980s aesthetic and sound, but it will also feature his songs from the same period.

The 62-year-old says: "I released seven albums in the 1980s that are not available anymore because the record company lost the master tapes in a fire. So, I'm excited to be bringing back all these songs."

The new Fried Rice Paradise is part of Mediacorp's ongoing Lights. Camera. Singapore initiative, which reworks familiar Singapore stories as well as airs popular Singapore films on streaming service Toggle and Channel 5.

Fried Rice Paradise - The Drama Series will be available from Tuesday on Toggle and will air every Tuesday from July 2 at 9.30pm on Channel 5.

Lee's musical had two runs on stage - in 1991 and 2010 - with different stories.

The drama series is based on the 2010 stage version and follows protagonist Choo Bee Lean, also known as Bee, who wants to open a restaurant offering dishes based on her late mother's recipes.

On the differences between the stage and television productions, Lee, who created one new song for the show, says he was inspired by his favourite genre of entertainment - mystery.

"In the stage version, Bee's mother is mentioned, only in passing, that she died.

"So, I thought incorporating the mystery of how she died and what happened is the solution to fleshing out a two-hour musical into a 13-hour story," he says.

Playing Bee is Mediacorp actress Foo Fang Rong, who was in Lee's 2017 biopic, Wonder Boy.

While this is not her debut musical - the 23-year-old was in television musical School House Rockz (2008) as a child star - this is her first leading role.

"I usually sing in the shower and maybe play a little of the guitar, but unlike a lot of the cast, I'm not professionally trained. I'm thankful they took the time to guide and help me," she says.

One of her first scenes during filming was a kissing scene with up-and-coming Malaysian pop singer Uriah See, who plays Bee's love interest.

She recalls with a laugh: "It was a bit awkward, mostly for me. Uriah was reassuring and, after our first take, the director told him he looked great and was charismatic. But he told me, 'Fang Rong, you look stressed.'"

The drama, which took three months to film on location in Malaysia, also stars Malaysian actress Carmen Soo and local actor Peter Yu as Bee's parents. Sebastian Tan plays a mercenary magnate.

While she had strong vocals and supportive cast mates, Foo still had one hurdle to overcome in playing Bee - cooking.

She says: "I don't know how to cook. I had to take lessons for about a month to run through every dish I'm supposed to make in the show."

• Fried Rice Paradise - The Drama Series will be available from Tuesday on Toggle. It will air every Tuesday from July 2 at 9.30pm on Channel 5.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2019, with the headline 'Fried Rice Paradise for the screen'. Print Edition | Subscribe