The flip side of Singapore actress Judee Tan

Singapore actress Judee Tan bares her life story in a gritty one-woman cabaret

Judee Tan says the audience can expect a mixture of tearinducing and humorous moments in the production. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Judee Tan says the audience can expect a mixture of tearinducing and humorous moments in the production. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

You may remember her as North Korean reporter Kim Bong Cha on television's The Noose, or the awkwardly shy traditional Chinese doctor Teo Chew Moi from The Hossan Leong Show on stage, or an ex-beauty queen Ris Low impersonator in local theatre parody Chestnuts.

But beyond her notable breakout comedy roles, who is Singapore actress Judee Tan, really?

Audiences can gain an insight into her real life at Nu Men: The Wild Woman Sings, a one-woman cabaret put up by Tan and directed by Jonathan Lim as part of the 11th edition of the Esplanade's annual Flipside arts festival, held from May 30 to June 8 this year.

This year's Flipside features three ticketed productions and more than 100 free performances put up by local and international acts.

Nu Men: The Wild Woman Sings promises to be gritty, honest and semi- autobiographical, featuring a song cycle chronicling the phases of Tan's life.

"This cabaret is my story," says Tan, who proposed the idea of putting up a one-woman cabaret when she was invited by the Esplanade to be a part of the festival.

"It touches on my insecurities, past adversities and my relationship with myself as well as with the world."

In the production, she sings a series of English and Mandarin song covers, drawn from musical inspirations such as Kurt Weill, Barbra Streisand, Andrew Lippa and others.

They are given a new contemporary spin by musical director Julian Wong.

The bubbly Tan, who randomly bursts into song several times during the interview, says: "I came up with this concept of a musical journey because music has always played a big part in my life. These songs perfectly express certain experiences that I have been through."

She has sung on stage before, most notably in 881 The Musical, the 2011 stage adaptation of Royston Tan's movie where she played an aspiring getai singer.

A Theatre Studies and Drama student from Victoria Junior College, she graduated from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Arts in Drama and English Language Studies.

After a three-year stint with the Singapore Armed Forces Music and Drama Company, she entered the theatre scene in 2006.

She is currently represented by Singaporean artist management company Fly Entertainment.

She made her television debut in 2011, starring in the fourth season of Channel 5's hit television series The Noose. The show is now in its seventh season.

Tan describes her performance in Nu Men: The Wild Woman Sings as "raw and authentic".

She adds that unlike the different fictional personae she has put up in the past, this is the first time audiences will be seeing her true self on stage.

Tan, who is single and would only say that she is in her early 30s, adds: "Audience members can expect a mixture of dramatic, touching, tear-inducing and humorous moments. They can choose to laugh, cry or judge what they see but most importantly, everything is real."

Lim, 39, the creator and director of Chestnuts, who has worked with Tan many times before, says: "Fans of Judee will definitely be surprised at the level of honesty that appears in the production. They will learn more about her than they ever expected."

He hopes that the cabaret, which is about 70 minutes long, will allow the audience to better relate to artists and understand them in general.

He adds: "It is about getting the audience to see past the characters that performers play and recognise that, at the end of the day, they are just real people who struggle with the same frustrations like us."

This is Tan's first time producing a show. She says it has been challenging, juggling the many duties that managing a production entails, such as handling publicity, set design, costumes and more, but adds that she is grateful for the experience.

She says: "The process has been very exciting so far because being a producer is something entirely new to me."

"It actually requires a lot more work than acting," she adds with a laugh.

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