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Reviewed by Mona Lim

Music by Kenneth Lyen
Lyrics by Ivan Ho
Book by Vincent Wong and Thean Wenyi
Directed by Jason Lai
Music Directed and Arranged by Bang Wenfu
Choreography by Richard Tan
Date: 18th May 2001
Place: Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Sayang (which means love in Malay), the musical, is a contemporary love story between a radio deejay played by RJ Rosales, and a flower shop girl, played by Karen Goh. It opens on Valentine’s Day, with a parade of lovers, lonely hearts and assorted lovelorn characters phoning in declarations of love to DJ Mike. The play has an authentic city life flavour, characterised by familiar scene instantly recognisable to Singaporean audiences. The script enjoyed a promising start, but what caught this reviewer’s fancy was the unusual way the romance is set off, when Raine, a flower shop girl, falls in love with Mike’s voice and sends him flowers. A nice departure from the usual boy-chase-girl routine!

Accompanying the script were rather memorable tunes reminiscent of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim. Strains from Phantom of the Opera could be heard in the duet, When you Fall in Love. Overall the tuneful music transformed the play into a light-hearted and enjoyable Broadway-like musical. Kenneth Lyen, paediatrician by day, composer by any other free time, wrote them in just two weeks; Sayang is his seventh musical.

Bang Wenfu’s music arrangements worked well with Ivan Ho’s lyrics, especially in Net Chat, where DJ Aileen (Karen Lim), DJ Mike’s co-host, meets with the chorus on the internet chatroom. The song conveyed with subtlety and humour the pitfalls and dangers of seeking love online. It was the most memorable scene of the play. Kudos to Richard Tan for the choreography.

Despite the promising start, Sayang lost its sense of direction and momentum towards the end. The ending was abrupt and there was little attempt to explore the deeper meanings and implications of Sayang. Mike and Raine’s romance was superficial and the audience was left with the impression that the scriptwriter just wanted to end the play quickly for all to go home.

The audience enjoyment was also marred by the inadequate sound system. Combined with the uneven singing, the effect left much to be desired. Strong acting from Karen Lim saved the play; she certainly overshadowed the rest.

Sayang was an enjoyable and light-hearted way to spend the evening and, at the same time, contribute to charity, as the staging was a fundraising project of the Rotary Club of Singapore North.

[The review first appeared in The Arts Magazine September 2001]



Reported by Sonia Gupta for New Asian Woman

Music by Kenneth Lyen
Lyrics by Ivan Ho
Book by Vincent Wong and Thean Wenyi
Directed by Jason Lai
Music Directed and Arranged by Bang Wenfu
Choreography by Richard Tan
Date: 18th May 2001
Place: Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Girl meets boy. Girl falls in love with boy. Girl and boy get married... But in Sayang the musical, all's not all fair and that easy in love and relationships. Sonia Gupta meets the hot stars of Sayang who come clean about love, passion and flirting!

Presented by the Rotary Club of Singapore North in association with Rainbow Theatre, the musical charity show is a heart-warming romance between a flower shop girl and a late night radio show presenter, whose voice she falls in love with. What starts as a simple love story becomes a complicated love triangle.

Why call it Sayang?

Says composer, Dr Kenneth Lyen, who also composed for The Magic Paintbrush, "In Malay, 'sayang' can mean love, darling or pity. As the love story unfolds, it can be any of these three meanings."

It stars some of Singapore's veteran artistes as well as up-and-coming talents - RJ Rosales, Karen Lim and Karen Goh. We got them talking about how they love, flirt and what their burning passions are.

On looking for love...

RJ Rosales

"I can relate to Mike, the character I play, because I've also been burnt twice before. But I'm optimistic - I have a special someone now. I believe that you have to be comfortable with the other person. You don't necessarily need to have the same interests but you have to respect each other. Sometimes, I find it hard to make it work but I'm learning to let go a little."

Karen Lim

"When you meet the right person for you, I think you'll know right away. You know the clich‚ about two people feeling close without having to say a word to each other? Well, I believe in that. But having been married for six years, I think that having a sense of humour is important. There will be fights about the smallest and silliest things but if you can laugh together, it would make it easier."

Karen Goh

"Like Raine (the character she plays), I'm still looking for love, but I don't think I will ever call in to a radio programme and express my love. I'm the sort who would rather sit back and let the guy make the first move. Sure, I believe in chemistry. He can meet all the right criteria, but there has to be that magic between us too."

On Flirting...

RJ Rosales

"I don't like a woman who's so direct like when she says, 'I want you to come home with me!' I like the games men and women play with each other. It's the suspense of the does-she-like-me or does-she-not that keeps it going."

Karen Lim

"I love the 'rules' of flirting that Cosmopolitan (magazine) comes up with every so often. You must first catch his eye and then look away when he's looking at you, and then you look at him again. I agree that the flirting is nice. Being so forward is not my style."

Karen Goh

"I think I need lessons on this. If I spot some guy who's really cute and he's looking at me, most likely I would look away because I'm too embarrassed to do anything about it. I went for an audition once and they told me to flirt. I was like, 'Oh God! I don't know how to do that!"

On burning passions...

RJ Rosales

"Ever since I was a kid, I loved to sing. I was a shy boy so singing became a way I overcame my inhibitions. I graduated in mathematics and worked in a bank. When I was doing Miss Saigon in Sydney, it was crazy because I was straddling my day job as well. Now, I'm glad that I took the plunge to become a full-time artiste two years ago. It's unpredictable because you don't know if you're going to get work after you finish one production. But I can tell you that it's been a great ride so far."

Karen Lim

"Life is a burning passion for me. If you're in the arts, you have to live life because if you don't, how can you bring passion into what you do? I've been working in the arts for 15 years and I don't regret it for a minute. Sure, I had to pay my dues and go the usual route - you know, university and all - but the trade-off is that I really enjoy what I'm doing now."

Karen Goh

"I love acting. I gave up a nine-to-five career as an accountant to do stage work. My parents thought that it was a passing phase and when they realized that it wasn't, naturally there was pressure to give it up. It's taken a couple of years to convince them, and now they are reconciled to the fact that I'm much happier doing what I enjoy."