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Twist of Fate, A


 

A Twist of Fate
Reviewed by Kenneth Lyen

Music: Dick Lee
Lyrics: Anthony Drewe
Book: Steven Dexter, Tony Petito
Director: Steven Dexter
Musical Director, Arranger and Orchestrator: David Shrubsole
Choreographer: Nick Winston
Set Designer: Francis O'Connor
Cast: Laura Michelle Kelly, Adrian Pang, Sheila Francisco, Sebastian Tan, Emma Yong, Michael K Lee, Eleanor Tan, Anthony Drewe
Venue: Esplanade Theatre
Rating: *** 1/2 (out of five stars)

In 1997, I spoke to Tony Petito, the coauthor and co-director of A Twist of Fate. It had been commissioned by Raffles Hotel to celebrate their 100th anniversary. Tony had originally asked Ovidia Yu to write the words, and if my memory serves me correctly, John Sharpley, the music. However, owing to delays in the rewrites, Tony began work on it himself, later enlisting the help of Steven Dexter for the book, Anthony Drewe for the lyrics, and Dick Lee for the music. A Twist of Fate premiered, on time, at Raffles Hotel’s Jubilee Hall. Incidentally, Ovidia Yu left this project but continued writing her version of the musical, teaming up with composer Mark Chan. Called Haunted , their musical was performed in 1999 at the Victoria Theatre.

The current production of A Twist of Fate is its third. It has undergone some revisions, including tightening of the script and the replacement of three songs by three new ones. The only actor remaining in the latest show is lyricist Anthony Drewe, who played the role of the police inspector.

SONGS

1997

2005

House of Lim Chin Boon

U

U

Rosalind

U

W

An Ungrateful Daughter

W

U

One Step at a Time

U

U

At Midnight

U

U

Who Am I

U

U

Killing Chickens

W

U

Living in the Past

U

U

An Alibi Would be Handy

U

U

The Chow Can't Fly With the Phoenix

U

W

Every Time You Look Into My Eyes

U

W

It's Not What I Imagined

W

U

One More Night

U

U

Look a Little Closer

U

U

The story is about Emma West, played by Laura Michelle Kelly, who traveled from England to Singapore, in search of her real parents. She turns up at the house of Lim Chin Boon, hoping to talk to the 60-year-old patriarch. Unfortunately she has unwittingly stepped into a den of intrigue, hostility, and foul play. Lim Chin Boon is murdered halfway through, and everybody is a suspect, including Emma. The other suspects include Mr. Lim's lawyer (Michael K Lee), who falls in love with Emma. Mr. Lim's second wife, Ming (Sheila Francisco) is scheming with his business associate, Uncle Albert (Adrian Pang). Her daughter, Alice (Emma Yong) has fallen in love with their servant boy, Ah See (Sebastian Tan), and Ming is vehemently against this liaison. Swee Neo (Eleanor Tan) is Mr. Lim's nurse, and she is hiding a secret.

This murder mystery is a traditional farce. It is highly successful, with many laugh-out-loud moments. There is an abundance of puns and clever wordplay. For example, when Ah See stomps off angrily and kills a chicken, he is said to be "in a fowl mood". And it was "inconceivable" that Mr. Lim could possibly be the father of his second wife’s child. The plot is well constructed with enough red herrings, and unexpected twists and turns to keep one guessing all the way. The ensemble acting and singing is excellent all round. My favorite singer is Sheila Francisco, and she is given a number that does justice to her voice. The revolving stage is well designed and used most effectively.

With such a fine musical, is there any room for criticism? Well, funny you should ask that question.

Characters need not be well-developed in a farce. However, if a character is not sufficiently developed, one runs the risk of seriously weakening the story. This is best exemplified by Mr. Lim’s lawyer, Richard. His role is redundant. He only serves as love interest to Emma West, and provides an additional murder suspect. The love of Richard and Emma is the least successful part of the musical. There is no chemistry between them, and the forced happy ending becomes unbelievable, serving only to make one squirm. I think it would be more organic to have the two of them parting company at the end.

One other minor criticism is that the whole musical does not feel like that it is set in Singapore. The dialogue is very British and the attempts at Singlish seem unnatural. The references to local customs and landmarks are made as if it were made by a tourist reading out of a guidebook rather than by a native.

Dick Lee’s music is pleasant, functional, and fulfils its role quite well. The music sounds a shade too Western for me, and there is no Asian feel to it. But this is just me. There are two love ballads, between Alice and Ah See, and between Emma West and Richard, that would be better served if they had stronger hooks.

In conclusion, A Twist of Fate is a jolly good whodunit musical, what?

26 November 2005