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Viva Lah! Singapura

Viva Lah Singapura Finale 17 Oct 2015.jpg

Viva Lah! Singapura: the musical

Raffles Hall Musical reviewed by Kenneth Lyen

Viva Lah Singapura 17 Oct 2015 (60) a

It is said that when the stars align, the world will hold still. Tonight the world of musical theatre at the National University of Singapore held still. Bursting onto the University Cultural Centre stage was a coven of hungry new talent, fixated upon bewitching their audience with a devastatingly enchanting new musical.

Produced by Raffles Hall, Viva Lah! Singapura revolves around Happy Laksa House, which is being acquired by a multimillionaire property developer. After the death of his father who founded this eatery, Ah Hock became the owner and sole chef. His daughter, Rachel, is unable to see eye-to-eye with him, in part because he objects to her ambitions to embrace music as her career. While singing at a bar, Rachel is noticed by Darren, who is attracted to her. He recognizes her as Ah Hock’s daughter because he has seen them at Happy Laksa House which he frequents. Darren is disillusioned with his current office job and secretly wants to become a laksa chef. Comic relief is provided by the two stall helpers, Aunty Nancy and Ah Jie. A slightly more menacing figure is Mr Lam, the right-hand man of property developer David. The twist at the end is discovering who David really is, and what finally happens to Happy Laksa House.

There are many outstanding features of this musical. The characters are very strongly delineated: their wants, their dreams, their frustrations. The conflict is also sharply etched. This includes the abrasions between father and offspring arising from the latter’s ambitions of entering non-traditional professions, namely singing and becoming a laksa chef. The plot is linear but has enough twists and turns to make it unpredictable. Humor is liberally sprinkled throughout. There is the clever wordplay on the Chinese word for oyster, “hum”; e.g. “you warm the cockles of my heart”. There is a dig at Singapore’s propensity to use acronyms in the song "Home is No ABC”. There are also gentle pokes at the difficulties of doing business in Singapore, and the compulsory military service for boys. Whenever the social network service Twitter is spoken of, you hear the sounds of tweeting birds. Highly exaggerated embellishment of the word “hashtag” adds to the jocularity.

A musical would not be a musical if it does not reverberate in songs. Viva Lah! Singapura does not disappoint. The melodies are catchy so that one leaves the theatre humming (pun intended) the tunes. Especially catchy are these songs: “Happy Laksa House”, “Why? Why? Why? Why?”, “To Be Me”, “Stars”. Credit goes to the dynamic duo, bookwriter Sebastian Ang and composer Jonathan Shin. Both took part in writing the lyrics.

Casting is near perfect, with everyone a triple threat, being able to act, sing, and dance. It is difficult to single any one performer because they are all good. Quite remarkable for a student production. But if forced to, one must mention Bryan Wong who plays the lead character Darren, Chin Ying Xin who plays Ah Hock’s musician daughter, Boh Ze Jun who plays Ah Hock so well that one can accept him as being middle-aged, Yong Hwee Jun who plays the flamboyant getai singer Aunty Nancy, Raphael Quek Hao Chong who plays a perfect schoolboy nerd, and Sebastian Tan Jun Pin who plays Mr Lam, the property developer’s erratic henchman, Priscilla Chan Xin Yu who has such an authentic mainland China accent, and Lim Hoe King, the cold-hearted property developer.

You can write the best musical ever, but it can easily be ruined by poor stage directing. Fortunately the triumvirate directors, Tan Yilong, Sebastian Ang, and Tan Choong Hou, brought out every nuance, every joke, and extracted every drop of tears from the audience. Particularly memorable was the bar scene where the awkward advances and subtext dialogue struck an embarrassing chord in the audience.

Kudos also to the music directors, Joshua Koh and Kayla Loh, as well as the dance choreographers: Ng Shi Ming Tammy, Shalom Lau Li Yin, Chua Zhi En. The sets were cleverly designed by Gavin; sets heads were Ang Li Qing, Georgina Lim, and Yan Xu. They are all essential to the success of the musical.

To make all this possible are another triumvirate, namely, the producers: Tan Li Lian, Tan Wei Chun, and Koh Hui Wen Michelle. They have to coordinate the entire production and manage cast and crew, totaling 190 students. Quite a feat!

The Master of Raffles Hall, Professor Ho Chee Kong, and the Advisor to the musical production, Professor Ho Han Kiat, must also be congratulations for their incredible support.

A good musical is one with a good story and good music. A great musical is one that makes you laugh until it hurts, and one that makes you cry because it has touched your soul. Viva Lah! Singapura is a great musical.


Reviewed by Kenneth Lyen

17 Oct 2015

CAST Darren: Bryan Wong Mun Kit Rachel: Chin Ying Xin Ah Hock: Boh Ze Jun Aunty Nancy: Yong Hwee Jun David: Lim Hoe King Robert: Raphael Quek Hao Chong Ah Jie: Priscilla Chan Xin Yu Mr Lam: Sebastian Tan Jun Pin

CREATIVE TEAM Producers: Tan Li Lian, Tan Wei Chun, Koh Hui Wen Michelle

Directors: Tan Yilong, Sebastian Ang, Tan Choong Hou

Book and Lyrics: Sebastian Ang

Music and Lyrics: Jonathan Shin

Music Directors: Joshua Koh, Kayla Loh

Music Arrangers: Cho Koi Hong Jermain, Eveline Patricia Kutawijaya, Hew Kai Ling

Vocal Coaches: Ng Kai Jun, Sherman Yuen

Choral Directors: Shuy Wan Xin, Koh Yeh Jie Wilson, Tay Yu Rong

Choral Arranger: Samantha Wee

Dance Choreographers: Ng Shi Ming Tammy, Shalom Lau Li Yin, Chua Zhi En

Sets Designer: Gavin

Sets Heads: Ang Li Qing, Georgina Lim, Yan Xu

Lights Designer: Prakash Prashanth Costumes Designers: Fung Wing Sang, Rachel Lim Jia En, Wan Kai Mi Stage Managers: Nyeow Low Chen, Lionel Lim Jun Jie, Cynthia Tantono, Karluis Quek

Hon General Secretary & Treasurer: Sun Wee Wair, Kan Pei Ru

Graphic Designers: Lee Jia Sheng, Raja Aravindh Raj