The Muse: Enchanted by Design with Tracy Grant Lord (Interview)

'Sleeping Beauty'. Image courtesy of the Singapore Dance Theatre.

‘Sleeping Beauty’. Image courtesy of the Singapore Dance Theatre.

This festive season, Singapore Dance Theatre will enchant audiences with Sleeping Beauty, one of the classical repertoire’s most famous ballets.  Set in an enchanted world of castles, curses, forests and fairies, Sleeping Beauty is an age-old tale of a beautiful princess, enchantment of sleep and a handsome prince.

First performed in 1890 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, The Sleeping Beauty was Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s first successful ballet.

Staged by artistic director Janek Schergen featuring choreography by Marius Petipa and sumptuous costume design by Tracy Grant Lord, Singapore Dance Theatre’s latest rendition will run from 13-16 December 2012 at the Esplanade Theatre as a grand finale to the 2012 season.

The Muse recently caught up with acclaimed New Zealand costume designer Tracy Grant Lord for an exclusive chat about her inspiration in bringing  the magical kingdom to life.

How many costumes did you have to design for Sleeping Beauty in total?

Approximately 130 costumes.

Where did you get the ideas for the costume from? Were you inspired by previous performances of the ballet at all?

I use many reference resources as I design, historical references are usually my beginning point with research around the original story and its illustrations alongside the periods of history that the story describes. I have many reference books that show me details of construction for style of costume through time and specifically for ballet. I   listen to the music constantly – I become absorbed in the story through the score and in doing so grow to understand the essence of the story as described by the composer. This informs me about place and character and in turn their movement which all goes to inform the final design.

How long does it usually take for you to create an outfit?

I am merely the beginning point of a lengthy process of construction and manufacture that involves many many people. This is a process which takes several months and starts with the budgeting period and then sourcing of all the materials, then the pattern-making and construction followed by fittings and manufacture, with the final stages of the process being the detailing and assembling of all the components together including hair-pieces and millinery and jewellery and wigs and shoes. The skills required to achieve this are many and varied and I certainly would never be able to achieve it alone.

Which one is your favourite? Why?

It is very hard to choose favourites – they are all equally wonderful when they come to life on stage worn by the dancers. For me the excitement is seeing the whole production together working as a unified design, in harmony.

Which one was the hardest to make? Why?

Sometimes the simplest costumes can be the most difficult in order not to distract from the essence of the choreography and at other times there are costumes that require a lot of thought and experiment around the way a particular fabric or shape behaves with a certain movement or how a group of costumes move together. Often when I am asked to design wings on a costume we will have a few prototypes to test shapes and behaviour of the design because they need to ‘speak’ or ‘dance’ in unity with the performer and of course the music. It is not necessarily a hard thing to do but it takes time.

What do you love most about designing costumes?

I think it is the chance to be involved in the process of creating a new work from the very beginning and I love that. I also love the challenge of it being a new beginning every time. This keeps me very engaged in my work.

What projects have you got lined up for the year ahead?

I am currently working on a new production of CINDERELLA for Queensland Ballet and a new play called TRUE MINDS for Melbourne Theatre Company.

* This article was written in collaboration with Yvonne Wang.

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The Muse: ‘Crazy Christmas 2012’ Review

Dancing Marilyns at 'Crazy Christmas 2012'. Photo courtesy of Dream Academy Productions.

Dancing Marilyns at ‘Crazy Christmas 2012’. Photo courtesy of Dream Academy Productions.

Back for the fifth year, Crazy Christmas is this tropical island’s way of announcing that the festive season is here once again, with the theme this time being ‘Silver Screen Meets Silver Bells’. As someone who has only been in Singapore for a few months and never witnessed the magic of the show before, however, I must admit that I was initially quite worried about the level of cheesiness that I might encounter onstage. A bunch of people paying ‘tribute’ to the greatest people, hits, and flicks of the Golden ‘30s and ‘40s? What could possible go wrong?

The answer to that, as it turns out, is that very little did go wrong. From George Chan’s fantastic umbrella-twirling rendition of ‘Singing in the Rain’ to Adrian Pang, Karen Tan, Judee Tan and Selena Tan’s hilarious Singaporean parody of ‘The Wizard of Oz’, the local-star-studded show is as delightful as any seasonal romp could be.

Other side-splitting sketches include funnyman Hossan Leong’s Charlie Chaplin impersonation, Selena Tan singing ‘Happy Birthday’ in the notorious, whispery style of Marilyn Monroe, and – for something with a bit more of an Asian feel – Judee Tan’s insistence as ‘Dr. Teo Chew Muay’ that we should not help the ang mo celebrate Christmas because frankly, there are enough ang mos celebrating it already.

While I enjoyed the individual acts much more to the times when all of them stand in a line and try to poke fun at each other, one of my favourite scenes does involve all of them coming together at the end to recreate some of the most well-known movies from the time, including Little Mermaid, Titanic, and Jaws. The actors are all perfectly in sync with each other and it’s clear that they are having the time of their lives, which is an infectious feeling that spreads to the audience too.

The skits are separated – and sometimes accompanied – by a band of pretty dancing ladies, cheekily named the ‘Merry Miss A Toes’, some of whom you may recognise from the recent Dream Academy production of Company. Apart from lots of laughs and booty-shaking, there are, of course, also plenty of carolling. The duet by Michaela Therese and Robin Goh singing Frank Loesser’s ‘What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?’ and a medley by acapella group Vocaluptuous are great, but the biggest surprise was Karen Tan’s 16-year-old daughter, Rachel Quek, who promptly stole the show by singing ‘I Saw Mama Kissing Santa Claus’ in the most angelic voice.

Fun and light-hearted, Crazy Christmas is the ultimate way to get your holiday spirit pumped up. Tickets are going fast, however, so if you haven’t gotten yours yet then you’d better hurry!

Note that this review is based on the ‘nice’ version, played by Hossan Leong, which was showing until 2December. The ‘naughty’ version, which will be showing from 4 to 9 December, will be played by drag queen comedian extraordinaire Kumar and suitable only for people aged 18 and above.

The Muse: Denise Tan (Interview)

Denise Tan. Photo courtesy of W!ld Rice Production.

Denise Tan. Photo courtesy of W!ld Rice Production.

10 questions with 37-year-old actress, DJ, and singer.

1. You act, you DJ, you sing – and you even find time to sew. How do you balance everything in your life?

It’s not so much balance, as JUGGLE! And to be honest, sometimes I drop the balls! I try not to sweat the small stuff, and I also make a lot of lists – to organise myself. And I take one task at a time, otherwise I may well go stark, raving mad!

2. You got your degree in Theatre Studies at Leeds Uni (I just graduated from there this summer!) – what are some of the most valuable things you learnt there?

Yay, Leeds! Yay, Chip Butties! Being open to new experiences, new people and just learning to let go and going with the flow. Also, the way of studying and approaching work was so different. I learnt to have an opinion, to think critically and also work independently, without the pressure of parents or classmates constantly comparing my grades! These were my years of discovery, freedom, experimentation, living life fearlessly and embracing every new experience. I watched amazing theatre, discovered new music, made friends from all walks of life, halcyon days, you know? I also learnt that eating chips with gravy everyday for lunch will make you fat & you can’t drink 8 pints of ale without waking up with a headache!

 3. Was acting in the UK really different from acting in Singapore for you personally?

No, not really. The accents may be different, but the intention is always the same – to put up a good show for the audiences.

 4. How does it feel when you’re onstage? Do you ever get stage fright?

It’s exhilarating, the best feeling in the world to be able to make people happy but also the worst, because yes, I suffer from terrible stage fright. But it’s ok, the nerves pass once I get through that first line or that first song and I “feel” the audiences and I know everything’s going to be ok. Stage fright is good, I always say, because you want the adrenaline to give you that boost, that energy, that sparkle on stage.

 5. Who are some of the people that inspired you the most?

My mother, who’s an incredible cook and my dad who’s passed on his love for music to me.

 6. Tell us a little about your upcoming Christmas pantomime ‘Hansel and Gretel’. What should we expect and what role will you be playing?

This is a W!ld Rice production! We take the traditional fairytale and give it lots of local flavour and humour. Audiences will still get the general shape of the original tale, just with lots of garnish! They can expect to feel hungry! As I mentioned before, there’re lots of local flavour and humour, songs and dances, the childrens’ cast gets to lots of adorable things, a roller coaster of emotions, colourful costumes, a super yummy set, the list goes on. Rest assured, all your senses (including taste and smell) will be stimulated and sated!

7. Will adults enjoy the show as much as kids?

Of course Pantos are traditionally fun for the whole family, grown-ups and little ones alike. There are heaps for everyone to enjoy. The children in the audience will appreciate the show on one level – the colours, sounds, animated scenes, interacting with the characters and also seeing other children performing on stage, while there are heaps of nuggets for adults to enjoy, topical jokes and song spoofs, etc.

8. If you could play any role in any show, what would your dream role be?

I’d like to do something completely different from what I usually do in light-hearted musicals. A complex villainous character in a dramatic (non-musical) play would be nice!

 9. What upcoming projects have you got in store after ‘Hansel and Gretel’?

I’ll be helping my friend and co-actor Sebastian Tan (he plays the Chef/Witch) with a little writing for his next ‘Broadway Beng Show’ next year and also performing in it. And of course, continuing with my on-air show on Gold 90FM.

10. Sum yourself up in 140 characters or less (a tweet, basically).

Denise honed her craft by performing Beatles and Boney M songs to her own reflection as a 5-year-old, then began her illustrious career in entertainment playing a duck at her kindergarten graduation show. After 3 years at an English university where she spent more time on stage than in the classroom, she returned to Singapore and went on to play amongst other favourites, a vain horse, a girl eaten by a plant from outer space, a cabaret queen, an electric geisha, a fried rice entrepreneur, a genie trapped in a ring, the wife of a stripper, assorted Ah Lians and a dancing nun. She also enjoys hunting down the perfect french fry and not acting her age – a combination that makes her the ideal Gretel in W!ld Rice’’s latest pantomime about food, family and finding the right path home.

The Muse: Crazy About Adrian Pang This Christmas (Interview)

Adrian Pang. Photo courtesy of Dream Academy Productions.

Adrian Pang. Photo courtesy of Dream Academy Productions.

Looking at actor extraordinaire Adrian Pang, 46, sitting across from me in casual clothes and a pair of black plastic slippers, all smiles as he leans against the wall with one leg carelessly flung across the other knee, he seems like the friendliest man in the world. And yet he declares that he’s a Grinch when it comes to the festive seasons.

“I’m usually that guy at the party getting drunk in the corner by myself. When it gets close to Christmas my wife always says ‘Oh God it’s that time of year again – Adrian’s going to be even more miserable than usual!’ And she’s right,” he chuckles.

Despite his assertion, however, he could hardly keep the grin off his face as he talked about his upcoming show – the annual festive extravaganza Crazy Christmas.

“I’m a Crazy Christmas virgin. I’ve never done it before and haven’t even watched any of the previous productions, but if the rehearsals are anything to go by, it’s all just going to be unadulterated silliness!” he laughs. “We act like a bunch of 12-year-olds in there and get up to all sorts of nonsense. I’ve worked with and known most of the cast for years, so it’s really just a group of friends having a laugh. It’s great!”

The production, now in its fifth year, will have the theme of ‘Silver Screen Meets Silver Bell’ and feature various actors and references to movies from the golden age of the 1930s and 40s. Expect to say hello to Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin, and see warped excerpts of ‘Singing in the Rain’ amongst many others. And as for Pang’s role in all of this?

“Well it sort of switches as the whole thing’s a series of song-and-dance skits,” he says. He rubs his hand across his face as he bursts out laughing again. “But I will be playing Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz in the style of Marlon Brando at one point… You’ve been warned!”

“The show is a chance for friends and family to get together and relive old times, and just be children again… But it’s still really not my usual kind of thing, it’s an anomaly!” he quickly adds. “They only got me to agree to do this by dangling a carrot in front of me, saying my two sons can act alongside me, and I was like ‘Oh you clever bastards!’”

As great a thespian as Pang is, he insists that the most important role he plays is as a father to Zack, 13, and Xander, 12.

“Having children changed my life – it’s like now I know why God put me on this Earth!” he says, emphasising the gravity of the event by miming an explosion above his head with his hand.

While his schedule is certainly hectic – he started up a theatre company, Pangdemonium!, with his wife Tracie two years ago, and his stage presence is so prevalent that his face almost never leaves the billboards – he makes sure that he still gets some quality family time.

“I get very upset whenever I feel like I’m not spending enough time with my boys. When that happens, something’s got to give and I just have to say no to something,” he says. “I’m in a very fortunate place right now where I can choose which projects I take on, so I make sure to choose very carefully and selectively.”

“Three years ago I felt very tied down,” he adds in reference to his previous involvement in TV. “If we had this conversation back then I would’ve been complaining about everything! I was really miserable. But now, I’m very happy with my life. I’m fortunate to be doing what I love and I count my blessings every day. I still do TV occasionally – when something good turns up – but I’ve found that I’m most at home when I’m on stage before a live audience.”

Pang spent eight years acting in the UK after graduating from Keele University and only came back to Singapore in 2001 when he got enticed by a phone call from the former TV company MediaWorks (which got swallowed up by MediaCorp in 2005). Speaking as someone who has acted on both sides of the world, he believes that the theatre scene in Singapore still has a long way to grow.

“Acting in Singapore is definitely very different compared to the UK, and I have to try and bridge the gap in sensibility between the two places,” he says. “I think Singapore as a country is still trying to define its identity, but we should start realising that the audience here is intelligent enough to figure things out on their own. We don’t need to relocate a play to Singapore in order for them to be able to relate to it – they are smart enough to work that out for themselves.”

“But in my 20 years of acting, I’ve learnt that you’re never going to please everyone. You’re always going to piss somebody off, so the only thing I can do is to try my best and hopefully get something out of it,” he continues. “Sometimes I get projects where I fall in love with the people, fall in love with the process, and the final product is a piece of shit, but that’s fine, at least we had fun. The worst ones are when you didn’t have fun, you hated every minute of it, and the final thing is still a piece of shit…”

Judging by the way that he banged on about Crazy Christmas, however, we’re willing to bet that this is one production that he definitely had fun with – even though he confessed that his dance moves still needs a lot of work and that ‘there are some terrible jokes in it, in a nudge-wink, knowingly-terrible way’.

“I might even learn to spread some Christmas joy,” he concludes. “It’s terrible, really!”

The Muse: ‘God of Carnage’ Review

‘God of Carnage’. Photo courtesy of the Singapore Repertory Theatre.

God of Carnage is a play that involves four grown ups screaming at each other for an hour and a half without a change of costume, set, or lighting. On the surface Yasmina Reza’s black comedy of manners is a recipe for disaster, but it has gone on to win a string of prestigious awards after receiving critical acclaim on both West End and Broadway. And, by the looks of this production by the Singapore Repertory Theatre, it may well take Asia by storm too.

The story is set in Michael (Adrian Pang) and Veronica’s (Lea Salonga) immaculate living room when Alan (Art Acuña) and Anette (Menchu Yauchengco-Yulo) visited following an altercation between the two couples’ children. What starts off as a civilised discussion soon disintegrates, however, as social masks crack and each character’s true colours are revealed.

The fact that the play’s main theme is an exploration of how people deal with anger is tricky, for it is an emotion that can very easily be overdone. Drunkenness and tears, likewise, is often taken too far. And then there’s trying to keep the audience in stitches during the very awkward situation without being lame. Essentially, the whole play balances on a network of tightropes, all of which has to be trodden with immense care for everything to come together.

Happily, the four actors rose to the challenge and did a fantastic job overall. They have a strong chemistry between them and understand their roles very well. They know that as much as they despise each other, they also need each other because this is the most human they’ve probably ever been in their entire lives. The great thing, too, is that not one person steals the show – all four of them are competent actors who are able to make powerful statements without necessarily doing it with words. Facial expressions, scoffs, giggles or even just a look can often say more than enough.

Without trying too hard, they are able to make a debate about whether or not it’s murder to dump a pet hamster in the front porch, or whether a clafouti is a tart or a cake, very funny. The magic to this performance lies in the subtleties – it is an extremely organic and natural production that makes it easily relatable to the audience.

They also interact well with their props – Veronica’s attachment to her precious limited edition art books, Michael’s love for his rum and cigars, Anette’s constant fidgeting of her bag (and bucket, after she threw up all over the living room), and Alan’s inability to be separated from his phone – which all stand for various aspects of their personalities. Everything is on stage for a reason, and everything is utilised to their full potential to make a statement.

The set, too, is elegantly designed. The bright white and red furnishings, juxtaposed with the yellow tulips, form a deceiving backdrop of sophistication that is tellingly turned upside down and inside out by the end of the show, as all four adults have arguably acted more childishly than their kids.

Overall this is a very enjoyable performance. Like all great theatre, God of Carnage succeeds in forcing the audience to think about the social masks that we have adopted as we grew up, but also makes for a lot of laughs. I would thoroughly recommend a visit.

The Muse: ‘The Bootleg Beatles’ Review

The Bootleg Beatles. Photo from www.bootlegbeatles.com.

The Bootleg Beatles. Photo from http://www.bootlegbeatles.com.

There are some bands that one should never try to cover because it is virtually impossible to do them justice, and any attempt to do so would usually end in embarrassment for everyone involved. The Fab Four ranks pretty high on that list, but The Bootleg Beatles not only has the audacity to cover their songs – they even imitate their looks, their fashion, and their mannerisms. And the most insane part of the whole shebang is that they have been pulling it all off impeccably since 1980.

The concert is divided into four parts, each representing a different period of the Beatles’ spectacular ten-year career between 1960 and 70. The change in era is accompanied by a change of costumes – with the most spectacular one being the legendary neon satin military outfits from ‘Sgt Pepper’s Band’ – and together with the help of wigs and occasional fake moustaches, the four guys onstage look uncannily convincing.

Being someone born a few decades too late to have had the pleasure to experience The Beatles first hand, this concert gave me the opportunity to witness something that I imagine is pretty darn close to the real deal. Steve White, Adam Hastings, Andre Barreau and Hugo Degenhardt could not have made a more similar Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr respectively if I’d dreamt the whole thing up. The four of them share a natural rapport and they all possess the same cheeky charm as The Beatles, with the addition of occasional anachronistic quips.

‘Take as many photographs as you like,’ one of them said. ‘Just don’t use digital cameras because, you know, they haven’t been invented yet.’

‘We’ll be taking a short break,’ another announced before the interval. ‘For about six years.’

As if the lookalike aspect isn’t impressive enough, they are also the epitome of pitch perfect and sound exactly like The Beatles of my CDs. They manage to capture every minute emotion in every single note, and fully deserve the standing ovation they received. The band is backed by a fantastic team of back up musicians, but Annette Brown warrants a special mention for both her enthusiastic tambourine shaking as well as her astounding piccolo trumpet solo for ‘Penny Lane’.

Another element I loved is the visual projections that provide a backdrop throughout the show. I am normally extremely put off by them because they come across as tacky more often than not, but in this case it’s simple, quirky, effective, and really helped to enhance the performance.

The band played all the classics from ‘Love Me Do’ to ‘Help!’; from ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ to ‘Back in the USSR’ in the two-and-a-half hour show. Even though the Grand Theatre at Marina Bay Sands is supposed to be one of the ‘posher’ venues in town, the band succeeded in getting everyone up and dancing.

The concert was phenomenal in every sense, and the band members are legends in their own right.

The Muse: ‘Company’ Review

The cast of 'Company'. Photo courtesy of Dream Academy Productions.

The cast of ‘Company’. Photo courtesy of Dream Academy Productions.

Stephen Sondheim’s 1970 concept musical is an exploration of love, lust, and whether it’s better to be single or married. Due to its unconventional nature, Company will not be everybody’s cup of tea and those expecting a mainstream sing-along affair will be disappointed. The show has no linear plot, but rather examines its central themes through a series of sketches. However, famed local director Hossan Leong believes that now is good time to put on the show in Singapore as there are a lot of single people in the country who are wondering the same thing as Company’s protagonist, Bobby (Peter Ong) – ‘Should we just find a nice girl and settle down, or will we be happier with an endless string of girl/boyfriends?’

In an attempt to make the musical even more relatable, Leong has decided to move the location of the show from New York to Singapore. While this is successful on some levels – the references to hawker food in one scene got plenty of laughs, for instance – there are also times when it feels forced. When one of Bobby’s girlfriends, the Filipina Marta (Mina Ellen Kaye), says that she came to Singapore because ‘it is the heart of the universe’, it didn’t quite make sense. Yes, this Little Red Dot is great, but Singapore is no New York.

The sketches, which form the backbone of the show and portray Bobby’s interaction with five pairs of his closest friends, are meant to show us what different aspects of married life is like. Some couples are fantastic; the soon-to-be-married Paul (Tim Garner) and Amy (Petrina Kow) share a tangible chemistry as the former tries to be doting and reassuring while the latter has a nervous breakdown on their wedding day, and Sarah (Candice de Rozario) and Harry (Juanda Hassim), who are supposedly on a diet and on the wagon respectively, also make a brilliantly comical pair.

The others, however, are mostly sweet but frankly quite forgettable, as their characters were not fully developed. Tan Kheng Hua, as great an actress as she is, overplays her character Joanne, as she seems too confident to play an insecure character who is both too young for the old crowd and too old for the young crowd. The skit with David (Brendon Fernandez) and Jenny (Karen Tan) getting high with Bobby is also confusing and highly unconvincing, particularly as their animated rants and fast-paced dialogue is not a characteristic commonly associated with the effects caused by marijuana.

Ong’s interpretation of Bobby comes across as one-dimensional. There is very little character development throughout the first act especially; he is far too easy-going and laid back to be the protagonist, and his friends apparently have nothing negative to say about him, which makes him a rather unrealistic character. His character shows more depth in the second act, however, and he finishes on a strong note as he sings the well-loved classic ‘Being Alive’ with heart-felt emotion.

One of my favourite parts the show is Kow’s rendition of the notoriously difficult ‘(Not) Getting Married Today’, which she nails as she successfully brings out the vulnerability and terror of a bride-to-be without overdoing it. Another highlight is Seong Hui Xuan’s performance as Bobby’s well-endowed bimbo girlfriend April, as she manages to be dim and adorable in equal measures without coming across as annoying. I also very much enjoyed the sexily delivered ‘You Can Drive A Person Crazy’ by Seong, Ngim, and girlfriend number three Kathy(Glory Ngim).

The minimalist no-frills set, designed by Eucien Chia, screams bachelor pad, and the pull-down bed is ingenious. It achieves its purpose of providing a backdrop without overshadowing the action going on.

Does the production accomplish what it sets out to? Yes and no. It does make for a fun night out at the theatre, but I didn’t come away feeling the love it’s supposed to convey, and Bobby’s revelation that he would like to get married seems too sudden and unfounded. That said, considering how difficult a musical Company is and the fact that the cast had only spent six weeks on rehearsals, this is not too shabby a performance. Were they able to dedicate more time to understanding these very complex characters, I believe it has the potential to be a much stronger show.

The Muse: You’ve Got ‘Company’ (Interview)

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Hossan Leong (right) in the rehearsal room. Photo by Sung Lin Gun.

As Singapore prepares for the arrival of a localised rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s 1970 Tony-award winning masterpiece Company, The Muse takes a sneak peek backstage and catches up with the show’s Director Hossan Leong and Choreographer George Chan.

The concept musical is set in the home of protagonist Robert (Peter Ong) as his 10 coupled-up friends throw him a surprise 35th birthday party. A series of short sketches is then played out to explore the relationships between each couple – as well as their relationship with Robert. As Hossan Leong puts it romantically, “At the heart of it, Company is all about Love.”

Leong has chosen to transport the New York-based comedy to Singapore, although he is quick to point out that “It’s not in Singlish – the dialogue remains the same as the original – we’ve only changed the references, subway to MRT and things like that.” The reason behind this change is that he feels a lot of people in the country will be able to relate to it.

“There are lots of Singaporeans who are not married and wondering why,” Leong observes. “Even my friends – one of them called me up the other day and asked, ‘Why am I still single? Is it my looks?’ and I told him to come see the play. At first he was like ‘Aiyah you and your theatre things.’ But then he went to Google it and called me back saying, ‘That is my LIFE!’ So I think a lot of people will think the same. Why not stage it now rather than 20 years later when everybody will already be married?”

Working closely together with Leong is the 41-year-old stage veteran George Chan, who is also Director for The Hossan Leong Show. To Chan, choreographing Company proves to be an interesting project: for one thing, he admits that he has never actually watched or staged the production before; for another, he made it very clear right from the start of our little chat that, “Company is not like Chicago or Mamma Mia! where you have these big dance scenes. This is not really a dance show. It’s more about the acting and the songs. So it’s about doing just enough to tell the story.”

That said, Chan does know the score of the musical extremely well, having used the famous Being Alive as his go-to audition song numerous times in earlier days to bring out his high tenor voice.

“Usually [when I’m choreographing] I would listen to the music and see what pictures come to mind, then quickly jot it down,” says Chan. “But in this case, because I’m so familiar with the songs, I already had some ideas in my head. The rest is about the cast – how to shape them as a group, getting everybody on the same wavelength, and what they are comfortable with – and how to bring out the humour.”

Chan has previously worked with a number of the show’s 14-strong cast, including Karen Tan and Tan Kheng Hua, but most of them are trained as professional actors and singers rather than dancers.

“There are only three of them who are more technically trained, so I’ve given them a bit more to play with in the songYou Can Drive A Person Crazy,” Chan says, referring to Mina Kaye, Glory Ngim, and Seong Hui Xian, who play Robert’s girlfriends. “But it’s really fun working with everybody. Everybody’s crazy!”

He is also grateful for the suggestions that the actors have made throughout rehearsals, even for seemingly little things like how their high heels or dresses are making it difficult to do a particular movement. In order to ensure that everything comes together as naturally and seamlessly as possible, Chan tries to stay in contact with the people in charge of lighting and costumes at all times. But there are also other challenges.

“In a way, I have it really easy with Company because everything is there. When I did my last show, Lao Jiu [the musical adapted from Kuo Pao Kun’s eponymous play], it was a totally new production so I could go back to the composer and tweak it anytime, but with this one I can’t do that,” he says. “I feel like I am boxed in a little, so I have to look for other ways to interpret it creatively, mostly by playing with the pacing.”

So what should we be most looking forward to in the show?

“Definitely the songs,” Chan replies without hesitation. “I’m blown away the vocal talent every time I hear it, especially from Peter Ong when he sings Being Alive. It is just so beautiful. I’m never using it as my audition song again after hearing him sing it!”