Time Out Singapore: ‘Beauty World’ Review

10 Dec 2015: Gwen Pew cha-cha-chas her way through the beaded curtains to delve into the sleazy ‘Beauty World’

★★★★☆

Beauty World - Alfred Phang

Photo by Alfred Phang

As one of the first locally produced English-language musicals, there’s no denying that Dick Lee and Michael Chiang’s Beauty World holds a special place in Singapore’s theatrical canon. Twenty-seven years and five stagings later, it’s still a charming production that leaves the audience both entertained and aching for a happier ending.

Set in the glamorous, seedy ’60s, the show follows 19-year-old Ivy Chan Poh Choo as she travels from Batu Pahat in Malaysia to Singapore in search of the parents who abandoned her at birth. A jade pendant is her only clue, and it leads her to the murky realm of cabaret nightclub Beauty World, where the music is hot, the girls bitchy and the drinks strong. What follows is a tale of love, jealousy and betrayal.

This production is nowhere near as glitzy as Wild Rice’s 2008 version, and instead chooses to highlight the grittier aspects of the story. This is reflected in an ingeniously designed set created by Wong Chee Wai – the cabaret nightclub oozes sleaze, while a sense of desperate loneliness lingers in the yellowed, peeling walls of all the other spaces. Within these dirty walls, a brilliant bunch of colourful characters come alive.

The cast have big shoes to fill, as Beauty World has an illustrious alumnus that includes Claire Wong and Lim Kay Siu. But fill it they do. The role of Ivy is confidently taken on by Malaysian jazz singer and actor Cheryl Tan, who succeeds in depicting Ivy’s wide-eyed naivety while holding her own as a strong-minded heroine. Her angelic voice also brings out the best in Lee’s score, still catchy after all these years. Likewise, Janice Koh, Timothy Wan and Frances Lee – who play Mummy, Ah Hock and Rosemary respectively – evoke such depth and sensitivity in their characters that it’s easy for us to root for them.

Mediacorp actor Jeanette Aw’s role as the nightclub’s queen bee, Lulu, should have been one of the biggest highlights of the show, but her performance underwhelms. She’s got the whole sexy temptress thing down pat, and yet she never comes across as either vicious or tragic. Her big scene takes place right at the end, but she is unable to convey the full spectrum of emotions and bring home the full weight of the moment. She sobs, but somehow, her tears just don’t say enough.

Still, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable riot of a show. It’s not one that leaves you satisfied – it is, after all, set in a world where beauty is only skindeep – and a trail of broken dreams is left hanging in the air. But hey, life is a cabaret, old chum, so come to the cabaret.

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Time Out Singapore: ‘The LKY Musical’ Review

1 Aug 2015: This hyped-up musical, starring the excellent Adrian Pang as Lee Kuan Yew, is as slickly put together as it is predictable

★★★☆☆

The LKY Musical - Watson Lau

Photo by Watson Lau

It doesn’t get any more SG50 than this. The LKY Musical has been one of the most talked-about plays of the year, and unsurprisingly so: it celebrates the life of one of our founding fathers, and it’s due to be staged right through the National Day festivities.

It’s risky to portray such an iconic man on stage, but on paper, the newly minted Metropolitan Productions’ inaugural performance sounds great. Everyone likes a success story, and this one is backed by a stellar cast and crew that include composer Dick Lee, lyricist Stephen Clark and librettist Tony Petito, with Adrian Pang starring as the titular character and Sharon Au as his wife, Kwa Geok Choo.

The show takes us from Lee Kuan Yew’s Raffles College days – when he sulked about his future wife, affectionately called ‘Choo’, beating him in the English and Economic exams – to Singapore’s independence. It unfolds against a minimalistic, effective set, crafted by London-based stage design company takis, that comprises a series of moving wooden panels onto which photos and newspaper headlines are projected.

Although the stories featured in the production are those we know well, it’s refreshing to see them told in a theatrical setting. Our main concern, however, lies in the way that they are told. Twenty-five years is a lot of ground to cover in two and a half hours, but rather than focus on a few key events in detail, the show hurtles through many. Chapters from the former prime minister’s life are only touched upon lightly. One scene cuts quickly to the next, and there’s nothing and no one to serve as an anchor. At times, it feels like we’re watching a dramatised version of Lee’s CV.

Due to the pace, the characters are not given the time to develop. They seem more like stock characters – the supportive wife, the happy-go-lucky trishaw driver, the poker-loving former prime minister of Malaysia – than three-dimensional people. It becomes difficult for us to empathise with any of them, which is a shame as they have great back­stories.

That’s not to say that the cast didn’t give it their all. Pang perfectly encapsulates Lee’s passionate determination and the conflicts that he faced during his lifetime, while newcomer Benjamin Chow portrays the role of friend-turned-rival Lim Chin Siong in a measured, balanced way. Sebastian Tan steps away from his Broadway Beng persona here, though he’s clearly well suited to take on the part of Koh Teong Koo, the kind Hokkien rickshaw puller credited as having saved Lee’s life during the Japanese occupation. Au, to some extent, captures Kwa’s ‘perfect Asian wife’ image, although she is clearly not as musically trained as her fellow cast members, and doesn’t get much time onstage.

It’s a shame. The romance between Lee and Kwa – a beautiful tale in itself – would have been a brilliant way to tie the loose plot together. She was, after all, his rock in real life, and he had often said that he would not be who he was without her. Rather than positioning this as a love story and have the political storm rage in the background (or vice versa), this production ends up downplaying their relationship during those tumultuous years.

As the first show dedicated to arguably the nation’s most significant political figure, the play does have its place in the history of local theatre. It tells Lee’s – and Singapore’s – story without completely airbrushing out the not-so-flattering chapters (Operation Coldstore does get a brief mention). Yet it’s by no means revolutionary: the whole story is still fairly predictable and the colouring is done within the lines. But as far as SG50 celebrations go, this is par for the course.

Time Out Singapore: ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ Review

23 Jul 2015: If you’re looking to have a splashing good time, check out this West End smash hit – it’s almost impossible not to come out of the theatre grinning

★★★★☆

Singin in the Rain - Hagen Hopkins

Photo by Hagen Hopkins

As the stage version of Gene Kelly’s beloved film Singin’ in the Rain splish-splashes into town, we went into the theatre expecting a good time. And we weren’t disappointed. A gorgeous flurry of colour, humour and upbeat tunes, it’s the kind of show that checks all the feel-good boxes and urges you to leave your worries at the door.

Set in the ’20s, the show opens at the premiere of a silent movie, starring Don Lockwood (Duane Alexander) and Lina Lamont (Taryn-Lee Hudson). Despite their onscreen romance, Don can’t stand Lina, whose comically terrible voice also puts her at odds with her studio, which is hoping to embrace the talkies. So the studio heads enlist an aspiring actress, Kathy Seldon (Bethany Dickson), to be her voiceover artist. And here’s another spanner in the works: Kathy and Don fall head over heels with each other, leaving behind one jealous and angry Lina.

The cast is great to watch, and there’s a lot of chemistry between them. The two female leads – Hudson and Dickson – stand out by singing beautifully and deliberately horrendously, respectively, while Steven van Wyk shines in his role as Don’s loyal yet overlooked best friend, Cosmo Brown. As a result of these very strong actors, however, Alexander’s performance as Don does come across as somewhat bland, though not to the point at which it affects the overall experience.

The set is kept simple for the production, a good call as it allows us to focus on the impressive costumes and choreography. This is most evident in the number ‘The Broadway Ballet’, in which almost the entire cast performs in a brightly coloured dance sequence. Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed’s songs are still catchy more than half a century after the fact, and they’re all wonderfully sung by the cast and well supported by the live orchestra.

But of course, the scene that everyone’s waiting for is the title song, performed at the end of the first act and reprised during the finale. We’re told that 12,000l of water is used in each performance, as the stage – and the audience members in the first four rows – gets drenched. It’s a sight to behold, and so much fun that it’s bound to unleash your inner five-year-old.

The show is the perfect way to de-stress after a long day, so get in there, kick back, sing along, and know that you’ll come out with that ‘glorious feelin’’, and ‘be happy again’.

Time Out Singapore: ‘Singapura – The Musical’ Review

10 Jun 2015: The made-in-Philippines musical about Singapore isn’t ready for the world stage yet, but Gwen Pew believes that it nonetheless shows potential

★★★☆☆

Photo: Singapura - The Musical

Photo: Singapura – The Musical

So we got to the party a little late for this one. Amid rumours that Singapura: The Musical was going to close earlier than expected, we decided to hold our horses. But once The 4th Wall, the Filipino company behind the production, confirmed that it will go on for a couple more weeks – although the exact closing date has been adjusted a few times since – we headed for the beautifully refurbished Capitol Theatre.

We’re glad we waited. The musical has been cast in a pretty negative light so far, but it’s since had time to settle in and for minor elements to be tweaked. And while the show we saw had its flaws, there’s plenty of promise – all hope is not lost.

Singapura tells the story of the Tan family, headed by bus driver Tan Kok Yang (Juliene Mendoza) and his wife Bee Ling (Maybelle Ti) as they struggle through the decade prior to Singapore’s independence. It centres on the smart, headstrong daughter Lee May (Marian Santiago), who goes to law school to learn to fight for what she believes in and ends up caught in a love triangle between British officer Lieutenant Flynn (David Bianco) and her Malay childhood friend Adam (Reb Atadero) – no doubt emblems for the two sides that Singapore was caught in between at the time.

By now, most people would have read the reviews, which definitely do make salient points. At almost two and a half hours, the show is too long. Parts such as the Empress Dowager drifting across the stage at the beginning, or the song during which dancers from different races that make up Singapore come together, can – and should – be cut altogether.

On other fronts, we saw things a little differently. The inconsistent accents that many have flagged up, for instance, hardly bothered us. Sure, you can tell that the mostly Filipino actors are not native Singlish speakers, and their manner of speech understandably doesn’t go down well with the local audience. But when – or if – it does travel to other countries, their relatively neutral accents, lightly tinged with traces of our dialect, will hardly be a concern.

Off to see the world, Ma!

Singapura is, ostensibly, a family drama – not an odyssey into the historical annals of the Lion City. The show demands it be appreciated as such: the Tans in the foreground, the independence of Singapore only as context and a backdrop. Unfortunately, Singapura shoots itself in the foot by cramming in too much, muddling its script and toppling its poise.

Crucially, the company hopes to bring the story to the world stage. While local theatregoers may confuse Singapura with an elementary social studies class, an international audience won’t. After all, their perception of our fair city is built upon the concrete of Marina Bay Sands and not the rubble of our pre-1965 years.

And, really, even if Singaporeans are already aware of these pivotal moments, scenes like the Hock Lee bus riots, the race riots and the Konfrontasi have hardly – if ever – been enacted so vividly on our own stages.

It’s a shame that despite us going to a Saturday night show, the audience barely occupied a quarter of the theatre. Nonetheless, the cast soldiered on. Their acting borders on melodramatic at times, but most of the show is performed through song, and the power of their vocal chords is phenomenal. They are also well supported by the orchestra, which brought to life composer Ed Gatchalian’s melodic score.

Singapura still feels like a first draft. There’s a lot of polishing to be done before it becomes a story we can be proud of. They’ve already modified little things – they told us they’ve made alterations including ‘a lyric change here, a lighting change there; a shortened intro here, a blocking change there’ – but we’re hoping they’ll eventually get around to working on the more major issues, too.

And if they do, you can bet your ticket that we’ll be the first ones there.

Time Out Singapore: ‘Cats’ Review

The famous meow-sical may no longer be the most cutting-edge of shows, but the production that’s currently in town is nonetheless a valiant effort, says Gwen Pew

★★★☆☆

Cats

16 Jan 2015: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s feline-themed musical ran for 18 and 21 years on Broadway and in the West End respectively. If the show were a child, it technically reached legal drinking age on both sides of the Atlantic. Based on a collection of cleverly written poems by the great TS Eliot called Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the musical is set on the night of the ‘Jellicle Ball’, where the tribe of cats – known as the Jellicles – assembles and sees which one of them gets chosen to be reborn into a new life. It’s easy to see why it was so critically acclaimed in the 1980s – the staging is imaginative, the songs are fun and, in the age before the internet, it’s an excellent way for people to come together and express their love for cats.

But in the 21st century, when our attention span has been shortened to 140 characters and we’re constantly bombarded with fresh information, the three-hour show – which sees little action and doesn’t have much of a plot to speak of – now seems outdated. Indeed, Lloyd Webber has already revamped it and the revival just opened in the West End last month.

If you’d like to see the original version, however, this is probably your last chance: we heard that the production that’s currently showing at MasterCard Theatres – a joint venture between BASE Entertainment and Lunchbox Theatrical Productions with Lloyd Webber’s The Really Useful Group – may well be its last world tour.

And all in all, this is a pretty good rendition of the classic. The set – a junkyard that oozes a raffish charm thanks to the strings of fairy lights threaded from stage to stalls – is worthy of any stage in London or New York. The costumes and make-up, too, are breathtakingly flamboyant.

But of course, this is ultimately about cats, and the cats are great on the whole. This is especially the case for the most famous of them, including the charismatic bad boy Rum Tum Tugger (Earl Gregory), the magical Mr Mistoffelees (Christopher Favaloro) – who performed a brilliant choreography for his song – and Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat (Jarryd Nurden). The star of the show is definitely Grizabella (Erin Cornell), whose performance of ‘Memory’ fully lived up to our high expectations, her voice filling up the entire auditorium with piercing emotions. They are well-matched by the rest of the cast, too.

There are some aspects that could be stronger, however. The singing very often gets drowned out by the live band, which is a shame as the poetry of the lyrics is lost to those who are unfamiliar with them; the parts where all the cats sing or talk simultaneously are especially difficult for the audience to catch. Certain scenes could also have been explained more clearly: it’s not immediately obvious, for instance, that the characters onstage were cockroaches and dogs in ‘The Old Gumbie Cat’ and ‘The Awful Battle Of The Pekes And The Pollicles’ respectively. And the appearance of the fearful criminal cat, Macavity, is a bit of an anticlimax, as it took the crowd a while to realise that he made his entrance in the box seats, and his time onstage was brief.

Still, it’s worth a watch if you’re a musicals fan – or a cat lover – who has had Cats on your theatrical bucket list for far too long. By the end of the show, you may not ‘understand what happiness is’, as Grizabella sings, but a new show has begun, and you might as well enjoy the memory while you can.

Time Out Singapore: ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

14 Oct 2014: Three drag queens walk into a bar on their way from Sydney to Alice Springs in Australia, and despite getting a dance party started in there, they came out to find that the locals have sprayed hateful words onto their lavender-coloured van (nicknamed Priscilla, Queen of the Desert). That’s not funny, of course, but it’s a scene from a musical that promises to be an entertaining and colourful singalong journey to acceptance.

Based on Stephan Elliott’s 1994 film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the story centres on drag queen Anthony ‘Tick’ Belrose as he and two friends hit the road to a night club in the resort town to perform a show as a favour to his ex-wife. What his mates don’t know is that he has an ulterior motive: He will finally get to meet his eight-year-old son after the show.

Priscilla will be making its debut in Singapore this month, and its largely Filipino cast will be joined by local actor/director/playwright Jonathan Lim ofChestnuts fame. Lim will star as one of the drag queen performers, Miss Understanding. The performance deals with some fabulously grownup themes – yes, that does include homosexuality – but director Jaime del Mundo is convinced that it’s a show that everyone can enjoy. ‘I love its joy, its buoyancy and its celebration of individuality,’ he says.

‘I love the fact that though the musical teems with high spirits, it does not sugar-coat the realities of prejudice and the challenges that life choices sometimes force one to face. But most of all, I love the fact that it is a show about family for families!’

Time Out Singapore: ‘Rock of Ages’ Review

Despite a brilliant band, some great actors and all its good intentions, Gwen Pew can’t help but feel that Rock of Ages falls somewhat short of its lofty rock ‘n’ roll aspirations.

Rock of Ages

22 Aug 2014: It was supposed to be a great night out. The stage was already set when we walked into the theatre, and a soundtrack was blasting ’80s rock ‘n’ roll to get us in the mood. But then, as we inched closer to the starting time, it soon became apparent that the handful of us there – we barely filled up a quarter of the 1,600-seater space – were all that’s going to show up. Granted, it was a Tuesday evening, and Resorts World Theatre is technically speaking off the mainland so perhaps it’s a bit inconvenient to get to, but still.

The small turn out would have been fine if it were a cosy sort of show, but Rock of Ages isn’t one of those. To their credit, the band – which remains onstage throughout the entire performance – really did try their best to fill out the echoey space, but as a result of that (and the fact that sound guys didn’t adjust their levels properly), they also ended up drowning out most of the singing.

The main plot follows a small town Kansan girl called Sherrie (Shannon Mullen) who moves to Los Angeles to become an actress, and meets a rockstar-wannabe, Drew (Dominique Scott), at a bar called The Bourbon Room on the famously colourful Sunset Strip. The two instantly fall in love, but of course, life and miscommunication get in the way of them being together for most of the show. There is definitely chemistry between the pair, but Mullen tries a tad too hard at times, while Scott could have stood out a lot more – he has a great singing voice, but we only get glimpses of his potential at certain points. Joshua Hobbs plays the role of the sleazy rockstar Stacee Jaxx brilliantly, and Kadejah Onè has a booming voice as The Venus Club’s Mama Justice. But without a doubt the biggest star of the show is Justin Colombo as the nunchucks-wielding Lonny, The Bourbon Room’s second in charge, and the narrator. Donning a variety of hilarious t-shirts – including one that says ‘Hooray for Boobies’ – he has perfected the subtle art of comedy, and breaks the fourth wall ever so naturally.

And if the story itself is somewhat flimsy, the choreography made up for it: and the dancers are focussed, synchronised – and hot. Coupled with a relatively simple but visually stunning set and atmospheric lighting, they really did bring out the character of The Strip.

The final song that the show concluded with is Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin”, and we have hope that maybe it was just a bad night: after all, like a rock concert, Rock of Ages is a musical that requires a full house to shine. With the right crowd and some of the technical creases ironed out, we suspect that it can be great, but while there wasn’t anything detrimentally wrong with it, the performance that we caught was unfortunately by and large uninspiring.

Time Out Singapore: ‘The Sound of Music’ Review

As the beloved story of Maria and the Trapp family arrives in Singapore, Gwen Pew finds this charming production – which stars six locally-selected children alongside a largely South African cast – an absolute delight.

The Sound of Music

19 Jul 2014: There’s an unofficial rule in theatre that one should never work with children, because it’s difficult to get things right when there are children involved. The Sound of Music breaks that rule six times over, as they brought in a bunch of locally-based kids – all aged between seven and 14 and who won their roles from an open audition held here a few months ago – to star alongside the seasoned, largely South African cast.  They are an absolute joy to watch: not only did they never miss a cue or a line, they ooze charm and cuteness while they’re at it, too.

Most of us are familiar with the story of Maria, a mischievous nun who becomes the governess, and later stepmother, to the seven children of the widowed Captain von Trapp against the backdrop of the Nazis’ advances. Comparisons to the 1965 movie starring Julie Andrews as Maria are inevitable. Indeed, some have noted that there are a few minor discrepencies here and there, though it should be remembered that the original Rodgers and Hammerstein musical preceeded the film adaptation by a good six years (and both of them were based on the 1956 German film, Die Trapp-Famillieand the real Maria’s own memoir). But just because all the action is restricted to the stage, it does not mean that the quality is compromised. In this Lunchbox Productions performance, the set is as elaborate as can be. From the grassy hills to Captain von Trapp’s lavishly furnished mansion, they magically transport us through time and place to the mountains of Austria in the 1930s. Meanwhile, the crew also shows careful attention to detail, to the point where the sky in the background actually gradually dims into a gorgeous sunset as a conversation goes on.

Bethany Dickson captures the spirit of Maria nicely despite a couple of cracked notes at the start, enunciating every word with beautiful clarity and melody, while Andre Schwartz’s portrayal of the Captain is that of a warm and gentle man whose strictness soon gives way to love and patriotism (culminating in a heartwrenching rendition of ‘Edelweiss’). James Borthwick and Taryn Sudding also depict the characters of the Captain’s friend Max Detweiler and Baroness Schraeder well and, blessed with by far the biggest voice, Janelle Visagie’s performance as the Mother Abbess stands out powerfully, filling the theatre with her kindness, wisdom and vibrato.

Overall, The Sound of Music is an absolute delight; its pacing is right and it strikes a good pace and balance between being fun and dealing with the serious implications of the Second World War. Whether it’s the sweet children, classic tunes like ‘Do Re Me’ and ‘My Favourite Things’ accompanied by wonderfully played live music, or simply to relive your childhood, there are plenty of reasons to catch the show. As long as it keeps up this level of professionalism consistently for the rest of its run here, there’s no doubt that it will be a success.

Time Out Singapore: ‘Starlight Express’ Preview

As Andrew Lloyd Webber’s popular rock musical about a child’s dream of trains hits Singapore this month, Gwen Pew gets three of the star engines to introduce themselves.

Rusty with (the not so trusty) Pearl. Image courtesy of BASE Entertainment Asia.

Rusty with (the not so trusty) Pearl. Image courtesy of BASE Entertainment Asia.

5 Nov 2013:

Greaseball (played by Jamie Capewell)

The look ‘I’m an Elvis lookalike with a massive dark quiff, shoulder pads like an American footballer, and very bulky in the muscle department. I also sport a headband with the Union Pacific [Railroad] logo on it and wear black, yellow and red.’
Personality ‘A bit of a show-off who loves himself and is king of the locker room. Charming and loveable, but little thick too… I also have a dark side and will do anything to win!’
Motto ‘Win, win, win!’
Best moves ‘Spinning, jumping [over fellow trains], riding ramps, lifting girls and lots more.’

Electra (played by Mykal Rand)

The look ‘I’m Electra, the engine of the future. My body is red, blue and silver. I have an electronic heartbeat on my chest and a Mohican that lights up. My face is very glittery.’
Personality ‘I’m very mischievous and dangerous when I don’t get my way. I’m a total control freak and I love myself.’
Motto ‘Electricity is taking charge!’
Best moves ‘My spins.’

Rusty (played by Kristoffer Harding)

The look ‘My main colour is orange – the colour of rust! I have a steam coal-burner on my back that keeps me going.’
Personality ‘Bouncy, lively, friendly guy – happy chappy.’
Motto ‘Bounce back and believe!’
Best moves ‘180-degree flips and tricks on the ramps.’

Time Out Singapore: ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ Preview

I Theatre takes the Brothers Grimm’s legendary fairy tales back to basics – but also breathes new life into them, as Gwen Pew discovers.

The cast of Grimm's Fairy Tales. Image courtesy of I Theatre.

The cast of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Image courtesy of I Theatre.

25 Oct 2013: First published in 1812 under the title of Children’s and Household Tales (or Kinderund Hausmärchen in its native German), Grimms’ Fairy Tales has been the staple collection of bedtime stories for many generations. They’ve even served as the first dollop of inspiration for numerous film adaptations and animations – but the original tales, recorded by Jacob and Wilheim Grimm based on traditional folk stories that were passed down verbally, are decidedly grittier, more violent and gruesome than what Disney will have you believe. Local stage company I Theatre is keen to present a more authentic version.

Though the performance will remain child-friendly, ‘this is definitely not just a musical for children,’ says I Theatre’s artistic director and resident playwright Brian Seward. ‘Parents will identify with some characters, teens with others. There’s romance – but not too much! – violence, death – only the baddies die! – adventure, trickery, courage, stupidity, intelligence, comedy and cunning.’

The whole process started over half a year ago when Seward sat down with his creative team and read through all 201 stories in the Brothers Grimms’ canon. They then picked out their personal favourites and decided which of those would work best with the popular tales that they felt they had to include. ‘I started developing the stories into a coherent script – keeping the story elements and original storylines from the original tales, but dramatising the speech and streamlining [the plot],’ says Seward. ‘And occasionally, I’d carefully re-work some of the more gruesome elements to make them suitable for a family audience.’

Nine stories were selected in the end, including The Musicians of Bremen, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, The Valiant Little Tailor and Little Red Riding Hood. But, rather than merely enacting them in a straight play, I Theatre decided to take on an extra challenge and turn the show into what they say will be a ‘full-scale Broadway-standard musical’. The key element of that is, of course, the score, which comes courtesy of associate composer Bang Wenfu. ‘The music is amazing, and it is a very integral part of the production,’ says Seward. ‘You will find a wide range of musical styles to go with the different stories.’

But it’s not just the tunes that they got creative with – audiences will also get to experience an interesting variety of acting styles, including the use of custom-made animal masks. ‘Puppets appear in at least three stories, and we use different styles and types of puppet for each story – one story even takes the form of a mini-opera!’ explains Seward. ‘The performers are working very hard to keep up with the various contrasting styles, and they are learning a range of different skills in addition to the ones they already have. We also brought in a specialist from Paris, who taught the performers the finer points of mask performance.’

Aside from puppet skills, the cast – which includes Dwayne Lau, Elizabeth Loh, Daphne Ong, Darren Guo, Cassandra Spykerman, Juliana Ong, Jonathan Lum and Trevelyan Neo – will be putting their versatility to the test, each playing at least eight characters and going through more than 50 costume changes during the fast-paced 90-minute production.

If you think you’re too grown up for silly tales and only kids will like the show, think again. After all, as the book’s original title suggests, it was meant for both children and the general household. ‘Audiences will find some of the less well-known stories fascinating,’ promises Seward, continuing, ‘and they might be surprised at the way we present some of the favourites! We believe there is something for every member of the family here, whether they are four years old, 14 years old, 34 or even 104.’