Wednesday, August 25, 2021

' Songs Of Hope & Yearning' in Review


By Jeremy Lee

22 Aug, 2021

If one wants to perform “live” amid a pandemic, persistence is a requirement, especially if it involves singing in Singapore.

When 4 friends decided to put on a vocal recital in 2020, they probably didn’t foresee that their dream would be postponed a few times, thanks to Covid-19 restrictions imposed by the authorities.

On Sunday, 22 August - almost a year from their initial date - it finally took place with the title Songs Of Hope & Yearning, possibly an inadvertent reflection of our collective desire to be free from this pandemic.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The Mad Scene LIVE | Ep.1. Hosted by Steven Ang Featuring Special Guest Martin Ng


The Mad Scene LIVE | Episode 1 | Hosted by Steven Ang with special guest Martin Ng

Based on the popular arts e-zine The Mad Scene from Singapore comes a talkshow interviewing performance arts personalities in Singapore and beyond, particularly in the fields of opera, theatre and classical music.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Mad Scene LIVE - 27 July 2021

 


We are back again! This time in a live talkshow format. I couldn't be happier to have superstar baritone Martin Ng as our first guest. 

The session will be held on Zoom on 29 July 2021, Thursday at 7.30pm. Event is FREE but donations are welcome. Please sign up on the form below if you would like to attend. Hope to see you there! 

The Mad Scene Live (special guest Martin Ng) (google.com)

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Commedia! by Baritone Steven Ang

 


I am please to share my latest album with you, Commedia!, a collection of arias and songs from comedic operas and musicals. 

The music was recorded during the lockdown months of March to July, and getting to make art during this tumultuous period was such a blessing to me. My performance of comedic roles and of scenes in concerts have always received positive feedback, to my gratitude, that I would like to take this opportunity to explore myself in this area. 

Please check out the album via the following streaming services:

Spotify:

Apple Music:

YouTube Music:

Check out my album launch concert on 27 December, 7.30pm Singapore time! Featuring special guest Zoey Lee. It's going to be a ball! 


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Vaughan Williams's 'Songs of Travel' by Steven Ang and Yann Perron

Watch Vaughan Williams's winter-themed wayfarer cycle Songs of Travel come to life in sunny Singapore! Baritone Steven Ang and pianist Yann Perron present a semi-staged performance in a digital broadcast exclusively on Steven's Facebook Artist Page (https://www.facebook.com/StevenAngOpera/). 

Find out more about the event here. Please hit 'Interested' or 'Going' to receive reminders closer to the date! 

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Gloria Estefan Musical - On Your Feet - 5 to 13 June 2020


Gloria Estefan's brand of latina-pop swept a generation and lauched a fad that later made stars of Latin Americans like Ricky Martin and Shakira. Check out their biggest hits in this musical made up of her best hits, produced with her husband Emilio Estefan.



Log on to  MBS's website for more information and tickets!
https://www.marinabaysands.com/entertainment/shows/on-your-feet.html

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Review: Lim Boon Keng : More Than Just an MRT Station

Lim Boon Keng : More than just an MRT station

10 Oct, 2019 at the Victoria Theatre
Review by Jeremy Lee

When I first heard that there was going to be a Lim Boon Keng - The Musical, my first thought was: “Oh finally, they are going to do a musical on the Barisan Socialis leader who was Lee Kuan Yew’s political ally and could have even become our PM if things worked out differently. Is it a Bicentennial companion piece to the LKY Musical?”

Yes, I sheepishly admit my ignorance in thinking the protagonist of the latest production by Musical Theatre Limited was Lim Chin Siong -- but admit it, wouldn’t most people?

However, the absence of Dr Lim Boon Keng in our collective consciousness is actually a sad reflection of how a true Singaporean pioneer was virtually wiped from history. Unless the average Singaporean can be bothered to do a search for the scant information about him in the National Archives of Singapore, what would they know about the man besides the fact that an MRT station is named after him?


Thus book writer Stella Kon, who is Dr Lim’s great-granddaughter, hopes to change that, and remind us of her ancestor’s achievements. The “Emily of Emerald Hill” scribe was just 12 when he died, and had to do research on her own to find out more about him.

It turns out that as portrayed by the musical, which is running till 13 October at the Victoria Theatre, Dr Lim was a man of great ideals, but also a man of contradictions.

The show takes great pains to showcase how as a Peranakan, Dr Lim is a true blend of East and West -- on one hand, he spoke English, was a Queen’s Scholar and received the Order of the British Empire. On the other, both his wives were born in China, and he was so passionate about China’s modernisation and Chinese language learning that he was president of Xiamen University for 16 years.

He also had progressive ideas for the time, urging the then-still very conservative Peranakans to send their daughters to school and founding the Singapore Chinese Girls School for that purpose.

However, when we first meet Dr Lim as a young man, the show chooses to highlight his lofty ideals by depicting him as somewhat of a blowhard, with his penchant for lecturing his long-suffering wife Margaret, despite her being herself a noblewoman who was educated in the West. One wonders why she eventually marries him and becomes the love of his life, considering she can’t seem to get a word in edgeways.

Her life is (mercifully?) cut short when she dies of consumption, and Dr Lim, for all his progressive ideals, ironically succumbs to a match-made second marriage. This is where the show got a bit confusing for me, as this was depicted in a non-linear fashion, i.e. one moment he is with Margaret, the next his second wife Grace pops up and in the scene after that he introduces Margaret as his wife again. Presumably, this is so the audience can be treated to a lovely number with both women singing together, but otherwise I’m not sure why that decision was made.


The actresses playing the women who put up with Dr Lim, however, are the most watchable things about the show. Audrey Luo, an always-delightful veteran of the local theatre scene, shines during her unfortunately-too-short time on stage as Margaret, who despite being encumbered with a behemoth of a dress that manages to look frumpy despite being eye-blindingly red, manages to convey her intelligence and pluckiness amid a world of men. The show would have benefited from giving her more stage time.

Celine Rosa Tan gives off quiet dignity but no less intelligence as second wife Grace who, spending a lifetime by the side of Dr Lim, is of great help and comfort to him. Her magical singing voice also transforms otherwise-forgettable songs into plaintive glimpses into the mind of a woman who will always be overshadowed by her husband’s first love.

The always-dependable Sebastian Tan, better known as Broadway Beng, showcases his soaring voice and impeccable diction in a variety of languages for a very charming but not very intimate portrayal of the man. However, he does capably in the challenge of reflecting the full weight of 80 years of a man’s life in just 90 minutes of stage time without intermission.

Ah yes, the length -- while the 3.5-hour original cut would have been punishing for the audience and the cast, making the decision to trim it to an unconventional 90 minutes (a musical is typically about 2 hours plus, with an interval that would give rise to an appropriately dramatic first act finale) means that the pages of history are brutally rendered impactless -- as such, the musical feels like it should be longer, and strangely enough, also somehow feels like it should be shorter.

To move things along, the chorus members thus function as sort of a Greek chorus. Through what they say to one another, we learn the historical background and what happened that wasn’t portrayed on stage. While it’s a serviceable way to condense 60-plus years of history (from 1865 to 1957) into 90 minutes, it means that your attention just has to wander for a couple of seconds and you might miss an important bit of information that would render the next scene bewildering.

Perhaps the spiels about his affection for Chinese culture and British education could have been further shortened or cut to foreground what, in my opinion, is the most relatable part of the show for local audiences -- not the love story, but Dr Lim’s Peranakan local roots and how he tried to change the ideas of Straits Chinese in Singapore to their derision.


Being of Peranakan background myself, I appreciated the effort put into recreating what Peranakans were like in bygone years (what, you mean they bound girls’ feet too? I thought only China people did that!). Thus I wished that apart from crowd-pleasing songs like “Merci Buku” and the ode to “Sambal Belachan” serving as delightful but inconsequential bon mots of Peranakan life, the show would have delved more into his interaction with the local community, and his efforts to bring them into the future.

Nevertheless, when the final act, which showed Dr Lim denounced as a traitor who collaborated with the Japanese and turning into a bit of a recluse, came around, I was somewhat exhausted from bounding across decades of history in one night. But I was also grateful that for this rarity: An original musical that could be made only in Singapore, which speaks directly to Singapore audiences, and with a top-notch cast.

Above all, I was grateful for the opportunity to go on this journey into the story of this little-known son of Singapore.