Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Belle Epoque Shanghaied" in Review

Belle Epoque Shanghaied
Esplanade Recital Studio

8 to 10 December (Thurs/Fri 8pm; Sat 3pm & 8pm)
written by Hawk Liu

Belle Epoque Shanghaied was loosely about an European couple who had an adventure in a cabaret in Shanghai with little twists and turns. The story is richly decorated with operetta songs in English, German, French and Mandarin, and the dialogue uses just as many languages.

The multi-cultural cast was certainly watchable, each with their own distinct identities that made them believeable. There was a song at every turn which was a pleasure. The two most attractive and technically able voices in my esteem were Brendan-Keefe Au and Tan Ting Lim though diction was a little lacking in the latter. Both do not come across as the strongest actors. In contrast, Sabrina Zuber was full of fun in the acting department and took every opportunity to show how comfortable she was in her character. She displayed a good range in her acting abilities. Though her voice projected easily, I did wish it stayed longer in each pitch she sang.  

Allison Lester as the proprietress of the Cabaret was fun to watch, a diligent actor who never let down her character as long as she was on stage. Sustaining her laughing 'marathon' during Sabrina's laughing song from Die Fledermaus was admirable. A very pitch-accurate, though a somewhat less-strong voice, Allison gave us a very haunting 'Mack the Knife' in the original German and also in Mandarin! Allison's spoken Mandarin was also amazing! By the way, I love her high-collared shiny Mandarin costume which befitted her character. Robert Jenkin's beautiful voice was loud and clear and I believed his querky character totally. I did wish he took his patter song a lot faster! Dayal Singh, playing a seemingly minor character, had a lot to do a stage and was physically the most engaged on stage. I swear he could do a cartwheel while singing at the same time. Although not a technical singer, he nevertheless sang his boots off in every song.

The dialogue was interesting enough if you put it in the context of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, and a multi-lingual one. The actors were convincing, switching languages at every turn. A key element that lacking for me was the speed of delivery; I felt as if I was watching a Gilbert and Sullivan in slow motion.

I love the use of spotlights on the sets and the lantern theme was very attractive. While some parts tend to move slowly, it was altogether an enjoyable evening. A celebration of operetta songs that fans of operettas would love!

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