Monday, February 23, 2015

Dream Academy and RWS's 'Great World Cabaret' in Review

Jeremy Lee gives us his account of Great World Cabaret by Dream Academy and Resorts World Sentosa, now running till 17 March 2015.

As Singapore’s 50th birthday approaches, icons of old that have made way for the nation’s inexhaustible march towards “progress” still live on in the minds of those of a certain age. (These people could be younger than we think, for example in their 30s.)

And as these people are also old enough to have accumulated some cash to spare for a night out, we are starting to see myriad efforts to recapture those lost good old days in the form of xinyao/oldies concerts, retro-themed movies, and even food courts with décor inspired by that halcyon era.

Great World Cabaret is seemingly one of them. Set in the eponymous entertainment club that was part of the Great World Amusement Park (the original site has now predictably been turned into a shopping mall), this show unashamedly targets those who remember the place— and those who would like to have.

Of course, this isn’t the first production to have tapped into the nostalgia surrounding the place. The 2011 Kelvin Tong-helmed ensemble movie It's A Great, Great World did so to great effect, with a collection of heartwarming short stories. The movie was a rare non-Jack Neo local movie that was a hit, and showed aspiring film makers that nostalgia spawns a surefire hit in Singapore.

To that end, Great World Cabaret, being a live stage extravaganza, is completely different from the movie – the sweet storylines are gone, instead the glitzy cabaret acts have come to the fore. Aimed at entertaining the masses, this production isn’t a play or a musical, but actually a cabaret show (yes, I know it’s there in the show’s name, but you never know nowadays) – and quite an entertaining one at that.

For those who need their fix of schmaltz, the perfunctory plot involves erstwhile Master of Ceremonies Simon Tay (Shane Mardjuki) and his courtship of cabaret girl Nancy (Adelene Chua). This is narrated purely by Simon – now a decrepit museum guard reminiscing about his glory days – in between the cabaret acts, and so it’s exclusively from his point of view. It would have been nice to hear from the almost-mute Nancy, who is purely an object of desire with barely any lines.

But forget this trifling love story. Who needs it when audiences are treated to a star studded line-up of cabaret acts? There are throaty divas belting out familiar favourites – the multi-cultural trio of Chinese, Malay and Japanese chanteuses (Seong Hui-Xuan, Aisyah Aziz and Joanna Dong respectively) with their glamorous costumes and back-up dancers with intoxicating choreography by Andy Cai.

There are thrilling acrobatics – the three drunken sailors (David Weiser, Juncar Guillaume and Leonardo Mayorga Sanchez) were by far the standout performance, despite being first to go on, due to their charming can-do spirit and back-breaking antics. However, the adorable Chinese boy acrobats, despite being initially shaky, gave the sailors a run for their money and stole the audience’s hearts with their youth – surely some were not even in their teens? There is even a magic act by JC Sum and his assistant Samantha Kan, who run through staple magic tricks involving sleight of hand and 'teleportation'.

And of course, there is the foolproof crowd-pleaser – locally inflected (i.e. liberal use of dialect) stand-up comedy by an alternating guest star in Mark Lee (Feb 19-24), Hossan Leong (Feb 26-March 3), Sebastian Tan (March 5-10) or Judee Tan (March 12-17). So pick which comedian you prefer or better yet, see the show four times to catch all four of them in action (perhaps that’s the reason the producers decided to have this alternating arrangement?).

Although there wasn’t much by way of depth or emotional engagement in this production, perhaps there doesn’t need to be, for even a jaded theatre goer like me didn’t fail to be enchanted by the simple earnestness and gung-ho spirit of the production. Come expecting no more than a mildly amusing night out and a 90-minute break from the realities of life, and you won’t be disappointed.

Find out how to get tickets at the Events Page!

View production images at our Facebook Group!

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