Poor Thing: A typical day in the Singaporean social media space

26 02 2014

Yes, another typical day in Singapore and another incident on the roads that leads to a reaction that is overblown through photos and videos of it finding their way onto social media platforms … only this time, it isn’t for real, but staged – for the stage.


Poor Thing, a rather clever production by local theatre company The Necessary Stage that is inspired by what goes on on social media sites such as the rather infamous local so-called “Citizen Journalism” site STOMP  and popular platforms such Facebook and Youtube opens today at The Necessary Stage Black Box. The one-hour long production, written by Haresh Sharma and directed by Alvin Tan, may not be your typical theatre production in that the audience is free to move and even interact with what goes on on stage and through the social media by befriending one of the characters, but certainly examines the typical reaction of Singaporeans to such incidents when aired on social media.

The production, for which a script was only developed after a first series of rehearsals, does also see the actors exercising some degree of improvisation as they go along – making it all a rather interesting experience not just for the audience but also for those on stage. Poor Thing, which sees Siti Khalijah Zainal, Sharda Harrison, Dwayne Lau and Joshua Lim deliver rather intense performances on stage, runs from 26 February to 2 March and from 5 March to 9 March and limited tickets are still available at http://poorthing.peatix.com/.

The Feast of Fools

24 12 2013

A scene that is one of several that celebrates the musical Notre Dame de Paris, currently playing at the MBS MasterCard Theatres, is possibly The Feast of Fools. Accompanied by the confused frenzy of movement, it is at this point that sees the introduction of Quasimodo, the well-known character of the tale behind the musical many would be familiar with from their childhoods, who in the scene is crowned the King of Fools.

Belle, one of three scenes presented during a media preview of the musical.

One of three scenes presented during a media preview of the musical, during which the popular song, Belle, was sung. The musical features Matt Laurent as Quasimodo (L) and Alssandra Ferrari (R) as Esmeralda.

It is not the Quasimodo that in the wake of Disney’s retelling of Victor Hugo’s novel that many would recognise. The same can unfortunately be said of the storyline or the lack of it in its musical version. Except for a few popular music numbers such as Belle, it would probably be better remembered for what has to be said, was a impressive display of dance.

Another scene shown during the preview - Refugees - which again was more about the dancing rather than singing.

Another scene shown during the preview – Refugees – which again was more about the dancing rather than singing.

Certainly for me, the musical did not quite live up to the hype that surrounds it. Whatever my impressions are, the musical is still quite a watchable one and certainly one that does provide some entertainment value – that is if you need some extra to distract you this Christmas season. The musical, which opened on 17 December 2013, will see its run in Singapore extended to 11 January 2014. For more information and also for ticketing, do visit the Marina Bay Sand’s page for the musical, or the SISTIC website.

Esmeralda (Alessandra Ferrari) in Live.

Esmeralda (Alessandra Ferrari) in Live.

More on the musical (from a press release from its Singapore opening):

JeromeLim 277A9170

Singapore – 17 December 2013 – The musical spectacular Notre Dame de Paris, which has become a phenomenon around the world cutting across generations, opens tonight at the MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands, Grand Theatre. Performed for the first time in Singapore in English this majestical show tells the story of Quasimodo the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Esmeralda the Gypsy girl, in one of the most powerful love stories in history on par with Romeo and Juliet.

Since premiering in Paris, France in September 1998, the musical has attracted audiences of more than 4 million in France alone and broken box office records in Canada, Russia, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland and South Korea surpassing 10 million spectators while combined sales of soundtrack and cast albums have reached the 10 million mark.

Notre Dame de Paris has been staged over 4000 times in 20 other countries, including Italy, Great Britain and the United States, receiving standing ovations every night.

Faithful to Victor Hugo’s classic novel Notre Dame de Paris, the show tells the emotionally charged story of the unfortunate Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral Bell Ringer, the hunchback Quasimodo, and his hopeless devotion for the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda. Phoebus, the untruthful soldier and Frollo, the priest torn between his faith to God and his desires will compete for Esmeralda’s love. While Clopin, the leader of the refugees or underclass, and Gringoire the poet will try to save Esmeralda.

The musical spectacular is the creation of lyricist Luc Plamondon and composer Richard Cocciante, whom have both won numerous awards for their work and is directed by Gilles Maheu. The English lyrics were written by Will Jennings, Oscar-winner for “My heart Will Go On” from the smash-hit film Titanic.

“It’s a well-known story which stands up on its own and doesn’t need to be explained. That’s why there are at least a dozen films based on the Victor Hugo novel, from the silent era to the recent Disney animation,” said Luc Plamandon.

Reminiscent of The Beauty and the Beast and presaging The Phantom of the Opera, Notre Dame de Paris remains a poignant and powerful myth with some of the interwoven storylines being more relevant today than ever: asylum-seekers, racism, the role of religion, the fear of the unknown and man’s place in an ever-changing world.

Riccardo Cocciante beautiful melodies will leave a long lasting impression on local  audiences. Featuring more than 54 vivid arias of operatic beauty and rock resonance, the characters are brought to life through stunning vocal performances and visual spectacle – courtesy of the show’s seven principal artistes and 24 dancers and acrobats.

The show will feature acrobatic contemporary dance choreography by Martino Muller, renowned modern dance visionary, contrasting with a beautiful love story moments to create an audience experience reminiscent of French cirque. Dancers appear to be flying across the stage under fantastic arcs, freely incorporating gymnastics, contemporary and even break dance moves into their repertoire – at one moment whirling across the floor in a series of pirouettes, and the next tumbling from a bungee rope high above the stage.

The show will be presented on a grand scale at the MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands. The modern impressionistic stage set features a 12 metre high ‘climbing wall’ representing the façade of the grand cathedral of Notre Dame as well as the famous Bastille prison in Paris. This amazing edifice is also the platform for a series of stunning acrobatic routines that will leave the audience breathless.

Notre Dame de Paris, the musical spectacular, stands out because of the masterful staging and artistic integrity of director Gilles Maheu, who has revived the 170-year old story with contemporary touches and deft inspiration incorporating choreographies by Martino Muller and costumes designed by Fred Sathal and set by Christian Ratz.

The English language album, featuring the main stars of the London production, also features guest star Celine Dion singing “Live for the One I Love”.
Hit musical, rock-show, opera, concept-album or gothic melodrama, Notre-Dame de Paris retains traditional theatrical elements while using modern staging techniques and choreography to present eternal, universal, mythical tales and themes.

About Notre Dame de Paris

  • First opened at ‘Palais des Congres’ theatre in Paris in September 1998
  • Based on the novel ‘Notre Dame de Paris’ written by Victor Hugo in 1831
  • Sell-out tours in France, Canada, England, Switzerland, Russia, Spain, America, Italy, Monaco
  • 4000 performances over 20 countries and seen by more than 10 million people.
  • The most sensational and successful musical in France, Italy, Belgium and Russia
  • Taking Europe by storm, “Notre Dame de Paris’ opened in London at the Dominion Theatre on 23 May 2000, following previews which opened on 15 May 2000.
  • According to the Guinness Book of Records, Notre Dame de Paris still holds the record as the show with the most successful first year of any musical ever produced.

JeromeLim 277A9211

Edging in with a song cycle

12 04 2013

A lighthearted and surprisingly entertaining production which is currently playing at the Drama Centre in Singapore is EDGES the Musical. Produced by Sight Lines Productions and directed by Derrick Chew, the musical takes a look at four characters – young adults at the crossroads between adolescence and adulthood. Their experiences, their hopes and dreams and their emotions are expressed through what is a fairly new concept in their use in musicals seen in Singapore (and to me), a song cycle.

Edges features a cast of four young locally based performers in a small scale but highly entertaining musical.

Edges features a cast of four young locally based performers in a small scale but highly entertaining musical.

Written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (who are the youngest winners of the Jonathan Larson Award), and with performances seen in North America, Asia, Australia, Europe and Africa, Edges features “Be My Friend” in its song cycle, more popularly known perhaps as the “Facebook Song” which went viral on the internet. In it is a locally based cast, three of whom are from LASALLE College of the Arts Musical Theatre Programme, Mina Kaye, Linden Furnell, and Kristy Griffin. The fourth member of the extremely talented cast is Benjamin Kheng, a member of  local indie band, The Sam Willows, who has been named as one of ST Life’s face to watch in 2013.

Benjamin Kheng who has been named as one of ST Life's face to watch in 2013.

Benjamin Kheng who has been named as one of ST Life’s face to watch in 2013.

While the production does examine contemporary issues faced by the young adults of today, told through catchy tunes and lyrics which offer a witty look at situations the characters face, most of us (myself, having left that phase in life far behind, included) can quite easily relate to the characters’ experiences. Combined with what must be said is a masterful performance provided by the young cast, the musical was great fun, thoroughly enjoyable and well worth very bit of the one-and-a-half hours of time spent watching the characters deal with the emotional roller coaster associated with the coming of age.

Mina Kaye a graduate of LASALLE's Musical Theatre who made her professional stage debut at the Esplanade Theatre in Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.

Mina Kaye a graduate of LASALLE’s Musical Theatre who made her professional stage debut at the
Esplanade Theatre in Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.

EDGES the Musical runs from 3 to 19 April 2013 at the Drama Centre Blackbox (National Library Building Level 5). Showtimes are on Mondays to Fridays at 8 pm and on Saturdays at 5 pm and 8 pm. Tickets are avilable at S$38/- with discounts available for Arts Platinum & FRANK Cards (15%), and all other OCBC Cards as well as PAssion Card (10%) at TicketMash.

Linden Furnell and Kristy Griffin.

Linden Furnell and Kristy Griffin are also graduates of LASALLE.

I have two pairs of tickets, courtesy of Sight Lines Productionss, for the show on Monday 15 April 2013 to give away. If you are interested, do drop me an email by Saturday 13 April 2013 with your name, email address, and why you would like to catch the show. Winners will be notified by email the following day.

Production photographs courtesy of Sight Lines Productions

More Crossings

17 08 2012

Photographs taken at the full dress rehearsal of Crossings at the Esplanade taken on the eve of the opening … more information on Crossings, a collective effort by The Necessary Stage of Singapore and TRAFIK of Croatia in collaboration with Esplanade Theatres on the Bay’s The Studios, can be found on a previous post (click here).

Bani Haykal.

Edvin Liveric.

Najib Soiman.

Edvin Liveric and Najib Soiman.

Sharda Harrison.

Sharda Harrison and Najib Soiman.

Sharda Harrison and Najib Soiman.

Sharda Harrison.

Najib Soiman and Sharda Harrison.

Sharda Harrison.

Sharda Harrison and Najib Soiman.

Edvin Liveric.

Zac Valenta.

From left to right: Zac Valenta, Chuang Xiu’Er, Najib Soiman and Sharda Harrison.

Sharda Harrison and Najib Soiman.

Edvin Liveric.

Chuang Xiu’Er.

Chuang Xiu’Er with Bani Haykal in the foreground.

Chuang Xiu’Er and Sharda Harrison.

Sharda Harrison.

Bani Haykal, Najib Soiman and Sharda Harrison.

Najib Soiman and Sharda Harrison.

Sharda Harrison.

Najib Soiman and Sharda Harrison.

Najib Soiman.

Sharda Harrison.

Edvin Liveric.

Edvin Liveric.

Edvin Liveric.

Zac Valenta and Sharda Harrison.

Crossings into cross-cultural cross-dressing

16 08 2012

Curious about or puzzled by that photograph of the Caucasian man dressed in a Nonya kebaya I posted the other day? I have a shocking revelation … not only was that man seen in the kebaya, but also in a bright red saree, and in the company of yet another man spotted that same afternoon in a bright red dress …

The same man in a bright red saree.

Seen in the company of another in a bright red dress.

Shocking as it would seem, residents of the housing estate in which the cross-dressed men were spotted in can rest assured that this isn’t the start of a transvestite invasion but an attempt at artistic expression – expression that is part of a cross cultural multidisciplinary collaboration of artists from two countries, Singapore and Croatia. The men – and several other performers had crossed-dressed for roles of their fellow artists for the recording of a multimedia segment of the performance which will be juxtaposed onto the live performance on stage.

Singapore performer Sharda Harrison dressed for Edvin Liveric’s role for the recording of the multimedia segment.

Najib Soiman.

Bani Haykal, Sound Artist.

Zac Valenta.

Chuang Xiu’Er, Sharda Harrison and Najib Soiman.

I was provided with the opportunity to photograph the recording of the multimedia segment, as well as a full dress rehearsal at The Necessary Stage last week. The theatre company is putting the performance, named Crossings, together with Croatian based TRAFIK. Crossings is being presented in collaboration with Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay as part of The Studios and involves a series of cultural exchanges, workshops and improvisations. Crossings as described in the synopsis will explore fundamental questions that will make us confront who we are and how we can survive in today’s global village, investigating the coexistence, understanding and mixing of different cultures.

One of the opening scenes shot during the full dress rehearsal at The Necessary Stage on Saturday.

Sharda Harrison plays the role of the woman at the centre of a somewhat abusive love-hate relationship that she finds it hard to escape from.

The performance explores elements of violence in the male-female relationship.

While the performance seems like a confusion of scenes and characters that at times seem to have no connection with each other, there is a central theme that revolves around the male-female relationship in society and across cultures. There is also an attempt to examine somewhat taboo subjects such as domestic violence and non conventional sexual relationships that have perhaps become quite prevalent in our society, as well as the role of myths and traditions in the two societies which are being brought together in the performance – all of which makes for a fascinating story. Crossings debuts this evening at the Esplanade and plays in Singapore until 19 August 2012. It will also tour the National Theatre of Rijeka in Croatia from 19 to 20 September 2012. More information can be found at The Necessary Stage and The Studios.

There are also characters that seemingly unconnected with the central theme of the story, introduce myths that influence the cultures of the two countries.

Najib Soiman gives a masterly performance.

Chuang Xiu’Er.

Edvin Liveric as a male stripper.

Zac Valenta and Sharda Harrison.

A light used during the rehearsal.

Sharda Harrison and Najib Soiman.

Another of Sharda Harrison and Najib Soiman.


A woman who is a victim of a social scandal proves her fidelity by passing a test. Yet, her society does not believe her. She is exiled by her husband who is dedicated to serving his people and so has to listen to their discernment to remain in power. Will she sacrifice for the larger good and suffer the unjust allegation to be with her husband or will she walk?

Based on Asian myths, Crossings take us on a journey of the transformation of the self – how one deals with the seduction of being imprisoned and how freedom opens us to meaningless pain.

Crossings is a multidisciplinary collaboration between artists from Singapore and Croatia investigating the coexistence, understanding and mixing of different cultures.

The collective comprises:

Sharda Harrison [Performer]
Bani Haykal [Sound Artist]
Vincent Lim [Set Designer]
Edvin Liveric [Performer]
Loo Zihan [Multimedia Artist]
Josip Marsic [Composer]
Haresh Sharma [Script Editor]
Najib Soiman [Performer]
Alvin Tan [Director]
Zac Valenta [Performer]

The play will be performed in multiple languages, with English surtitles. Suitable for patrons aged 15 years and above.

Crossings will premiere at Esplanade’s The Studios Season from 16 – 19 August before touring to the National Theatre of Rijeka [Croatia] from 19 – 20 September 2012.

There will be a post-show discussion with the artists for 17 & 18 Aug, Fri & Sat, 8pm performance.

Crossings is presented by The Necessary Stage and TRAFIK in collaboration with Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay as part of The Studios.

16-18 Aug, Thu-Sat, 8pm
18-19 Aug, Sat-Sun, 3pm

Esplanade Theatre Studio
(1hr 10 mins, no intermission)

Tickets: $25
Concessions for students: $10
Concessions for NSF and senior citizens: $16

Sharda Harrison on her role