>re:mix by the srt's young co.

>reviewed by adi soon

>date: 10 jan 2002
>time: 8:20pm
>venue: dbs arts centre
>rating: ***1/2

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

                           
>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


>>>>>A MIXED BAG

The show started at 8.20pm. Too late in my opinion, but perhaps in line with the clubbing theme of the show. In the DBS Arts Centre theatre, a transformation had taken place. Theatre ushers played bouncers stamping cute little designs on the wrists of the audience. A thumping back-beat accompanied a silver disco ball that hung above the stage. There was no mistake. These were the trappings of glamour that begin every club experience: This was Club Mix.

The first song opened the show in a blaze of energy. From that moment on the pace was never allowed to lag. The young cast rocked, preened and posed their way with a panache that was both exhilarating and magical to watch.

Combining a reasonably crafted plot with well-written music, the show came together and proved greater than the sum of its parts. RE:MIX must surely earn the title of the prototypical Singaporean youth musical of its generation, mirroring the reality of youth in an obvious but distanced manner, showing it for what it is.

Perhaps the musical's greatest asset was its writing, both in terms of the plot and the music. This was a show that could have easily descended into superficiality, what with the subject matter involved and the form of the musical. What raised it beyond this was the careful attempt to resist the overt glamorisation of the world of clubbing. After all, clubbing is different things to different people. To some notions of fantasy and merry-making make up a frenzied impression. Further along this line, the sordid underbelly of the clubbing scene is a place of seething lust, alcohol and exploitation. Perhaps even expressing it in this manner is an inadequate substitute to what clubbing is really about. Ask anybody why they club and nobody will give you a coherent answer. Instead one hears words like "feeling" and "adrenaline rush" which attempt to describe the sense-warping experience of the world of clubbing.

Add teenage youth into the mix and the result becomes a potent cocktail. In the transitory space of the club, where boundaries are blurred and control is willingly given up, innocence is exchanged for an awareness that can be all too painful. Journeying along this well-trodden path is Alice, central character of the show, who arrives at Club Mix in a momentum of spillover frustration from her teenage existence.

>>'Watching the show, I got the distinct impression that The SRT's Young Co. was like an S-League soccer team importing foreign players.'


Cliched as the plot may seem, it was the cynicism in the writing that, like a sharply focused lens, showed clubbing for what it was and nothing more, never offering a solution nor an alternative. "These Girls" was an example of such a delicate observation distilled into the essence of a song.

Like the writing, there was nothing to fault with the overall production values of the show. The set, for example, was simple yet highly effective. Styling for the individual actors came across as deliberate and carefully thought out, and the musical arrangement was inspired at many moments. I liked also the way in which the police raid was worked into the fabric of the show, producing the excuse for the intermission. Such touches did indeed lend a crafted feel to the show.

It was a different story however with the cast. Watching the show, I got the distinct impression that The SRT's Young Co. was like an S-League soccer team importing foreign players. This was after-all a musical that so obviously harnessed the talents of specialists. Moulding the demands of the various tasks around the abilities of each individual performer is a fair strategy. However when it becomes so obvious that each performer was either an actor, a singer or a dancer, believability of their characters is compromised. When the bones of a production are laid bare for all to see, it can sometimes be an ugly sight. Furthermore, aside from some players like Carolyn Ang (Alice) and Melissa Wong (Jojo), none of the other Young Company truly featured in the musical. As such it would be very difficult for me to say that this was purely a show driven by the "talent" of the Young Company

That said, due credit must be given to those who helped the show sparkle when it did. Rarely do memorable performances come in such abundance. David Tan stood out as the Super Ah Beng in his para para inspired song and dance sequence. Armed with a confident smirk and unbridled energy, he portrayed his Ah Beng character with an accuracy and flamboyance that was second to none. Melissa Wong as Jojo, Alice's sexy younger sister, stood out overall and in her first solo "What I'm looking for", seduced the audience with shades of a cabaret dancer, obviously enjoying the attention. Her vocal performance too, though not as consistent as some of the stronger singers, possessed a clarity and emotion that was enjoyable to listen to. Amelia as Jen, brought along a formidable package as singer and actor with her measured performance of the "door-bitch". With her voice she demonstrated control and class. My favourite of the night however has to be Jwanda as Don the bouncer. His was an un-showy performance that was always rooted in his easy charisma. Further, with his smooth as silk vocals, he was able, at moments, to catapult the show into the realm of magic.


These stellar performances however were weakened by obvious disappointments. John Lee, as club owner and voice behind the opening solo was the weakest of the black costumed club workers. Only perhaps because his songs were performed together with the stronger Jwanda and Amelia were his inadequacies concealed. Alone however, it was clear his voice lacked range and depth. His portrayal of the club owner was similarly superficial, and he seemed unsure of himself on stage.

Carolyn Ang as Alice disappointed as well. Her acting, though competent, was a little unpolished. Her greatest failing however was her voice. When songs are mutilated, lyrics become unclear. Carrying the weight of the show on her shoulders, the importance of her singing parts cannot be overemphasised. In this, she lagged behind the others, eroding the significance of the wonderfully written songs she had to sing.

In the end, however, and despite the obvious flaws, I left RE:MIX with some amount of satisfaction. It is a competently made musical and one that explores an interesting phenomenon among contemporary youth. For these points, its conception is a welcome one.

Inching toward perfection however can only begin with more training, so that the cast become competent all-round musical performers. If this can be done, it is not difficult to imagine the success of the show beyond Singapore.