>SING SONG by The Necessary Stage and South East Community Development Council

>reviewed by Nadia Bte Ibrahim

>date: 16 Sep 2004
>time: 8pm
>venue: Marine Parade Community Building Theatrette
>rating: ****

>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.

>>>>>Thank you for the music!

Pat Conroy once said, "Without music, life is a journey through a desert." Perhaps this was the message that The Necessary Stage intended to deliver to the audience with their musical play, SING SONG.

And deliver it they did!

SING SONG was created based on the idea that "soundtracks" exist in people's lives as well as in films. It was a joint collaboration between TNS and the South East Community Development Council, whose mission is to promote active civic engagement and enhance community bonding. Since many of the musical vignettes the play contained were inspired by the real life stories of local people and since several of the performers were community collaborators, the CDC's aim was certainly achieved.

The night began with the cast appearing on stage and entertaining the audience with bubbly renditions of songs from the past. The nostalgic mood was then strengthened by Lim Kay Siu, who addressed the audience in a friendly manner and told an amusing story about the days when his family was poor and as a boy, he would spend his days listening to P. Ramlee songs over the radio. The nostalgia continued throughout with songs by Abba and Eric Clapton (to name a couple) reminding the audience of "the good old days".

>>'SING SONG was able to set itself apart from many other productions nowadays and truly become "community" theatre'

It didn't take long for the main story to start, if indeed there can be said to have been a main story (unlike most of the vignettes that comprised the play, this "main" one was quite long and was broken into three parts). The story was appealing, if not entirely original: King, the husband, is a failed musician who still chases dreams of performing for live crowds, but wife Moona the makcik wants him to hold down a stable job and support their family. Lim Kay Siu and Alin Mosbit succeeded in portraying the roles of husband and wife, with clean timing, good pacing and solid chemistry between them helping them capture their characters' emotions. Lim's emotional intensity was so commendable, and one could so strongly feel the truth he brought to lines such as "Music is my life!", that I was hoping that his dream of becoming a musician would come true. On the other hand, Alin's portrayal of a stereotypical Singaporean mother, who has abandoned her own dreams in order that her daughter have the best in life, also had me hoping that King would stay with his family - Moona's reluctance to let him go was clearly justified. Alin's obvious ease on stage and her ability to convey the frustration felt by her character were what made her performance so affecting. These two actors managed to turn a simple plot into an unforgettable piece with a strong and insoluble dilemma. (Though in the end, King decided to leave to pursue his dream. Sob.)

Alin was also strong in a later scene as Makcik Power the host in a parody of a TV talk show. This "MP" interviewed her guests, each of a different race (Indian, Kumar; Chinese, Lim Kay Siu; Eurasian, Gani Abdul Karim; Malay, herself), to determine which race produced the best music. The host and her multiracial guests poked fun at themselves and each other and, by extension, the different races in Singapore - and since the humour was based on truths and stereotypes the audience could see around them in their everyday lives, the crowd laughed knowingly and loud.

The community collaborators didn't let the side down either. Jonathan Teo, a deaf songwriter, inspired the crowd with his talent of writing beautiful lyrics while Abel Tan, a retiree, starred in a scene about "Uncle Zouk", the senior clubber. His performance was heartwarming and uplifting because it was delivered in so honest and genuine a manner.

Interspersed between all these vignettes, Kumar would occasionally appear to interact with and amuse the audience. This was certainly entertaining, but Kumar's appearances may have been somewhat disadvantageous to the rhythm of the play; it seemed to flow less well due to the interruptions. Perhaps, however, it would not have flowed very smoothly anyway, being so disparate in nature.

SING SONG could have been in danger of presenting predictable and trivial musical vignettes which would have been rather forgettable. However, it succeeded in engaging the audience, communicating with them directly by employing a local touch in all its pieces. For example, when, in one scene, Alin related how her old friend would sing Muhammad Rafi songs at they took car trips to various places, the audience knew that this was an experience they could have shared and this helped the audience relate to the characters and the situations they found themselves in. Because of this, SING SONG was able to set itself apart from many other productions nowadays and truly become "community" theatre.

When one looks past the light-hearted songs and laughter of SING SONG, one realises that music remains a deeply intrinsic part of the human experience. SING SONG was certainly able to show its audience that their life journeys are accompanied always by music. As Shakespeare once wrote: "If music be the food of love, play on."