Words by Marilyn Huang, photographs by ladyironchef
You somehow know that you are in for a night of fun when the first line of the director’s message for the musical you are watching speaks of a nine-month old baby stuck to her boob.
That is exactly the kind of musical Hansel and Gretel is: hilarious, irreverent, spontaneous and like its director, Pam Oei, full of fun and creativity. Nothing binds the people of Singapore like their proud food culture, and what better way to showcase this love of food than through the quintessential food-centric fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel? Only this time, Creative Director Alfian Sa’at, Composer Elaine Chan and first time director Oei have reinvented this timeless tale into what could well be a Singapore’s classic.
The story of Hansel and Gretel starts with the siblings dancing with the gathering crowds at 3:45pm at their “home” in ‘Sunny Queenstown’, and with that, the deliciously irreverent pokes at Singapore’s current affairs that left the audience in stitches by the end of the night. What follows this is a thoroughly enjoyable musical focusing on their journey through Mandai Jungle, thanks largely to Cassandra (Vernetta Lopez) – their father’s new lover, where they encounter the Chef (Sebastian Tan), who is desperately hunting a “70kg boy named Hansel” to revive her ailing culinary career.
This great piece of Singaporean-inspired theatre, however, could only be brought so vividly to life by a talented team of artistes, and the cast of Hansel and Gretel were brilliant in doing this musical justice. Dwayne Tan’s portrayal of a highly metrosexual Hansel was complemented by Denise Tan’s take of his dim-witted yet fiercely loyal sister Gretel. The intense chemistry between the two bringing the fore the inseparable force that binds the pair of them together. This bond is strengthened through the trials set by the Chef, whom Sebastian Tan brilliantly portrays with immense poise and an enviable ease. From hosting the Chef’s cooking show ‘Makan Mania’ to leading the audience in the ‘C is for Cookie’ sing-along, Tan makes the supposedly evil Chef both hated yet affably understood at the same time.
If the Chef is a person that inspires some sympathy from the audience, Cassandra is one that inspires detest. Her one-minded desire for fame is matched only by her intense hatred for children and Vernetta Lopez’s take on this evil stepmother role was deftly done, be it her tasty dance moves in ‘Genuine’, her insatiable appetite for designer clothes or her beguiling of Hansel and Gretel’s lovestruck father, Steven (Dwayne Lau).
However, one of the standout performances of the night had to go to Siti Khalijah, whose portrayals of Filipino maid Vilma, the Chef’s Hip-Hop loving assistant Nicki Minah and a hapless doctor were hilarious and thoroughly enjoyable. Khalijah’s effortless movement between characters and outrageous dance moves provided one of the highlights of the musical, and she will indeed be one to watch in the future.
All in all, this Singaporean take on Hansel and Gretel is one that would tickle your funny bone, warm your heart and make you feel glad you are Singaporean. So, for a great little end-of-year holiday treat, bring you and your loved ones to watch this fabulous musical!
P.S. Parts of the Chef’s house are edible, courtesy of sponsor Bengawan Solo, so try to get seats in the front to stand a chance to get some Kueh Lapis and Pandan Cake when the cast take these items from the house and share them with the audience during the musical!
You can catch Hansel & Gretel by Wild Rice at Drama Centre Theatre from now till 15 Dec 2012.