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881: The Musical

April 26, 2011
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“881” or “八八一” (ba ba yao) tells the story of a pair of getai sisters, Min Min (敏敏) and Yan Yan (雁雁), under the stage name the Papaya Sisters (sounds like ‘881’ in Mandarin). The musical is an adaptation of the film by Royston Tan, of which was a huge success, running for, if I remember correctly, 3 months. However, despite that, I never caught the film as a result of procrastination. Maybe in a good way, this left me without preconceived expectations to compare the musical and film when I stepped into the theatre.

Although it was a bit weird with the 福禄寿 (Fu Lu Shou) deities appearing (who acted like narrators), they provided the comic relief and ‘breaks’ in between. Well, Sebastian Tan leads the trio here, as Lu. Well, being about the getai, I guess one can play with the “supernatural” aspect, like in the closing scene where Min Min’s ghost sings from the moon as she promises. Overall, the show was relatively entertaining, with all the colour, flamboyancy and usual Chinese melodrama. A few poignant moments brought tears to my eyes.
I was expecting the “cat fight” (i.e. the battle of Durians and Papayas) to be more intense though, but the Durian Sisters did succeed in making themselves irritating. The battle ended rather abruptly when Min Min collapsed and the competitors suddenly disappeared, while we were transported to the dying scene. I guess the focus here was on relationships (friendship, “kin”ship and loyalty), so all else was forgotten.

The costumes were simply breathtaking. While the Durian Sisters (actually I think they should be called Soursop since they were called Angmoh Liu Lian) took the European trend, our Papaya Sisters, true to the Singaporean spirit, covered our ethnic groups and landmarks. The merlion costume won the immediate applause of the audience when it appeared, fountain-inclusive! The sets were massive too, transforming the Esplanade stage to a getai for the night, plus the inclusion of other settings.

I believe at least half the songs weren’t originals (some evergreens like “爱神” and “热情的沙漠”), but “一人一半”, the theme song, from the film was one of the more memorable songs. One of the songs that touched me was “不要说放弃” which was reprised a couple times. I felt there were 2 musical styles in the show, one being the getai series while the other were the pop ballads. I think the cast were generally comparable/compatible in their musical capabilities, with no jarring differences in their performance (as compared to December Rains), and each were strong in their own areas. However, I felt that Judee Tan could have been given more opportunity to shine. She didn’t really get any full solo segments, unlike Joanna Dong who had two. But she did end powerfully after a dramatic pause, as she belted out the last line.

I agree with Jeremy that some parts were kind of glossed over, like the love triangle, which they did in a quick narrative manner as a background. If we weren’t paying attention, it would have been missed, even though we know that it was one of the predictable aspects of the show. That method worked fine for the opening scenes when the girls growing up though.

Well, with about a week left, you can still grab your tickets to the razzle dazzle of the colourful world and drama of getai-hood.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Passerby permalink
    April 26, 2011 11:03 am

    Hey slight mistake. It’s minmin’s ghost who sings from the moon, not yanyan.

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