Skip to content

The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman

May 25, 2011

Event: Fantastic Entertainment Presents “The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman” (starring Dick Lee)
Venue: Esplanade Recital Studio
Run: 24th May – 26th May 2011

It’s hard to believe that Dick Lee, by far Singapore’s most accomplished and well-known singer-songwriter and composer of musicals, has not performed in a formal concert setting since his Kallang Theatre concert in 2004.

In the past few years, he has been busy with musicals such as “Fried Rice Paradise”, “Beauty World” and “P Ramlee”, creative directing for NDP, as well as being a judge on three seasons of that TV show known as “Singapore Idol”.

This year, he even found the time to set up his new entertainment company “Fantastic Entertainment”, of which tonight’s show is its inaugural production.

And it seems as if “Fantastic” is off to a great start, because word is that all three nights of this inaugural production have been sold out.

The show could just as easily been named “Life Story” or “Life in the Lion City”, but I guess these just do not pack the same punch as “The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman” does.

Indeed, the show was both an aural and visual enactment of his latest book of the same name, which chronicles the fascinating life and times of a certain Richard Lee Peng Boon.

It’s the man himself, sharing the intimate details of the first half of his life story (the second half will be told in a subsequent production) right in the comfort of his own “living room”.

Credit to Dick – inasmuch as he is a great musician, he is also a wonderful storyteller, possessing generous doses of warmth, humour and effortless charm to keep the crowd entertained for the two whole hours (even if not all the songs were able to sustain the equivalent level of interest).

His lines were delivered so naturally that sometimes you didn’t know where the script ended and where spontaneity began.

Not to mention his effervescent a go-go dance steps, which were highly impressive coming from a man who has passed fifty.

He can still move like the best of them.

A true entertainer in every sense of the word.

Those who have read his autobiography would be familiar with all the anecdotes of his life story, from his early SJI days, to his MDC days, to being discovered by Vernon Cornelius, to his early career, but nothing can replace the experience of having Dick Lee himself sit at the piano, regaling us with beloved tunes such as “Bunga Sayang”, “Life Story”, “Fried Rice Paradise”, “Rasa Sayang” and “Home”.

Dick’s piano-playing chops were in fine form.

Singing-wise, he has lost none of the singing tone which we are all so familiar with by now, although he did strain to reach some of the high notes.

Not that it was a big issue anyway, because I’ve always seen Dick Lee as songwriter/composer first, entertainer second, and singer third.

I think it’s his legacy of songs which will always hold a firm place in the hearts of many Singaporeans.

I guess the most entertaining portion of the evening was the medley of “most detestable tunes” or something to that effect, comprising songs such as “Chotto Matte Kudasai”, “500 Miles” and “Count On Me Singapore”, which is a segment that was more or less lifted wholesale from his ’04 Kallang concert, albeit with a few minor updates.

But extremely entertaining, nonetheless.

One of my favourite portions of the show was when Dick paid tribute to three legendary singer-songwriters who influenced his music greatly (namely Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Elton John) by playing a song by each of them – Young’s “Heart of Gold”, John’s “Tiny Dancer”, and Mitchell’s I-forgot-what.

All in all, “The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman” is a rare chance to see the master himself render his greatest works, although one has to note that this production only covers his life story till 1989, with the remaining portion of his career being covered in a subsequent production.

Dick Lee may have been around since the days of 7″ vinyl singles and The Quests, but there is no doubt that as an entertainer, he is still in top form.

P.S. Mr Dick Lee, if you’re reading this: A humble suggestion to please not sing “this is my life stoREE” anymore, which is the way you have been singing lately. Would love to hear you sing it the original way, because the emphasis on “stoREE” just sounds weird. Just my two cents worth. =)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: