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Stages Presents “iChestnuts 15”

January 11, 2012

Event: “iChestnuts 15” by Stages
Venut: Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel
Run: 5th Jan – 21st Jan 2012

A Good Ol’ Roasting

It’s kinda amazing when you think about it – the “Chestnuts” spoof comedy franchise has lasted for 15 years, and on this 15th anniversary of the show, “iChestnuts 15” goes the whole nine yards in reminding us how far they’ve come by interspersing the show with reenactments of a choice scene from each of their past 14 shows.

The show was part current-affairs spoofing, part retrospective – a celebration of the long and proud heritage of this most precious of local theatrical comedy franchises.

“iChestnuts 15” is clearly a testament to the genius and tenacity of Jonathan Lim, who remains the lone common factor in the show’s storied history, for were it not for his brilliance in writing, directing and acting, this show might hardly have been able to survive for so long.

The current iteration of the show stars Jonathan himself, Rodney Oliveiro, Judee Tan, Dwayne Lau, and Judy Ngo, who was the only one not present in the previous episode.

New topics which the show covered include a chunky segment called “Into The Booths”, which was a mash up of last year’s Dream Academy production of Sondheim’s “Into The Woods” and the General Elections.

The opening segment of the night was a spoof on recent local army horror movie “23:59”, and even if you did not catch the movie (I didn’t), it was still highly entertaining in its own right.

The musical “Wicked”, of course, makes an appearance too and I very much enjoyed Judee Tan’s strong rendition of “Defying PAP”.

I thought the vocal work was marvellous.

The “PondanNewsAsia” segment, now a staple in the show, makes a return once again and it is without doubt that the highlight of this segment – and maybe even the highlight of the entire show in fact – was the cameo by “Ivory Low Ai Kiu”, played by the inimitable Judee Tan.

Judee has a knack for stealing the show with her indelible comedic performances, for example, in shows such as “Chestnuts 3D” as well as the 2nd and 3rd episodes of “The Hossan Leong Show”.

I’ve heaped so much praise on all her past performances that I’m starting to run out of superlatives and of ways to say things in a fresh angle.

Let’s just say that she is one of the main reasons why I continue to look forward to shows such as “Chestnuts” and “The Hossan Leong Show” every year.

The regular “Theatre in 10” segment was highly entertaining (if you were familiar with the productions being spoofed), and I liked how they took the Karen-Tan-in-To-Whom-It-May-Concern gag and ran with it the entire segment.

The only dud of the evening had to be the segment called “The Amy and Ah Mee Show”, which fell curiously flat, considering the material in all the other segments were generally of a very high quality.

I suppose it could be attributed to the fact that the audience was hardly familiar with who the “Amy” was supposed to be, and also that the whole “Yam Ah Mee pursuant” thing has more or less run its course by now…and it wasn’t really even that funny to begin with.

Or, it could be due to the fact that our audience last night (it was a Tuesday show) was, how do you say, rather modest in size?

(I’m guessing it was around 40% capacity last night.)

Comedy is very much the performers feeding off the energy from the crowd and vice versa, but sad to say there was hardly much energy in the Jubilee Hall last night.

The level of writing in “iChestnuts 15” is astounding to say the least.

Jonathan Lim is a master of wordplay par excellence.

It is amazing how he is able to find puns or wordplay opportunities in the most unexpected of scenarios.

Also, we have to once again acknowledge the superiority of his lyric-writing abilities.

The way he is able to take a popular song, and fit in a whole new set of lyrics which not only make wonderful comedic sense but rhyme perfectly at the same time…wow, it’s hard to see how it can get any better than that.

However, I do suspect that often times the writing in “Chestnuts” is so incredibly clever and the references so esoteric that a lot of it is lost on most of us.

But that’s just the way “Chestnuts” is.

At 2.5hrs, “iChestnuts 15” practically guarantees a night of insane comedy and laughter.

With Jonathan Lim at the helm, you can be sure you’d always get your money’s worth and more.

There is simply no other spoof comedy show in town currently that comes close to what “Chestnuts” has achieved or is able to achieve.

It has been 15 years and counting, and at the rate things are going it is unlikely that the franchise would have any reason to want to end anytime soon.

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