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The Rise & Fall Of Little Voice

May 5, 2014
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LittleVoice3(picture courtesy of Pangdemonium Productions)

Event: “The Rise & Fall of Little Voice” presented by Pangdemonium Productions
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre
Run: 2nd – 18th May 2014

The Voice Within

Pangdemonium’s second production of the year sees them adapting a fairly little-known West End play “The Rise & Fall of Little Voice” into a Singapore context circa 1974.

“Wait, what’s this…Pangdemonium adapting a play into a Singapore context?” you say?

Yes, you heard correctly.

“Little Voice” marks the first time Pangdemonium is adapting a play into a local context, and it stars Mina Kaye in the lead role of LV, Denise Tan as her nasty mother Mari, Siti Khalijah as the genial neighbour Fatimah, Adrian Pang as the sleazy talent scout Ray Say, Rishi Budhrani as the nightclub owner Boo, and Shane Mardjuki as LV’s shy love interest Billy.

Most of the play centres around the run-down Katong shophouse which only LV and her mother inhabit, having lost her father many years ago.

Mari spends most of her time downstairs in the living room and kitchen, while the extremely reclusive LV spends all of her time cooped up in her room upstairs, drowning herself in the old records of legendary divas such as Shirley Bassey, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, and Édith Piaf.

Even though the music would play a substantial role in the show as it represents LV’s only source of solace in a life devoid of joy, “Little Voice” is essentially a play and not a musical per se, as the songs aren’t entirely ingrained into the fabric of the plot, nor do they help move the story along.

LV starts off being very reticent and soft-spoken, but the major revelation comes one fine day when Ray suddenly overhears her belting out pitch-perfect Shirley Bassey numbers up in her bedroom, which totally blows him away, thus making him want to exploit LV’s incredible talents for personal gain.

Perhaps the most riveting moment in the play is this very moment when we first hear Mina Kaye singing like Shirley Bassey so impeccably well, after being so quiet the entire play, and if you didn’t know better you would have thought it was an original recording instead of a live rendition.

The shocking contrast from the soft, nasal speaking voice to a full blooded belt was nothing short of extraordinary, and it’s one of those moments that remind you why you step into the theatre.

My admiration of Mina Kaye’s considerable singing talent has been well documented, having seen her completely nail “Another Hundred People” from Dream Academy’s “Company” a few years back, perform in “Edges The Musical” as well as in more recent shows such as “The Last Five Years” and “A Singaporean in Paris”.

With the quality and versatility of voice being of huge consideration in this production, I struggled to come up with another name who could possibly have played LV’s role as well (if not better) than Mina Kaye and I simply couldn’t.

The fact remains that Mina Kaye possesses a rare combination of stage presence, good looks, acting prowess, and a singing voice which is incredibly hard to find.

Denise Tan gives it her all in the role of the boozy, selfish and irresponsible mother who struggles to keep her life in order, although she looked a bit too young to me to pass off as a legitimate mother of LV.

Siti Khalijah plays the perfect counterpoint to Denise’s out-of-control persona as the genial and accommodating neighbour who never loses her cool, while Adrian Pang seems to be perfectly at home in the role of the slick, greasy-haired cad of a talent manager.

Ultimately, “Little Voice” tells of the story of a girl who, through a series of misadventures, eventually manages to finds her true voice and true identity as well.

The set and props do a good job in trying to recreate the authentic 70’s setting, and seeing elements such as old-fashioned telephones, vinyl records, 70’s-printed Straits Times and bell-bottoms on stage certainly helped in giving one a highly nostalgic feel.

The full length play does seem to drag on quite a bit especially in the latter stages of the second act, but what a journey it turns out to be.

A great deal of the play hinges on the abiltiy of the lead actress, and boy have Pangdemonium nailed the casting this time.

If there’s just one reason to witness this production, it would be to see Mina Kaye take on the role of LV and seeing her transform from shy, quiet girl to magnificent diva.

“Little Voice” is a wonderful production with a stellar cast, an impressive revolving set, great music, clever adaptation, and most importantly, an uplifting and triumphant story which warms the heart.

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