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Dim Sum Dollies – The History of Singapore (Part 2)

December 17, 2014
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DimSumDollies2014-1(Photo credit: Dream Academy)

Event: Dim Sum Dollies – The History of Singapore (Part 2)
Venue: Esplanade Theatre
Run: 11th – 23rd Dec 2014

Hello Dollies, So Nice To Have You Back Where You Belong

The history of the Dim Sum Dollies, arguably Singapore theatre’s most well-liked cabaret trio, is in itself a highly fascinating one.

It’s hard to believe it, but this is actually the first full-length Dim Sum Dollies stage show since 2008 (which was a rerun), and the first brand new full-length show since 2007.

There were of course the brief cameos featuring newcomer Denise Tan (in place of Emma Yong) in both the 2011 and 2013 editions of Dream Academy’s “Crazy Christmas”, but this Christmas marks the first time the Dollies make their long-awaited grand return to the stage.

In recent years, the Dream Academy Christmas season was traditionally marked by the staging of the “Crazy Christmas” franchise (staged 6 times in the last 7 years), and it was probably wise of Dream to start bringing back the ever-popular Dim Sum Dollies series, considering the “Crazy Christmas” formula was in danger of inching towards its sell-by date.

Which is just as well, because after testing the waters in the previous two cameos, it seems the Dollies have managed to put their struggles and setbacks of the past behind them, and are all raring to go once again.

The formula of their shows is simple enough – rip-roaring skits laced together enormous doses of wackiness, song and dance, and lots of Singapore flavour.

And the Singapore flavour couldn’t have been obvious enough, what with the show taking you on a whirlwind journey through the history of Singapore, from the 60’s right till today.

Any doubts of ring rust were immediately dispelled, with the Dollies demonstrating fine form right off the bat in both their singing chops and comedic timing.

Denise Tan proves every bit up to the task as the new member of the team, and has probably the strongest singing voice of the group, the way Emma did.

The skits tended to dwell more on the political side of Singapore’s history, and oftentimes seemed like a case of “Glee-meets-Online-Citizen”, which isn’t a bad thing really, because there definitely is a large audience out there lapping every bit of it up.

There were the usual jabs at the handing over of a legacy from father to son, the redrawing of GRC boundaries, foreign talent as our national sports heroes, the nationalistic protests at Hong Lim Park, and there were also nostalgic takes on national campaign mascots of the past, and an incredibly detailed rap succinctly summarising the entire 90’s decade (great job on the lyrics for that one).

Revues like this are inevitably hit and miss, and skits such as the “Sunkist Conspiracy” came across as trying too hard to make a point at the expense of humour, and it probably flew over the heads of those who weren’t aware of what the skit was supposed to be referencing.

Nonetheless, humour was in no short supply throughout the show, with the “Lion King” scene featuring the giraffe named Goh (nice “And Tango Makes Three” reference there by the way), and the MRT scene featuring the three Chinese sportswomen, and probably even the “Disco Balls” scene providing some of the more hilarious moments of the evening.

Oh, and how about Pam Oei’s impersonation of a 90’s dial-up modem tone!

Had to be seen to be believed.

Hossan Leong plays off the Dollies brilliantly, and was probably one of the most crucial elements of the show, serving as a perfect counterpoint to the three ladies.

But it is in the music department that “The History of Singapore (Part 2)” truly shines.

Elaine Chan, who composed almost all the songs, submits probably her best score in recent years, and it does seem like she does her best composing work when working together with lyricist Selena.

I do feel the songwriting duo have an inherent chemistry about them that has allowed them to produce some of the best original songs I’ve heard in local theatre, and scores like “Cinderel-LAH!” (the W!ld Rice panto) and other early Dim Sum Dollies soundtracks immediately spring to mind.

For this show, the final song “Together” was immediately a winner in my book, somehow harkening back to the old days with Emma, and other songs like “Sunkist Conspiracy” and “Letting Go” felt equally inspired.

All in all, it seems like the Dim Sum Dollies have picked up right where they left off, and despite a long and sometimes arduous history – just like that of Singapore’s – it seems like they’re back, bigger and better than ever before.

Or as Louis Armstrong would say, “You lookin’ swell, Dollies, I can tell, Dollies, you still blowin’ you still crowin’ you still goin’ strong!”

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