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Great World Cabaret – Let’s Bo Bo Cha Cha!

February 27, 2015
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GreatWorldCabaret2(photo credit: Resorts World Sentosa)

Event: Great World Cabaret – Let’s Bo Bo Cha Cha!
Venue: Resorts World Theatre @ RWS
Run: 19th Feb – 17th Mar 2015

The Ladies, The Music, The Finest…Cabaret, Cha Cha Cha!

The a-go-go era of the 60’s and 70’s remains one of the most colourful and vibrant periods of our cultural past, and naturally lends itself well as the backdrop to many a local musical or revue.

The mere mention of the words “a-go-go” or “cabaret” or “Great World” conjures up heady, nostalgic images of yesteryear, filled with the visual and aural spectacle of bright lights, big bands, sequined dancers, strip-tease artists, stage magicians, vaudeville acts and so on.

The most natural comparisons to reach for would be the classic 1988 Dick Lee and Michael Chiang musical “Beauty World”, as well as Kelvin Tong’s 2011 film “It’s A Great, Great World”, which depicted the past glories of the legendary amusement park called Great World Amusement Park.

And while the settings of all three works are largely similar, they are essentially different art forms as “Beauty World” is a full book musical, “It’s A Great, Great World” is a film, while “Great World Cabaret” is your quintessential 60’s/70’s cabaret show, the likes of which you’d hardly come across anymore in this day and age.

The show, co-produced by Resorts World Sentosa and Dream Academy, starts on an unexpected note, with a dark, creepy set depicting a museum that is nearing closing time.

In comes an elderly security guard (played by Shane Mardjuki), who then starts to reminisce about his glory days as host of the Great World Cabaret and his love affair with his eventual wife Nancy Pereira (Adelene Chua).

And it is through this device by which we are then transported back to the glamourous past, with a drastically different glitzy backdrop and with the colourful cabaret acts each taking turns to make their appearance.

As with most cabaret shows, the acts were a mixed bag of song and dance routines, acrobatic performances, stand-up comedy, and a magic show as well.

The Drunken Sailors act took a rather long while to get going, and didn’t quite seem to give the viewer the payoff it seemed to be building itself up into.

A personal favourite segment of mine was seeing famed illusionist J C Sum up on stage, regaling us initially with one quick dazzling illusion after another, and then with a tender, romantic floating table routine midway through, and finally ending off first with the magical appearance of his lovely assistant (no longer Magic Babe Ning though), and then with an astounding Metamorphosis illusion to top it all off.

It reminded me a lot of a standard three-movement sonata form, where the slower middle movement is usually sandwiched between a faster first movement and an even more emphatic last movement, to give the entire piece greater richness and texture.

The Metamorphosis illusion still remains one of my favourite acts to see live, and no matter how many times you see it, and regardless of whether or not you know how it ends up, it’s still always one of those truly magical feats to see being pulled off live.

While most of the ensemble song and dance routines were visually appealing, it did seem like the mic setups made it difficult to hear the lead singers’ voices clearly, and as such most of the time I had trouble deciphering what the lyrics actually were.

One reason could be that the band seemed to overpower the lead singers’ voices, and the other could be that the sound system just wasn’t set up well enough.

The Siglap Brothers routine, starring familiar theatre faces Caleb Goh and Linden Furnell, fell slightly flat due partly to the difficulty in catching the lyrics being sung, and also simply due to the fact that one expected more from a promising act featuring two actors whom you knew had the ability to do so much more than just belt out a show tune.

Perhaps the absolute crowd-pleaser was the stand-up comedy routine by guest performer of the night Mark Lee, assuming the role of infamous casanova “Valentiko”, who goes on to educate the audience on his quirky secrets to making women fall in love with him.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable routine, and not unlike the turn he did in Dream Academy’s “Happy Ever Laughter” last year as well.

Mark Lee is one of three other guest stars who will each take weekly turns to star in “Great World Cabaret”, with Hossan Leong up next, followed by Sebastian Tan and Judee Tan, all esteemed comedians in their own right.

I know it’s a pretty long run for the show, and that there is such a thing as a production budget, but I’ve often questioned the wisdom of bringing in different guest stars for short periods of time within a show’s run, as this means that the viewer would miss the performances of three other extremely talented comedians (assuming he/she only attends one show in its entire run), and you may get a situation where four different people who’ve watched “Great World Cabaret” may have come out with four different experiences.

And given the prices of the tickets, it might be unlikely that someone would buy tickets a second or third time just to catch another guest comedian perform, since the rest of the show is entirely the same save for that guest slot, and thus it inevitably creates a niggling sense of being left out of a portion of the production especially when you speak to those who have watched the subsequent shows with the other guest comedians.

The Qing Dao Acrobatic Troupe round things off with some truly breath-taking stunts which make you wonder if the laws of gravity do indeed apply to them as they do the rest of humankind.

How on earth they manage to throw their bodies around and balance themselves quite like that is truly beyond me, and has to be seen to be believed.

A cabaret show is essentially a series of entertaining but unrelated acts and requires no storyline to thread the acts together.

However, credit has to be given to the creative team for coming up with the emotional hook of having Shane Mardjuki take a walk down memory lane while reminiscing his past love, and thus, at the end of the show you get some small sense of fulfillment at having also taken the nostalgic journey together with him, even if the love story wasn’t as fully fleshed-out as one would have liked.

Still, “Great World Cabaret” remains an enjoyable romp through the glamourous and glitzy past, and is guaranteed to dazzle with the most gorgeous and glitzy visuals the cabaret world has had to offer.

And in a day and age where cabaret shows are but a thing of the past, this is probably the closest you’ll get to reliving the heady days of the a-go-go era.

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