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Theatre Review (Singapore): Happy Ever Laughter by Dream Academy Productions

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Dream Academy Productions’ Happy Ever Laughter, playing at the Esplanade from 27 June to 8 July, brings together an ensemble of Singapore’s most well known comedians, each presenting us with a spot of standup comedy.

Selena Tan starts the ball rolling with her rip-roaring and insightful wisecracks about the recent elections and the City Harvest Church money scandal. She speaks in Singlish, and her natural delivery of the material is the perfect opening act, as her quips sent the full house audience into bouts of laughter.

Unfortunately, the artists who followed Ms.Tan are a mixed bag of hits and misses. At the performance I attended, Moses Lim was a miss, many of his jokes simply flat and outdated, and also a disappointment was duo Munah and Hirzi who together performed a variety of different roles but lacked punch in their comedy routine.

Even The Noose’s team of Michelle Chong and Chua Enlai seemed to fall short this time, as Chong performed as an SPG (Sarong Party Gal) called Salmonella (who was suspiciously laden with very similar characteristics to Chong’s infamous Barbarella). Chong’s dialogue featured his Chinese-accented English, with plenty of grammatical mistakes thrown in, coupled with an overdone fake accent that included the rolling of R’s where there should have been none – it was the quintessential SPG speech pattern that Chong perfected for Barbarella. However, that made her segment seem a little tired as it carried a “been there, seen that, heard it all before” vibe.

Chua Enlai’s jibes were only mildly funny, but his local version of the Maori Haka dance brought the house down as Chua did the exact actions and gestures of the Haka war cry to Chinese dialect words.

Sebastian Tan performed his part mostly in dialect Chinese, but he always made sure to translate it into English for the non-Chinese in the audience, which was much appreciated. However, a lot of Tan’s material lost its comedic factor in the translation.

Gurmit Singh was slightly shocking, as he has always been perceived as a pretty straight-laced G-rated comedian, but here he cussed and swore, and at one point remarked that he had two children “officially” that he “knew of”. For those of us familiar with Singh as the infamous Phua Chu Kang on screen and the goody-two-shoes church-going married father you read about in print, this was strange territory to find him in. It was like seeing the Pope in jeans!

Singh’s quips were a bit hit-and-miss though, with some jokes failing, and some hitting the funny bone just right. But perhaps Singh should explore more R-rated material in the future, as he seemed to revel in this new found rebellion of sorts.

Happy Ever Laughter did have some highlights. Najib Ali nailed all his lines, as did Siti Khalijah Zainal who was convincing as the President of the Obedien (sic) Wives Club. Both comedians highlighted aspects of the Malay culture and milked the stereotypes surrounding the race to hilarious effect.

Kumar, who closed the show, came dressed to the nines in a white cocktail dress, sparkling jewelry, and high heels – and did not disappoint. Although his material was tamer than what he usually delivers, his digs at foreigners and the scandals currently plaguing Singapore were timely and the audience heartily roared throughout Kumar’s portion.

The pièce de résistance of the night has to be the wondrously talented Judee Tan, who played a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner. Tan, who also regularly appears on The Noose, has shown that she has the ability and creativity to invent and present a multitude of characters, complete with varying accents and mannerisms, many of whom we’ve seen on The Noose itself. In her performance piece for Happy Ever Laughter, Tan presented another of her fully fleshed out creations and just as she always injects subtleties and nuance into her invented personalities to make them so real, she did the same with her TCM practitioner in this performance as well. Layering her portrayal with nervous tics and insecure “hmms” and “aahs” injected after each sentence, Tan’s TCM practitioner was delightfully shy and insecure, speaking broken English, but absolutely loyal to the practice she was in.

Also, Tan has a way of delivering her lines effectively, and whilst her TCM practitioner’s broken English would have been passé coming out of someone else’s mouth, Tan’s delivery was perfectly timed and each occasion that she’d mispronounce a word was met with the house howling with laughter. In addition, the fact that her character was so oblivious to her pronunciation mistakes provided added irony to an already humourous situation.

Above all, Tan presented to us a character she had imbibed to the core, and we believed what we were seeing. Hence even when she wasn’t saying anything, Tan’s continued mannerisms and body language sent us into laughing fits, and such is the mark of a true comedian – the ability to make you laugh without uttering a word because their whole persona takes on the comedic role they’re playing.

In conclusion, despite some segments not being as funny as other parts, overall Happy Ever Laughter provides enough gags to keep you entertained, with some outstanding performances from the more established comics.

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About Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam

Ex-professor, Ex-phd student, current freelance critic, writer and filmmaker.
  • Glenn Contrarian

    Sharmila –

    I’m really pleased to see a writer from Singapore on BC, and for you to show others the high level of culture in what I feel is the safest, cleanest city on Earth. There’s a story I tell of while my ship was visiting Singapore, a young lady told us how her brother’s college entrance exam scores were not high enough to enter Singapore University, so instead he went to Cambridge in England.

    Thanks for contributing!

  • Sharmila

    Thank you Glenn. Nice story! LOL!