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The show is fun and entertaining, and it's certainly a production made specifically for Singaporeans. And that's the best birthday gift to a nation turning 50 soon - and to its theatre-loving citizens.

Theatre Review (Singapore): Dim Sum Dollies – ‘The History of Singapore Part 1’ by Dream Academy

Dream Academy’s Dim Sum Dollies are back with The History of Singapore, Part 1 which will run at the Victoria Theatre, from June 5th to 21st 2015.

From left: Pam Oei (standing), Denise Tan, Selena Tan and Hossan Leong. Photo courtesy of Dream Academy.
From left: Pam Oei (standing), Denise Tan, Selena Tan and Hossan Leong. Photo courtesy of Dream Academy.

Just as with its last offering of The History of Singapore Part 2, this prequel is made up of skits and short musical numbers presented in a revue format. Part 1 summarizes the island’s history from the time Sang Nila Utama ruled the land to the cutting of ties with Malaysia leading to independence. In between, of course, Singapore was ruled by the British from 1819 to 1965, and this too is reflected in the skits.

All three Dim Sum Dollies – Selena Tan, Pam Oei, and Denise Tan – have a flair for accents and, in Part 1, they play a slew of characters that sport Singlish accents to regional Asian accents to posh British accents as well as Irish accents, with the latter being so prevalent in the nuns that ran convent schools during that time. In one skit, all three ladies don the habit to try and discipline wayward school girl Maria (played by ‘Chopstick’ Hossan Leong who also portrays a myriad of accents in the other skits). The juxtaposition of the nuns’ strong Irish accents and Leong’s Singlish convent accent is humorous and a delight to watch.

Part 1 is filled with witty and funny innuendoes, puns, and double entendres such as Selena Tan talking about the ‘amos-phere’ (local readers don’t need a hint but if you don’t have a clue then this is in reference to current controversial kid Amos Yee) and telling Oei who was dressed as black pepper but whose outfit colour was suspiciously similar to Victoria Beckham’s Singapore Fashion Week outfit, to ‘beckon away’ (get it?).

Backed effectively by the Loh Mai Guy dancers and with flashy sets and costumes, Part 1 is fun to watch – however, it lacks the punch and pizazz, and isn’t able to reach the level of humour that was evident in Part 2. The songs, although also composed by Elaine Chan, do not have the toe tapping melodies compared to the music of Part 2.

Also, just like with Part 2, some of the dialogue in this production is in various Chinese dialects, but there are no surtitles, so that means part of the audience will lose out on some of the jokes. In one particular segment, Pam Oei appears as a Cantonese speaking Amah who converses with her British employer who only understands English, in what appears to be a rip roaring skit – unfortunately, this critic couldn’t understand much of what was going on, except for the words ‘Fai Tee’ (and I only understood that because I was raised by a Cantonese and English speaking Amah myself). Hence surtitles are needed. Also, when the Dollies are singing, it would’ve helped if the lyrics appear on screen too, as some words are hard to make out when heard through song.

Having said that, the show is fun and entertaining, and it’s certainly a production made specifically for Singaporeans. And that’s the best birthday gift to a nation turning 50 soon – and to its theatre-loving citizens.

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About Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam

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

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