All The World’s A Stage: Hossan Leong

In this brand-new regular feature, Singapore’s theatre-makers – starting with Singapore Boy Hossan Leong – chat with us about their careers in theatre: from the first time they set foot on stage to the best advice they’ve ever received.

I’ve been performing since the age of six! Ever since I could play the piano, I would be shoved on stage at church and for family parties. I was so short I had to sit on hymn books to reach the keyboard!

The first time I set foot on stage was in September 1993 for the first-ever production of Off Centre by The Necessary Stage. I hear they may be re-staging it soon – I’m very excited about that!

The theatre experience that changed my life was A Chorus Line, when it first came to the Kallang Theatre decades ago. I was 18 at the time. And I knew that I wanted to be a performer after watching it. I said to myself: “That’s where I want to be – on stage.”

In one of my most memorable on-stage mishaps, I ran on stage without my costume on! I was hungry backstage and had been told not to eat in my costume. So I didn’t lor! But, as I was eating, I suddenly realised, “Oh s**t, it’s my cue!” So I ran out in just my singlet! You could see the horror on everyone’s faces, and Chua Enlai couldn’t help laughing at me on stage!

Three of my favourite shows areRENT – I saw the original Broadway cast perform it in London, and I was moved to tears. It was raw and real, nothing like the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh musicals that were big at the time.

W!LD RICE’s The Importance of Being Earnest also stands out as a great production. I grew a lot as an actor with this show, and it was so nice to see audiences really respond to a Singaporean cast performing an Oscar Wilde classic when we took it on tour to various festivals in Australia and Macau!

The Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Company, starring Raul Esparza, blew my mind too, because all the actors played an instrument on stage and I’d never seen anything like that before. Actually, I fell in love with the show and songs many years before that, when I first listened to the original London cast recording. I wanted to stage Company in Singapore even then, and I’m glad I had the chance to do so with Dream Academy in 2012!

Hossan (pictured here with Gavin Yap as Cecily) steps out of his comfort zone
with his role as Miss Prism in The Importance of Being Earnest

The role that challenged me the most was Miss Prism in The Importance of Being Earnest! It was a very difficult role for me. I was completely nervous about doing it, because I’m not a very good text-based actor. I had to be conscious about speaking clearly and making myself understood. Also, I was so used to doing Singapore shows and stand-up comedy in my own persona, as Hossan Leong. So I had to work on keeping myself in character as Miss Prism, to ensure she was believable, and not turn her into a caricature. That’s another reason I’m grateful we toured: people don’t know me in Australia or Macau, so there were no pre-conceptions of who I am as an entertainer.

If I could give some advice to my younger self, I would say: Listen more. Be more patient. And I received some great advice myself that I always pass on to others who are keen to work in the theatre: “Respect everyone. Know your work. And never be late!”

If I weren’t working in the theatre, I would be DEAD!

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