It’s hard to believe that an entire year has gone by since we first decided to re-stage Jack & The Bean-Sprout! Actually, a simple re-staging might have been easier on all of us, but W!LD RICE has never said no to a challenge. Using some of the same characters and ideas from the original 2006 incarnation of Jack, we decided to whip up a brand-new musical…
That’s right – a brand-new musical! We love to live on the W!LD (and some might say crazy) side!
“The scale of the show easily rivals that of La Cage Aux Folles, which occupied the Esplanade Theatre last year,” explained Ivan Heng, who relinquished the role of the pantomime dame to serve as director for this new version of Jack.
Featuring a main cast of 13 and two revolving FIRST STAGE kid casts (44 children in total), Jack employed 150 of Singapore’s finest theatre practitioners.
“The W!LD RICE pantomimes aren’t exactly traditional British pantomimes… I’d like to think they’re a form in and of themselves,” mused playwright Joel Tan about his first experience scripting a W!LD RICE pantomime. “I think the form offers a quite special, sometimes subversive, way to tell Singaporean stories in a non-confrontational way.” [Check out our full interview with Joel here.]
Joel worked closely with our musical maestro Elaine Chan, who can now proudly say she has composed the original music for nine out of ten of our pantomimes to date.
“I’ve been the regular in the pantomime crew,” Elaine observed, “But the show always turns out differently.
“My gut feel for what Joel and Ivan were going for was very much in the vein of showtunes and musical theatre… We egged each other on! We need to push boundaries where we can, because as a writer, you want to keep writing new things.” [Read our full interview with Elaine here.]
Leading the cast was Caleb Goh, who was thrilled to reconnect with his Singaporean roots after spending eleven years acting professionally, studying and teaching musical theatre in America.
“In all the professional theatre productions I’ve done in America, I’ve done a Brooklyn accent, German accent, Chinese accent, Dublin accent – I’ve done so many other accents but never Singaporean,” mused Caleb. “So it’s always nice to revisit something that’s so near and dear to me.” [Our full interview with Caleb is here!]
Of course, every pantomime must have a dame – and Darius Tan was happy to rise to the occasion. “I can tell you what’s fun about playing the dame – you can do whatever you want!” he proclaimed. “Of course, that must be in the line of the whole show lah.
“But you can take advantage of that. She’s larger than life. She gets to be the bawdiest, loudest, crassest character in the entire show, and people will still have to like her. You can’t make people hate her, ’cause she’s not the villain. I think that’s fun for me.” [Check out our chat with Darius here!]
Pantomime veterans Siti Khalijah and Karen Tan were a huge hit with audiences, merrily stealing scenes as the egg-laying Goose Semangat and radio-friendly Golden Hits Harp.
“There is great pleasure in actually encouraging the audience members to make noise, shout, say what they want, at any time, and to generally be part of the show too,” Karen enthused. “It’s literally freedom for two hours.” [Read the full interview with Karen here.]
Siti agreed wholeheartedly. “Pantomime allows the audience to get involved in the show as well. We ask them for help, and we get their opinions… It makes them feel like they’re part of the play as well. I think that’s cool.” [Check out our chat with Siti here!]
The creative team for the show was absolutely top-notch, including Moe Kasim, whose costume designs have won him four Life! Theatre Awards (two for our pantomimes!). “It’s quite a challenge to design such a broad range of costumes,” Moe revealed. “But it’s exciting to see the kids playing multiple characters/roles… and I also love seeing the transformation of the pantomime ‘Dame’ – every time he puts on loud and colourful costumes, it’s a joy.” [Read more here.]
“It’s a no-brainer when Ivan asks you to join him in his dreams and schemes, especially if it involves exhibiting them on stage for such a prestigious event!” recalled set designer Ian Bailie, who served as the supervising art director on the Oscar-nominated film adaptation of Atonement.
“Ivan was very supportive; more than that, he pushed the idea into a new realm, a separate reality full of wonder, fun, and AWE. He’s totally inspirational.” [Read more of our interview with Ian here!]
Choreographer Richard Chia working with Caleb and Ethel Yap on their big duet, I Liddat Liddat You
In a musical, there are inevitably song-and-dance numbers – and, where Jack is concerned, many of these involved our cast of kids. Choreographer Richard Chia, who returned to think up dance routines for his second pantomime, loves working with the children.
“The culture and tradition of a kids’ cast has already developed,” commented Richard. “We look to the elder kids to guide the younger ones… The difference in this pantomime is that we’re trying to get the kids more involved in the show proper – not just have them come out and be cute. Now, we expect a lot more from them. That’s why the auditions this year were a lot tougher.” [Check out our interview with Richard here.]
Our FIRST STAGE Kids in the recording studio
Last but certainly not least, we auditioned 150 children and selected 44 of them to be part of our two rotating casts for Jack. “It’s important for the kids to realise that working in the theatre isn’t glamourous,” observed Ivan. “It’s hard work that involves a lot of practice and patience.”
Our kids flanking Xeno (Ethel Yap) in her beautiful solo number, Blue
“We’re placing these children in a professional situation and giving them a real opportunity to work with the top talents of our theatre industry,” continued Ivan. “It’s gratifying to see our children go from strength to strength. We can safely say that many of Singapore’s rising talents got their start on a W!LD RICE pantomime!” [Check out our interviews with FIRST STAGE Kids Theo Chen, Lauren Yeo and Ian Lee!]