Wednesday 29 July 2015

Rounding up The LKY Musical reviews: Adrian Pang good, Sharon Au sucks

Since The LKY Musical opened on Friday (after three nights of previews), all the reviews pretty much say same four things:
  • Adrian Pang can practically do no wrong
  • Sharon Au kinda sucks (but we all know that already)
  • Benjamin Chow is surprisingly good (surprising because no one has heard of him before)
  • Dick Lee's music is forgettable

The Straits Times
This character of Singapore's first Prime Minister rests squarely on the shoulders of an excellent Adrian Pang - and he carries the part with finesse and grace, and a deep, moving pathos that supporters will cherish and detractors will be quick to critique.

...the musical's designated anti-hero, Lim Chin Siong, is thankfully not relegated to the ranks of villainy and one-note declarations. Recent Lasalle College of the Arts graduate Benjamin Chow does an incredible job in portraying the charismatic left-wing leader, with his compelling oratory and rapport with the common man.

He and Pang share a chemistry sadly not shared by Pang and onstage wife Sharon Au, playing a mild, entreating Madam Kwa Geok Choo.

The thick dialogue, so lithe and easy in the mouths of Chow and Pang, feels clumsy and unwieldy in hers. She is a shadow of her character, struggling with musical segments and quickly fading into the background.

The musical score by Dick Lee was charming but largely vanilla, with no particularly memorable tunes that might, as Madam Kwa tells Mr Lee about their war-time glue-making efforts, "stick fast".

Adrian Pang carries the show as Lee, capturing the man’s fears, frustrations and unwavering tenacity in pushing for change. While Pang catches Lee’s distinctive inflections and gait, there is a sense that he is dutifully performing a role rather than truly inhabiting it; this is a good performance but perhaps not a great one.

It is a shame that Lee’s wife, the formidable Kwa Geok Choo (Sharon Au), is but a footnote in the narrative instead of being central to the story; she is mostly huddled by a table listening to the radio. Au also proves to be the cast’s weakest link, with brittle delivery and pitiful singing skills.

There are standout performances by newcomer Benjamin Chow as charismatic trade unionist Lim Chin Siong...

Dick Lee disappoints with a score that is vast and varied but ultimately vapid; one would be hard pressed to recall a single distinctive refrain. The melodies in the second half almost blur into a mix.

Ever the consummate performer, like Lee, Pang cuts a commanding presence on stage, and yet also evincing love, fear, frustation and other qualities we don’t normally associate with him.

Sadly, Au does not impress. Although she tries to act the hell out of the role, she falls flat when it comes to singing and delivery.

What was impressive though, were the other male leads, namely Benjamin Chow playing antogonist Lim Chin Siong. It takes chutzpah to step into those shoes, and Chow has it to spare. The recent Lasalle College of the Arts graduate nails the role of the the charismatic politician and orator...
Dick Lee's music is so forgettable that this review forgot to mention it.

The Online Citizen
Adrian Pang flawlessly performs each scene involving Lee, but there’s simply too little time to get immersed in the place and time or examine events and choices with any depth.

Sharon Au, who plays Mrs Lee (affectionately referred to as “Choo” throughout the show), is somewhat miscast: her singing is often drowned out by the orchestra or other characters, her dialogue clunky.

Benjamin Chow’s portrayal of Lim is so charged with passion and zeal that Lim often becomes the most interesting character onstage...

The LKY Musical provides an entertaining night with a solid cast, beautiful production design and pleasant-although-forgettable music.

Six-Six News
If we didn’t have the original to compare with, Pang’s would have been a strong performance. And well matched by newcomer Benjamin Chow’s interpretation of Lim Chin Siong. As not much is known about the latter, Chow had free rein to project the part with fervour.

The music, while effective at following the plot and adding mood to the drama unfolding onstage, didn’t quite stick around after its work was done. It evaporated as soon as you left the hall, which is a bit unfortunate.

Something else that will be remembered would be Sharon Au’s performance as the girl who won over Lee Kuan Yew. While trying to bravely keep up with the pace of the play on her strapped ankle (injured after a fall), she was always limping to keep up. As the only woman of significance in the cast, and someone who influenced the pivotal decision making of the LKY character, it was a role that required passion, confidence and the ability to convince the audience that she had what was needed to quietly change the course of history. None of that surfaced during the play, and begged the question: Are we that lacking in female talent?

EARLIER: Twisted ankle? Racist incident? Nothing will stop Sharon Au from playing Mrs LKY