Sunday 26 July 2015

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

What is Au?

That’s the name of the actress starring as Mrs Lee Kuan Yew in The LKY Musical.

It was also probably what she said when she twisted her ankle backstage during the musical’s first preview performance on Tuesday night.

“Au! I twisted my ankle!”

That’s so convenient, to have a name you can shout out whenever you’re in pain. Jeanette Aw can do the same too.

But Aw isn’t in The LKY Musical. It’s Au, as in Sharon Au.

She told The New Paper what happened:
“A technical glitch caused a delay so we were all rushing backstage to change our clothes, which we only had three or four minutes to do.

“Let me tell you the irony: As I have a big fear of heights, (co-star) Adrian (Pang) has always carried me down those three flights of stairs that lead to our backstage changing rooms.

“Last night, adrenaline took over and I just ran ahead of him. He was shocked when I missed my step... and I twisted my right ankle.”

And that was how she ended up in a wheelchair after the show being pushed by Pang.

A photo posted by Sharon Au (@negitateno13) on

By all accounts, a prince among men, Pang plays the late former Prime Minister whose name is in the title of the musical, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

This, of course, is not the first time Pang has acted as a great ruler. In 2004, he was the title character in the TV sitcom, Durian King.

So in 11 years, Pang has gone from playing the king of the king of fruit to playing a leader whose death was cheered by a teenager who went to court eating a banana.

What a fruitful career.

Now at the Sands Theatre in Marina Bay Sands until Aug 16, The LKY Musical is the second musical in three months about “the tumultuous times of pre-independence Singapore”.

Actually, it’s more like “the tumultuous times of pre-Singapore getting kicked out of Malaysia”, but hey, you say tomato, I say ang mo kio.

The first musical was Singapura: The Musical, which was reportedly shut down “abruptly” earlier this month after announcing that it would extend its run.

Cast and crew members told The Straits Times that attendance was dismal with the actors performing at times to an almost-empty Capitol Theatre.

I suspect there was some resistance to a musical about Singapore directed by an American and written by a Filipino.

But The LKY Musical should do better because it’s a musical about Singapore directed by a Brit with a book by an American and lyrics by another Brit.

Wait, what? You mean even The LKY Musical must rely on foreign talent too?

Relak lah. It's not all FT. The music is by a Singaporean, Dick Lee. He composed the “This is home, truly” song that everyone loves so much that any new National Day song he writes after that sucks in comparison.

And the actors in The LKY Musical are Singaporean, so there should be no danger of “Singaporeans” speaking with a Filipino accent.

Although there could be a danger of Au lapsing into an Indian accent.

Last month, she co-hosted the SEA Games opening ceremony and someone complained on Facebook that Au spoke to an Indian girl in the stands and put on an Indian accent. The post went viral and Au was accused of being racist.

Before that, she was accused of just being an annoying host with a shrieking voice that made your ears vomit.

Au quickly apologised on Facebook, but not for making people’s ears vomit.

She wrote:
“Some of you may have watched the pre-show and heard my attempt at mimicking an Indian accent. It was intended to be comic, but in hindsight, I realise how insensitive it was. I sincerely apologise to those whom I’ve inadvertently offended.”

Which was all well and good until she revealed to The Business Times later the real reason she apologised:
“It was a painful incident, an unintended joke, and I was very, very concerned about what impact it might have on The LKY Musical. I didn’t want anything to tarnish this because it is such a special project, and it was foremost on my mind when I made that online apology.”

So it seems she cared less about whether she was being racist than about protecting her precious musical.

Hence it was little surprise that after twisting her ankle last week, Au insisted on carrying on with the show.

If she won’t let a racist incident stop her, what’s a minor ankle injury?

She’s such a trooper.

After all, the show must go on.

Just nobody say, “Break a leg.”

- Published in The New Paper, 26 July 2015

UPDATE: Should I watch LKY in The LKY Musical or LKY in 1965 movie?